BMW M starts testing 4-motor electric drivetrain

BMW is committed to electric mobility, and that commitment extends to the automaker’s BMW M performance division.

The BMW hot house has already given us a starter in the form of the i4 M50 and iX M60 M Performance models, but for the main course—i.e. a dedicated M car—we may be in for a major step up in performance.

BMW M on Wednesday revealed a test mule running a four-motor electric powertrain and a related chassis control system designed to direct power where it is needed. According to BMW M, testing of the hardware and software systems in the test mule is part of the preparation for future high-performance electric vehicles.

The test mule is based on the i4 M50 but features elements from the M3 and M4 to help improve cooling and torsional rigidity, as well as make space for the electric motors (notice the pumped fenders?). There are two motors at each axle, allowing for each of the wheels to be individually controlled.

2022 BMW i4 M50

2022 BMW i4 M50

This level of control makes it possible for precise and infinitely variable torque distribution, according to BMW M. The distribution is also very fast. We’re talking within milliseconds. Using various sensors, as well as the driver’s wishes via the steering angle and pressure applied to the accelerator, the torque distribution can be optimized to suit the conditions, for example providing extra grip on slippery surfaces or helping the vehicle remain stable through a curve.

At the same time, the powertrain is being developed to deliver linear power delivery, something BMW M sees as a core characteristic of its vehicles.

“Electrification opens up completely new degrees of freedom for us to create M-typical dynamics,” Dirk Haecker, BMW M’s head of development, said in a statement. “And we can already see that we can exploit this potential to the maximum, so that our high-performance sports cars will continue to offer the M-typical and incomparable combination of dynamics, agility and precision in the locally emission-free future.”

BMW M hasn’t said when its first dedicated M car with an electric drivetrain will arrive. However, we’ve heard the next M5 will at some point offer an electric drivetrain as an alternative to a standard V-8 hybrid setup. There are also rumors of an electric sports car from BMW M, perhaps based on the next M2. Stay tuned.

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