Behold, the first serious attempt by BMW to produce a FWD lineup, the Active Tourer Concept. When the possibility that BMW might purchase Saab’s bankrupt assets was floated around, I imagine the developers of this concept were scratching their heads quite a bit, as it appears on the surface to follow the parameters Saab was trying to adapt to its Phoenix platform.
Besides the low displacement turbo three cylinder engine powering the front wheels, it has an electric rear axle– except this one can actually power the car by itself, something that Saab was working on behind the scenes but didn’t have the chance to fully develop. It has a hatchback, it’s flexible enough to use on several models including the next Mini. It is essentially the answer to what happens when you design a BMW with Saab philosophy. Replace the standard BMW design language with some Swedish Aero influence and I think you have the answer to what most of us here wanted, a super efficient small AWD Saab.
The concept will make its debut in Paris, and just like most BMW concepts, the real version of the 1-series GT will probably look very similar in production form. While we patiently wait for NEVS to finalize their business model and production ambitions beyond the 9-3 EV, into 2015 and beyond, it’s worth looking at what other possible cars will be available in the EV market. Some of you will hate the styling, but I actually think this is one of the more resolved shapes BMW has come out with under
Adrian van Hooydonk’s leadership. BMW hasn’t announced whether or not this powertrain will be available at launch in 2014, but I see no reason why a mild through the road plug-in hybrid like this shouldn’t be. Before SU readers complain that BMW ripped off Saab design, characteristics, eAAM, or even turbocharging lower displacement engines, realize that the entire industry has been moving in that direction and that BMW has been developing these strategies in house for a long time. As much as Saab could have fit into their brand portfolio, clearly they decided that given the government mandates to increase fleet/brand fuel economy meant that a change to their core BMW brand was in order. While some BMW fans have griped about the FWD architecture adoption, most realize that for smaller cars it’s inevitable. Certainly the instant electric torque on the rear axle can compensate and add some RWD feel back to the equation.
But that brings us to the real reason this is relevant to Saab’s future– that hybrid powertrain. For those of us with short commutes living in countries and municipalities that give tax rebates, this allows us to drive nearly gas free for no extra charge, with zero range anxiety. I hate to say it, but if NEVS doesn’t plan on releasing a through the road hybrid like this, barring some incredible charging infrastructure installations like the one I’ll be covering from Tesla next week, I am most likely going to be saving my money to buy one of these BMWs. I would love an electric car, but without an electric charging infrastructure on the highways for long drives and charges under 30 minutes while I grab a drink and a bathroom break, I’m not biting. Something tells me I’m not the only one here who thinks that way. We know NEVS is listening, lets hope that with enough reminders they embrace the core values of this BMW concept.
Since NEVS is going full throttle for the uncharted EV waters, I’ll be posting many more articles about what the competition plans to do, how they will price their products, and what market conditions will mean for Saab’s future. One of the best functions of SU is to educate Saab fans about what the future means for our favorite brand, and I think that reflecting on the successes or failures of EV startups and industry heavyweights’ attempts is a good place as any to start. Expect many more articles about EV and hybrid tech in the coming weeks and months. I promise even the biggest skeptics in EVs will be impressed by where NEVS can take Saab.
Off topic a bit: Our good friend and regular commenter Steve C. is active with the National Motorists Association. The NMA Foundation is involved in a contest and needs some help to get over the top for a $10,000 grant. For those unfamiliar with the NMA, they’re a non-profit organization dedicated to finding innovative ways to improve and protect the interests of motorists. They are a leading resource for educational materials related to fighting unjust traffic tickets, and are a leading voice in the national dialogue on important issues such as lane courtesy. Who can argue with those causes? If you’re a Facebook user, if you could just click this link then click the green “vote” button by September 19, that would be appreciated greatly by Steve and NMA.