Platform sharing: BMW’s Cluster Structure

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Like many carmakers, BMW has dedicated to electrifying a major facet of its product portfolio within the subsequent 10-15 years.

However BMW has solely dedicated to making sure 50 per cent of its car gross sales are totally electrical by 2030, at the same time as Mercedes-Benz says it’ll solely promote EVs by 2030 – a minimum of where market conditions allow, giving them an out in markets that don’t have the required infrastructure.

Likewise, Audi says it’ll stop producing inner combustion engines by 2033 as a part of its Vorsprung 2030 technique, although it might continue to offer them in China beyond this date.

Different premium manufacturers like Volvo and Cadillac have set agency 2030 cut-offs for combustion energy, which makes BMW seem much more conservative.

BMW’s choices round electrification are a part of its broader ‘Energy of Selection’ technique, the place the Bavarian model has dedicated to introducing electrified variations of each mannequin line in its vary, whereas additionally retaining combustion-powered alternate options.

The corporate argues that, as a number of powertrain options will proceed to co-exist within the foreseeable future, it’s prudent to permit prospects to decide on the choice that most accurately fits their wants.

One of many methods wherein BMW helps energy of alternative effectively is thru its CLAR platform structure. Quick for Cluster Structure, BMW designed this platform to assist combustion engines (together with mild-hybrid), plug-in hybrid and full battery electrical powertrains, and intends to make use of it for all rear and all-wheel-drive drivetrains.

Virtually, which means that all new BMWs from the 2 Series Coupé upwards make use of the CLAR platform. In the meantime, smaller front-wheel drive BMWs, together with the 1 Series hatch, and X1 and X2, use the UKL (Untere Klasse or ‘decrease class’) platform and its derivatives.

The iX is one exception to this rule, with BMW claiming that it’s constructed on a bespoke electrical platform, that nonetheless stays extremely appropriate with CLAR.

However at the same time as BMW avoids setting an finish date for combustion engines, it’s readying a next-generation “electric-first” structure to succeed CLAR.

Transient historical past

The primary mannequin within the BMW lineup to transition to the CLAR platform was the flagship G11 7 Collection sedan, which launched in 2015.

Beforehand referred to as ‘35up’ earlier than being renamed to CLAR, this era of 7 Series featured a ‘carbon core’ physique constructed from a mixture of carbon-fibre, aluminium and metal, with the Bavarian model claiming that this development allowed for a light-weight but extremely inflexible construction.

In some methods, BMW’s CLAR shares some similarities to the CMF (Common Module Family) architecture of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance. Quite than a common chassis that’s extensible between sure hardpoints, BMW refers to clusters.

Every of those clusters acts as a sub-module that accommodates a set of components, which, in flip, might be adjusted extra extensively to go well with the car being designed.

CLAR additionally permits for better flexibility within the supplies used to construct a automobile, with combos involving metal, aluminium and carbon-fibre (as hinted at by the 7 Collection above) all potential.

Though cheaper fashions within the BMW lineup didn’t use the identical carbon core development that the 7 Collection did, the character of CLAR has allowed BMW to roll it out comparatively shortly throughout the vast majority of the mannequin vary, with new generations of different fashions transitioning to it between 2016 (G30 5 Series sedan) and 2021 (G42 2 Collection coupé).

Energy of alternative

Flexibility of powertrain is a key good thing about BMW’s CLAR. To streamline manufacturing additional, for combustion engines BMW has correspondingly developed a modular engine household, the place every cylinder/piston mixture has a displacement of 500cc, throughout a variety of inline three, 4 and 6 cylinder engines.

This implies the vast majority of BMWs bought with combustion engines at present function displacements of 1.5-litres (with the diesel variant denoted as B37, while its petrol counterpart is called the B38), 2.0-litres (B47/B48) and three.0-litres (B57/B58). BMW’s high-performance M Division, in flip, makes a particular model of the B58 referred to as the S58, to be used in fashions corresponding to the newest M3 and M4 Competition.

One exception to this rule are BMW’s V8 engines, with the model persevering with to make a bespoke 4.4-litre S68 engine separate from this modular household, to be used in fashions corresponding to the brand new 760i xDrive and the X7 M60i.

With BMW’s fifth-generation eDrive powertrains, the model additionally claims that key EV parts that can be utilized with CLAR, corresponding to motors, energy electronics, batteries and related components, have additionally adopted a modular, scalable technique, and have been packaged in a fashion that enables them to be fitted throughout the CLAR lineup.

For instance, the fifth-generation eDrive ‘drive unit’ integrates the motor, transmission and system electronics inside a single compact housing, and might be scaled to provide wherever from 90kW of energy to greater than 300kW (as per autos corresponding to the brand new BMW i4 M50).

The identical scalable method additionally applies with battery modules and packs, to ultimately assist autos with a claimed vary of as much as 700km.

A key good thing about BMW’s capacity to combine a number of powertrains into CLAR are the economies of scale and logistical advantages derived from utilizing the identical manufacturing line.

For instance, the 4-Collection Gran Coupé and the electrical i4 might be constructed alongside one another, while the iX3 is equally constructed alongside typical X3 fashions in China (notice that for the Australian market, the iX3 is sourced from China, while combustion-engined X3 fashions are sourced from South Africa or the US).

Creating electrical autos from this base is significantly totally different to the extra experimental, bespoke method BMW took with the just lately discontinued i3.

What’s subsequent?

BMW fashions primarily based on CLAR are more likely to be in manufacturing past 2025 at minimal. Nevertheless, BMW has introduced that it’s going to launch its next-generation ‘Neue Klasse’ structure in the same year.

Named after the Neue Klasse fashions launched in the course of the Nineteen Sixties (such because the 1600 sedan) that revived BMW’s fortunes, BMW initially designed Neue Klasse to additionally work with combustion engines, earlier than altering course earlier this yr and stating that preliminary fashions launched on this structure could be battery-electric solely.

Regardless, the Bavarian model claims that Neue Klasse fashions will carry important advances in every little thing from EV drivetrains to inside expertise. BMW has confirmed that the primary fashions to launch on this platform can be a BMW 3 Collection-sized sedan and an X3-sized SUV.

The newest rumours counsel that Neue Klasse may even see BMW switching from prismatic cells, to ‘4680’ (46mm diameter and 80mm top) cylindrical cells as being examined by Tesla.

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