Oktobertfest 2021 Was Canceled. The Auto Show Wasn’t

An inside look at IAA Mobility. Yes, the German auto show

By Gary S. Vasilash

The event formerly—for almost 70 years—known as “the Frankfurt Motor Show” is no more, as this year the event is officially titled “IAA Mobility,” and it moved about four hours southeast by car to Munich.

According to the organizers, the thesis of the event is “Mobility is the foundation for freedom, prosperity, and encounters. We face new challenges daily, such as urbanization, climate change, and digitization. But instead of borders, we recognize the call for action. It is up to us to go new ways, ask questions, and find answers.”

Which doesn’t sound like, well, an auto show as they have long existed.

Concept Mercedes-Maybach EQS: Do the 1% like garish grilles on EVs? (Image: Mercedes)

So to get some insights on the event, on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” “Autoline’s” John McElroy and Chris Paukert of Roadshow by CNET, both of whom were at the media days of IAA Mobility, talk with me about what they saw, the vehicles that they found to be of interest. (I wasn’t there.)

One interesting observation that they make is that while there were certainly plenty of introductions by the German car companies—like the Concept Mercedes-Maybach EQS, an electric vehicle that is for, well, the Maybach set; the BMW i Vision Circular, which McElroy points out has a clever approach to the traditional kidney grille, as it basically fills the front end in tasteful matter, not something garishly slapped on the nose; and the Volkswagen ID.Life, a small city car that Paukert notes is unlikely to be able to ever come to the U.S. due to the homologation requirements—the footprint of the show was far different than that of the Frankfurt venue.

In addition to which, we talk about the speed with which Tesla makes changes to its systems (e.g., electrical architecture) and whether traditional OEMs have the capability to catching up, whether those traditional OEMs should combine their mainstream powertrain operations into an independent standalone company and take the savings from the elimination of the cost of their individual ops to spend on things like electrification, and more.

All of which you can see here.

BMW Goes Circular

No, not the roundel logo. The way it is conceiving and building its vehicles

By Gary S. Vasilash

When people think/talk about environmentally appropriate vehicles, the tendency is to talk about the tailpipe—or the lack thereof.

That is, an electric car (no tailpipe) or a fuel-cell-powered car (which has an exhaust to let the water vapor escape) is seen to be good because it is an electric car or a fuel-cell-powered car. (Trucks and SUVs can be used in place of “car.”)

But what somehow gets overlooked is the fact that there is a heck of a lot more to a motor vehicle than the type of propulsion system that it uses.

There is all of that other “stuff” that goes into making a vehicle.

BMW i Vision Circular (Image: BMW)

Things like the chassis and the body panels. The steering wheel and the seats. The carpet on the floor and the headliner on the ceiling.

And so on.

The production of these things has an effect on the lifecycle emissions of a given vehicle.

Sure, the use of the vehicle has a huge impact on the vehicle’s effect on the environment.

So while it is not exactly a leader in the electric vehicle space, which is leading some people to raise an eyebrow, credit to BMW for introducing a concept vehicle at the IAA Mobility 2021 event (what used to be known as “the Frankfurt show” until it was moved, this year, to Munich) that has an absolute basis in sustainability.

It is called the “BMW I Vision Circular.”

“Vision,” I suppose, because this is something that is for 2040.

“Circular” because the vehicle is entirely developed and built using principles of the circular economy, as in it is built with 100% recycled materials and 100% of those materials can be recycled again.

Even the battery for this electric vehicle, a solid-state battery (of course, although BMW is working on this technology, it is still a ways off for production vehicles, but works quite well in a one-off concept) is designed to be recycled.

While recycled materials have generally thought of as having a premium price, BMW chief Oliver Zipse made an interesting observation: “the current trend in commodity prices clearly shows the financial consequences in store for any industry that is reliant on finite resources.”

About Charging the BMW iX3

It is quick. But that’s still slow

By Gary S. Vasilash

According to information about the new BMW iX3 (the UK version) we learn such things as the fact that there are 188 prismatic cells in the battery that have a gravimetric energy density that’s about 20% higher than that of the previous pack.

