At the heart of the BMW iFE.18 is the Racing eDrive01, the highly efficient power unit that propels the Formula E race cars and is a product of interplay between production and motorsport development.
Jens Marquardt, motorsport director at BMW Group, said, “At the start of the development process for the E drive in Formula E we were faced with the question: Do we build up our own expertise at BMW Motorsport, or do we use the extensive BMW i experience in this area? We soon arrived at an answer. Naturally, it made sense to make use of the wealth of experience of our colleagues in production.”
Under the umbrella of BMW i Motorsport, a completely new development cycle was established. The goal was always to make the most efficient use of capacities and to create as many synergies as possible. Responsibilities were clearly allocated. The production specialists looked after the electric motor hardware and the inverter, meaning the entire high-voltage area. This included the software that the inverter uses to control the e-motor, as well as the materials used, such as for the rotor and stator.
Meanwhile, the BMW Motorsport engineers primarily handled matters such as the low-voltage control area. They devised recuperation strategies, undertook the design and implementation of the entire rear axle structure and developed the cooling concept. “Everything that each area can do best was intertwined with full transparency. The technology transfer between our BMW Motorsport engineers and BMW i colleagues works really well,” added Marquardt.
The result is a cycle of know-how and experience, which benefits both sides in the future field of electrification. BMW i Motorsport gains experience under extreme conditions at Formula E racetracks – and in direct competition with many other automobile manufacturers. This experience and any findings are then incorporated in development. “This means that every BMW i customer benefits from our joint progress in racing,” said Marquardt. For example, the control software for the high-voltage area, which controls the e-motor via the inverter, is used in both the BMW iFE.18 and the BMW i3.
From a sporting perspective, this unique combination has proved to be competitive. Away from the track too, the BMW Group is using this ever-expanding racing series to demonstrate its expertise in key future issues within the automotive industry.
Electrification forms the basis of this, but other focus subjects, such as autonomous driving, connectivity and services, can be found with the BMW i8 Roadster Safety Car. As such, Formula E is becoming a symbol for the consistent future-orientation of BMW i, BMW Motorsport and the BMW Group as a whole.