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Hot take: the next-next fully electric BMW M5 will be better than the V8 PHEV

Step away from the pitchfork – lighter, solid-state cells could prove transformative

Published: 01 Jul 2024

Much of the discourse around the new BMW M5 has centred around its bombastic new powertrain, and its bombastic bulk. It’s 2024, and BMW’s flagship performance saloon sports a big, turbocharged V8... but weighs over 2.4-tonnes. Yeesh. Shoulda’ just stripped back a G90 and stuck a high-revving six-pot in there like Ye Good Ole Days for one last hurrah. Job done.

Of course, M is no stranger to crafting spectacularly angry-looking hippos in running shoes. Like this one. And this one. And oh god this one. Astonishingly, that uncomfortably styled colossus comfortably breaches 2.7-tonnes. That’s not an M car, that’s a boat.

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So there’s (a lot of) form. But this is an M5, and so it’s important. This four-door – along with the M3 – has pretty much defined BMW’s motorsport division since its inception. These cars matter, and when there’s so much matter, you get the sense the engineers were kept busy just keeping a heavy V8-hybrid drivetrain in check.

A full battery-electric drivetrain is a no-go, at least now, BMW conceded, because it'd be just as heavy, if not more. Current battery tech doesn’t support a fully-electric M5’s mission statement of, let’s say driving 500 miles to a track and then drifting merrily around it. But the next-generation of battery technology, for a time when everything will have to be electric anyway? That’s a different story. Solid state could, maybe, possibly, please-put-down-the-pitchforks, make the next-next generation M5 Quite Good, and much less of a compromise.

Because everyone now knows we’re on the cusp of a battery revolution. Despite committing to an immediate future of lithium-ion batteries for its ‘Neue Klasse’ EVs, BMW is working on solid state batteries in the background.

Late last year, it deepened its relationship with a company called Solid Power to learn more about this technology's dark arts. Admittedly, it's still a way off, with both BMW and Toyota - the latter also investing heavily in the tech - banking on some point after 2030 for mainstream use. The current issue with solid state batteries is mass production, not the idea.

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And it's a great idea with plentiful boons. Smaller. Lighter. Denser. Battery-er. They’ll be able to fast charge more efficiently and regularly. Current predictions put the increase in density at around 40 per cent. With time, research and a truckload of money thrown at the problem, who knows if this’ll increase.

So with these units strapped into the belly of the next-next M5, and with next-next generation control technology and electronic architectures, BMW’s M division won’t have to make as many compromises, allowing them free reign to tune and streamline the top version of whatever 5er comes after the G90’s long-run. Which'll be at some point after 2030.

Yes, it's very admirable that in 2024, BMW has shoved in a big, turbocharged V8 just as the sun begins to set on our notion of performance. But it’s a compromise (interestingly, remove the hybrid bulk from a G90, and you’ve got the weight of the car before it). Solid state won’t be a compromise. Maybe. Possibly. Please put down the pitchforks.

Of course, they coulda’ just stripped it right back and stuck a high-revving sixer in there just like Ye Good Ole Days for one last hurrah. Job done.

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Photography: G90 BMW M5 sketches

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