BMW Motorrad's head of R&D: 'We'll make air-cooled engines beyond 2020'

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BMW Motorrad’s head of R&D, Karl Victor Schaller, talks heritage and innovation.

Normal aspirations

“We will not necessarily use superchargers or turbos on BMW motorcycles, they are too heavy when compared to a normally aspirated high-revving engine and they are hard to control to give a good throttle connection. Cars use them for downsizing engines, but we don’t see this in the motorcycle world. Motorcycle engine development has not peaked, there are still many things to come. You won’t double the output of an S1000RR, but it will be continuously improved.”

Air-cooled future

“We will go on making the air-cooled engine, no question, and we will bring it to Euro5 specification, which is beyond 2020. I can’t say in which models…”

“The R nineT has been incredibly successful. We have the Roadster, Pure, Scrambler, Racer and maybe a few more in the near future. I can not comment on what MCN may have printed spy photographs of.”

Euro5 will be tough

“We had to update the S1000RR this year because of Euro4 emissions regulations, but ensuring it didn’t lose power was not very difficult as the base engine is so strong. All of our bikes have retained their power and torque despite being made Euro4 compliant. Euro5, however, will be a lot harder.”


E-call is a minefield

“The e-call safety system looks simple but it is actually extremely complicated. If you push the button you need to reach a call centre that speaks your language and then if you need help they need to talk to the emergency services in the country you are in and organise assistance. It takes a lot of logistics and data exchange. The bike needs to send information on what is happening and also the last three locations and direction of travel within the last few minutes to locate the bike exactly. In Japan there are road networks that are stacked up to three layers high, so it needs to know this. Also it needs to communicate the severity of the impact – was it a low speed drop or high speed with multiple impacts. It is far more than just pushing a button.”

Ride inside the fence

“If you look at what is going on in the car world with autonomous vehicles you need to have precision maps locating all the vehicles around you and what they are doing. With this knowledge, which is held on a linked computer server, you can take smart decisions for the rider and stop, for example, oncoming traffic from doing a right turn. 51% of bike accidents are not caused by the rider, the other people made the mistake, and so we need an electronic fence around us. By using these highly autonomous future systems we can have this. It will come in the car world and we will get the spin off by being part of the system.” 

Electric dreams

“It may be 10 or 15 years away, but urban traffic will be electric in the future. Maybe eventually electric vehicles will reach a range of 200km, but it is too early to talk about other electric segments. An electric superbike is possible, but it has a very limited range due to its high power. An electric GS would need range and not so much power. Until we have a good solution for range, it will take time for electric vehicles to expand beyond urban riding.”

BMW Motorrad head Stephan Schaller agrees: “Electric vehicles are the future,” he said. “We will benefit from the development in BMW’s electric cars battery technology. We will have a family of electric vehicles.”

Intelligent vision

“Helmets with an integrated display will happen – certainly. What we are doing is far more advanced than what cars are doing through projected images on a screen. We have an artificial holographic image, which is generated about three or four metres in front of your helmet and looks like it is projected on the road ahead. It is unbelievable to see and use. The possibilities for this system are huge, imagine you are on a track and the system can go to an expert mode and show the best line through a corner and even your last line through that bend. But now we are really talking future technology. GPS or bike information on a head up display is the easy stuff, this is the cool stuff! Taking it a stage further, with autonomous technology you could even receive a warning locating slippery patches on the road or gravel as another car has slipped on it previously and then relayed that information back to the central server. The danger area would be highlighted in red.”

Engineering paramount

“In the future we may be living in a connected world, but you still need mechanical excellence. An iPhone needs good hardware as well as software to run, it is the same for a motorcycle.”

Click here for more on MCN's Intermot coverage. 

BMW Plan Tech Revolution

Expect a family of electric machines.
Accidents like this could be ruled out.
Summoning help is a complex issue.
Electric superbikes are a challenge.
Head-up display should be amazing.


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Jon Urry

By Jon Urry

MCN contributor, original 916 & R1-owner, human labrador