BMW chief says 5 Series ActiveHybrid on sale in 2011 -- more to come

While providing no specific details, Norbert Reithofer, CEO of BMW AG, removed any mildly lingering doubt about the near-term reality of BMW's Concept 5 Series ActiveHybrid that made its debut at the Geneva Auto Salon in March. Speaking to a group of shareholders and employees at the firm's 90th Annual Meeting, Reithofer told those attending that: "As early as next year, the new BMW 5-Series will also be available as a full hybrid." While this low-emissions/high-mileage 5 Series is destined to be the next in BMW's ever-expanding line of gas-electric variants, Reithofer opened the door for an even more comprehensive assault on the segment by adding: "We are anticipating the hybridization of further models series, such as the BMW 3 Series. We also work with modules in this field, choosing the most suitable hybrid solution for the respective model." A well-placed BMW source confirmed to KBB.com that this new full dual-mode 5 Series will use a different gas/electric setup than the X6 ActiveHybrid, which teams a 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 with two electric motor/generators fed by a nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) battery pack and drives the wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. While the transmission seems certain to stay, the production 5 Series ActiveHybrid will more likely to retain the same BMWTwinPower 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six linked with a single motor/generator element as the Concept. No word on battery chemistry -- then or now -- but the compact, high-tech pack mounted near the rear axle of the production 5 Series ActiveHybrid could well be of the newer lithium-ion type. Whatever the final arrangement, BMW says it expects the 5 Series ActiveHybrid to achieve more than a 10-percent gain in fuel economy compared to a conventional 5 Series as well as a commensurate cut in its CO2 emission levels.

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