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UK engine plant to build 3-cylinder engines for BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sports cars

The new generation of 3-cylinder gasoline engines for the future BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sports car (earlier post) will be produced exclusively at the BMW engine plant at Hams Hall, near Birmingham.

The BMW i8 Concept offers the eDrive plug-in hybrid concept combining an electric drive system with a high-performance three cylinder TwinPower Turbo engine producing 349hp/300N·m. Most daily journeys can be taken in zero-emission all-electric mode with an electric range of approximately 20 miles. The 2+2 seater provides enough space for four people giving a high level of everyday practicality.

More than three million engines have been produced to date at the Hams Hall engine plant for a wide range of BMW and MINI vehicles. This milestone follows record production in 2011 and confirmation that facilities are to be upgraded to enable production of the new generation of engines.

The UK-built engines are supplied in sequence to production plants in Germany, Austria and Oxford and currently power the BMW X1, BMW 1 Series, the new BMW 3 Series as well as all MINI gasoline engines.



Somehow the numbers do not add up for the hp rating and the number of cylinders. They would need to have at least a 2.6 liter turbo-charged engine for 349 hp. Most 3 cylinder engines have been between 0.3 to 0.4 liters per cylinder. 2.6 liters is even on the large size for a 4 cylinder engine.


Could the 349 hp be with the combined ICE + Electric motors?


The 1.5 liter turbocharged 3-cylinder engine to be used in the i8 reportedly outputs 220 hp. Combined output with the electric motor has been reported to be 354 hp (close to the 349 hp cited in this article). BMW has developed a family of engines with 0.5 liter per cylinder displacement, for different applications, but using many common parts -- e.g. the four cylinder engine in the family displaces 2.0 liter, 6-cyl engine 3.0 liters, etc.


Somewhat impressive technology.

Cost is probably more so.


In the early 80's, GM had a design for a set of engines that were 0.5 liter per cylinder. Probably a bit weirder than what BMW has. It included a straight 3, a V-4, a V-5, and a V-6. The V-5 used a 2 cylinder head from the V-4 and the 3 cylinder head from the straight 3 or the V-6. At the time, I worked for a major automotive machine tool builder and got to see some interesting ideas. Most of the far-out stuff such as the V-5 never saw the light of day.

However, a 0.5 liter cylinder is still large for a 3 cylinder engine. Also, 220 hp is high (but not impossible) for a 1.5 liter engine. The 2 liter turbo-charged GM engines generate 220-270 hp and 135 hp/liter is higher than most of their competitors. And yes, more money helps.

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