BMW is one of the manufacturers that is actively pursuing the development of electric cars. To that end, the Bavarian automobile giant had also inaugurated a battery research center in Munich to develop solid-state batteries. Although the technology is at least six to eight years away from mainstream application in electric vehicles, BMW wants to be the first mover when it does.
Batteries are not the only piece of technology that the company is researching at Munich. BMW recently shed light on a new modular drivetrain it has been building at the research center. Nicknamed HEAT, the drivetrain bundles an electric motor, single-speed transmission, and the power electronics necessary to operate them in a single casing. This makes HEAT a modular unit that can simply be placed in a space that currently internal combustion engines occupy in a car. It is central to BMW’s plans of building future models that can be offered as EVs, hybrids, or internal-combustion driven, adjusted according to current market demands.
Currently, the HEAT moniker is just an internal working title, but BMW engineers have been trying to come up with a designation that could turn the tag into a proper acronym. Ilka Horstmeier, BMW’s head of electric powertrain production says the name for the modular unit is actually “Highly Integrated Electrical Drivetrain”. The acronym “doesn’t quite fit, but is close enough to have inspired the name,” she added.
The HEAT uses BMW’s in-house developed water-cooled, externally excited synchronous motor. The company deems the technology important enough to be developed and produced internally. There is a new stator in the motor which uses copper ‘hairpins’ in place of conventional wire windings. This is claimed to increase the efficiency of the motor and also makes production simpler. HEAT units can be specced anywhere between 134 to 400hp. Since they are modular, they can just as easily be adapted to an entry-level 2-series EV as a midsize 5-series hybrid. BMW intends to make HEAT a plug-and-play module, with the first iteration possibly powering the iX3 EV in a 268-hp guise.
The company projects that the current rate with which Li-ion batteries are progressing, transition to the more heat-sensitive solid-state batteries shall not kick in until 2026. However, the automaker is confident that the global shift will happen. Looking at the company’s projected statistics, BMW looks to be set to lead the transition with its foresightedness in regard to the future of electric vehicles.