The new BMW iX3 has range on the order of 280 miles. (Image: BMW)

There is BMW’s fifth-generation eDrive technology that brings along a charging unit that provides power to both the 400V battery and the 12V on-board power supply.

As for the charging, when using AC it will permit single- and three-phase charging at up to 11 kW.

However, when plugged into a DC fast charger, it can charge at up to 150 kW. This means it can go from a 0% state of charge to 80% in 34 minutes.

There is another set of numbers that are striking. The BMW iX3 can charge the vehicle so that it can travel up to 62 miles (based on the WLTP test cycle, which is generally more generous than EPA figures) in 10 minutes.

While 10 minutes isn’t a whole lot of time, 62 miles of distance isn’t a whole lot of range.

According to the EPA, the average fuel economy for light-duty vehicles in 2020–cars, pickups, and cargo vans less than 8,500 pounds GVWR and SUVs and passenger vans up to 10,000 pounds GVWR—was 25.7 mpg.

The flow at your local gas pump (assuming you’re in the U.S.) is limited to 10 gallons per minute.  Which means that a light vehicle can get 257 miles of range in one minute.

Somehow people are going to have to get used to spending more time at a service station.

BMW Brings an Electric Scooter

And if you want one, make sure your digital account if full of digits

By Gary S. Vasilash

“The new BMW CE 04 is the link between the user’s analogue and digital worlds. It is both a means of transport and a means of communication for the big city commuter. With its forward-looking design thanks based on an innovative package, it sets out to redefine the scooter segment.”

That’s Edgar Heinrich, head of Design, BMW Motorrad.

The CE 04 is a scooter. An electric scooter.

Heinrich and the BMW CE 04 electric scooter. (Image: BMW)

How it is a means of communication is curious. And while its design has a shard aesthetic to it, which is about as far from the smooth lines characteristic of a Vespa, it isn’t entirely clear whether this is “forward-looking” or just “Blade Runner.”

It produces 42 hp. It has a maximum speed of 75 miles. It has a maximum range of an estimated 80 miles. It can carry two people (which would probably have an effect on the speed and range).

Its 147.6-volt lithium-ion battery pack recharges fairly quickly: from 0 to 100% in 4 hours and 20 minutes when plugged into a normal household outlet (Level 1). For a Level 2 charger (one of those units you’ve seen in parking lots, say, at Whole Foods) it is 1 hour and 40 minutes. If you charge the battery from 20% to 80% (which would presumably provide a range of 64 miles) on a Level 2 charger, it is just 45 minutes. Or the time to do a good shop at Whole Foods and a quick cappuccino.

But there is one number that is somewhat brake-applying for most people: It has an MSRP of $11,795.

For a scooter.

BMW Virtual Art Car

No word on whether an NFT is involved

By Gary S. Vasilash

BMW has long been a leader in supporting artists through providing them with a highly visible canvas: a BMW vehicle. So there have been “BMW Art Cars” painted by John Baldessari, Alexander Calder, Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol, etc.

BMW has been doing this for 50 years.

The OEM has contracted with Nathan Shipley, director of creative technology at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, and Gary Yeh, founder of artDrunk, to create “The Ultimate AI Masterpiece.”

The BMW “Ultimate AI Masterpiece,” based on an 8 Series. (Image: BMW)

On a simple level, they used a system based on an NVIDIA StyleGAN AI model to scan over 50,000 artworks over a 900-year period. They added in not only the artists who had done Art Cars, but also works from emerging artists.

And the result was projection mapped onto a BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe. Or at least a virtual rendition of one.

Said Shipley: “AI is an emerging medium of creative expression. It’s a fascinating space where art meets algorithm. Combining the historical works with the curated modern works and projecting the evolving images onto the 8 Series Gran Coupe serves a direct nod to BMW’s history of uniting automobiles, art, and technology.”

