Using its annual Innovation Days gathering at its largest test facility in Miramas, France, BMW unveiled several prototype vehicles featuring the latest in efficiency-enhancing technologies, all of which are destined for future products. The sexiest one-off to debut was a highly modified hydrogen-powered BMW i8, but the automaker also took the wraps off a BMW 2 Series Active Tourer Plug-in Hybrid featuring an eDrive-assisted AWD system as well as a new 5-door BMW 1 Series SAV fitted with an advanced water-injection system capable of boosting power, torque and mpg.

Fuel cell progress

Leveraging fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) knowledge gained as part of a collaborative deal with Toyota, BMW showed a more sophisticated but simpler-to-build version of a hydrogen FCEV powertrain it is readying for production by 2020. Fitted to a sleek-looking variation of a BMW i8 as well as a BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo, this new setup reportedly uses the fuel cell stack from the new Toyota Mirai to charge a battery pack powering a 242-horsepower eDrive engine. The eDrive engine is capable of being used in future BMW "i" models and plug-in vehicles. With its BMW-designed centrally-mounted hydrogen tank, the system delivers over 300 miles of range and can be refilled in less than five minutes.

Prepping Plug-in power

Stepping up its plug-in game, BMW also revealed a prototype of the Euro-only 2 Series Active Tourer that pairs a transversely-mounted 3-cylinder TwinPower Turbo Efficient Dynamics gasoline engine boosted by a high-voltage generator up front with an electric motor that drives the rear wheels. It's a mirror image of the configuration found on the BMW i8 Plug-in and previews technology destined for other series-production BMW models. Linked to a 6-speed Steptronic automatic, the engine makes 134 horsepower that can be boosted to 154 horses for short periods by the generator. When called into action, the rear motor adds an additional 87 horsepower, bolstering  the engine's 162 lb-ft of torque with 122 lb-ft more twist units of its own. In addition to its on-demand AWD system, this plug-in Active Tourer also will run from 0-60 mph in less than 6.5 seconds and can travel up to 23.6 miles on pure EV power.

Water-injection coming

Finally, BMW presented a new twist on the water-injection technology it introduced earlier this year that it plans to deploy on upcoming M cars. Fitted for the first time to a core brand model -- a BMW 1 Series SAV instead of the M4 Safety Car that appears at the FIM's World Championship MotoGP Series -- the setup sprays a fine mist of water directly into the combustion chamber rather than into the intake manifold. And unlike the M4's design that requires the water tank to be refilled after each race, this enhanced version incorporates an on-board recovery system that replenishes the reservoir with water condensed from the air conditioning system. Of particular value when applied to turbocharged engines, water injection can lower combustion temperatures to reduce knock, allow higher compression with lower-octane fuel, raise power/torque outputs by up to 10 percent and improve fuel economy by nearly eight percent.

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