Considering the current economic climate, one has to admire BMW’s policy of continually stepping up their models. Instead of sitting back and holding tight (or, some may argue in the case of the highly successful German manufacturer, resting on their laurels), they are hitting the markets with a series of new models that will reinforce an already considerable catalogue. These are mostly along the lines of their Series 1 and Series 3, meaning that they are fancy cars, you wouldn’t find this type of models in a Mercedes Actros brochure, for example.
One of the most interesting models is the BMW Active Hybrid 3. The name already says much about the car. It belongs to the Series 3, as the number suggests, meaning that it is a classic BMW, not radically different from what previous users may have been used to. It is, however, endowed with a double source of propulsion. The combustion engine is a six-cylinder double turbo compressor with a 3 litre capacity. In the back is a ninety-six-cell ion-lithium battery from where it routes power directly to the rear wheels.
The combustion engine is, naturally, the more powerful of the two, reaching a horsepower of 306 against the electric’s 55. But the two engines are designed to work together. On its own, the battery would take the car no further than three miles, at a maximum speed of about sixty miles an hour. In conjunction with its partner engine, however, it will simply absorb part of the energetic burden, allowing the car to save considerable quantities of fuel (up to twenty-five percent on the long run).
The harmonious interplay between the two engines reflects modern trends towards automation in cars which add additional features and performance elements without the driver having to be aware of them or control them. The car will take appropriate action itself whenever it can. For example, when the driver is overtaking another vehicle, the electric engine will automatically kick in to add power, ensuring that the manoeuvre is completed as quickly and as smoothly as possible.
There are four different modes, going by the titles of Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus. Each model has a slightly different balance of fuel economy compared to performance.
The BMW Active Hybrid 3 is certainly not the most powerful new car by the German giants, but it is one of the most interesting. The manufacturers have understood the importance of non-polluting engines, but also that of automation. One cannot help but wonder how long our cars will need to be driven at all.