That said, somehow the actual artists doing work on actual cars seems like more of an execution of creative expression than running an algorithm.

BMW and Sea Ray: Design Development

Boats and cars just seem to go together

BMW owns Designworks, which has a studio in Newbury Park, California. Newbury Park is not on the Pacific. But not far from it, either.

Designworks designs a variety of things, including, well, BMWs. But it has also collaborated with airlines, the North Face, and other companies for which they’re not designing cars.

The latest company: Sea Ray.

The boat producer.

Designworks collaborated with Sea on the Sundancer 370 Outboard. The Sundancer series is celebrating its 45th anniversary.

Sea Ray 370 Outboard (Image: BMW)

Charlie Foss, Sea Ray Design Director, said, “Working together with Designworks, we were able to produce a fresh set of design principles that pay homage to our brand’s past which indicating the future, resulting in a look that is undeniably Sea Ray. An output of the collaboration was the definition of four key design characteristics to inform Sea Ray models moving forward: sleek, confident, athletic and distinctive.”

Beyond BMW’s ownership of Designworks, there is another connection between Sea Ray and automotive.

Foss: “Automotive-inspired design is part of the Sea Ray history, dating back to collaboration with Harley Earl Associates in the early 1960s.”

About Earl

Earl was the first head of the General Motors Art and Color Section, established by Alfred P. Sloan in 1928. Earl headed GM design until 1958. He turned 65. He had to retire. (He was succeeded by Bill Mitchell.) And then he established his own firm. Earl died in 1969, age 75, in West Palm Beach, Florida. Which is on the Atlantic.

Car Gigs Chuck Palahniuk Didn’t Take

Chuck Palahniuk, earlier this year, published Consider This: Moments in My Writing Life After Which Everything Was Different. In some ways, it is a book that writers who hope to be as successful as Palahniuk is can read so as to get some insights into the way Palahniuk went about getting to where he is.

Arguably, Palahniuk’s star went nova with the release of Fight Club in 1999, directed by David Fincher and starring Brad Pitt and some other guys.

And as everybody—particularly those who have perhaps not (a) read the book or (b) seen the movie knows—the first rule of Fight Club is “You don’t talk about fight club.” (What these people may not realize is that they also know the second rule of Fight Club, which is essentially see Rule 1.)

Anyway, in the world of freelance writing, one could imagine a rule that says, “You don’t tell people about jobs you didn’t get/take.”

However, Palahniuk reveals in Consider This a number of OEMs who wanted to take advantage of his celebrity to do advertising:

  • “First there was Volvo.” He relates that they’d wanted him to write a series of stories “about an obscure hamlet in Sweden where an enormous number of Volvos were being sold.” (Fun fact: the population density of Sweden is 64 people per square mile. The population in Germany is 623 people per square mile. “Obscure hamlet” is relative.) Palahniuk: “They were offering. . .tens of thousands of dollars.” He didn’t take it.
  • “After Volvo came BMW.” The Bavarian builder wanted him to write a series of short stories that would be turned into an audiobook, loaded onto a CD and provided to those who bought Bimmers. Given BMW’s approach toward audio entertainment, such as CarPlay, one imagines had he taken them up on the idea there would have been a line item on the Monroney for the disc. Fortunately for consumers, he didn’t accept the offer.
  • Here is a case of (1) the tentativeness of memory of (2) an indication that some people don’t quite care as much about cars than others. “In the year 2000 or 2001, Chevrolet offered me five thousand dollars for the right to mention Fight Club in a television commercial for the Ram pickup truck.” Ah, right.
  • And an example of artistic purity or insanity: Jaguar Land Rover “offered me a half million dollars to write a story that could be made into a film that would feature a Land Rover in some crucial, high-profile way.” Palahniuk notes, “And maybe I was stupid, but I still said no.” What can be said about that?
The Volvo 70 Series had a run from 1996 to 2016, so possibly this would have been featured in the stories about the obscure Swedish hamlet. (Image: Volvo)