BMW Launches 7 Series Into Luxury Electric Car Territory, With A Heat Pump

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Everybody is suddenly talking about energy efficient heat pumps for everything, so it’s no surprise to find that electric car makers are jumping on the trend. As one indication of how quickly that is happening, BMW has just introduced the brand new i7 xDrive60 as the first ever all-electric car in the latest generation of its iconic 7 Series, and the company is eager to remind everyone that a heat pump is coming along for the ultra-luxurious ride.

Luxury Meets Energy Efficiency In The BMW i7 xDrive60 Electric Car

The introduction of energy efficient heat pumps to the luxury mobility area marks a sea change in the way automakers pitch their cars to demanding, discriminating drivers with deep pockets and an interest in not polluting the planet.

BMW Group shared a lavishly detailed press release for the new 7 Series launch with CleanTechnica that illustrates how energy efficiency enhances the experience of a luxury electric car. They describe a spectacularly outfitted vehicle that covers all the bases in  meticulous detail, from cashmere and leather seats to Swarovski crystal accents, personalized sound and light displays, and everything in between.

“Ever since the first generation made its debut in 1977, the BMW 7 Series has embodied the definition of highly exclusive individual mobility in its very distinct, very BMW way,” the company states, by way of introducing the rich pile-on of technology and experiential innovations loaded onto the new 7 Series.

The new 7 series includes the 2023 BMW 740i 6-cylinder and the 760i xDrive V8, both of which feature a touch of hybrid electric activity. However, only the all-electric i7 xDrive60 gets a heat pump, and that’s where things get interesting.

“The BMW i7 comes with a model-specific climate control unit featuring extremely efficient heat pump technology,” BMW North America explains, later emphasizing that “the heat pump technology used in the integrated heating and cooling system for the cabin and drive system also helps boost efficiency, as does the adaptive or individually adjustable recuperation feature.”

So, why would BMW bother pointing out energy efficiency as a luxury feature? After all, the base MSRP for the i7 xDrive60 is $119,300 plus a $995 destination charge. If you can afford that, who cares if you burn a few extra kilowatt-hours on your climate control unit?

BMW Cares, That’s Who

Considering that BMW is not the only heat pump enthusiast in the electric car market, there must be something more to the energy efficiency angle than meets the eye, and there is.

The answer is obvious to anyone familiar with electric cars and battery range. Luxury-market drivers who drive gas-powered cars might not care what kind of fuel efficiency they get, as long as gas is plentiful and filling up only takes a few minutes. Electric vehicle drivers have a different set of priorities. Among them is having the freedom to roam around in zero emission style for mile after mile, without having to stop for a recharge.

BMW has lavished particular attention on that detail, and it anticipates an EPA range of up to 300 miles for the i7 xDrive60 with a healthy assist from the energy efficient heat pump and a sophisticated regenerative braking system.

A “freewheel” function also helps to extend range by enabling the car to coast without consuming battery power.

Range is only part of the equation, though. BMW has also thought long and hard about the EV charging experience, going back at least as far as 2015 when it introduced a demand-response EV charging incentive. More recently, the company took a plunge into new solid-state battery R&D. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say there is more to recharging an EV battery than meets the eye, and the i7 battery is engineered to get the most out of each charging session.

To gild the electric car lily, BMW has also built on a previous partnership with Electrify America to offer three years of EV charging in the US at no cost.

Hey, even luxury car drivers can appreciate a free lunch.

BMW Figures That Electric Car Drivers Care, Too

The 7 Series reboot also underscores how luxury brands are responding to consumer enlightenment on sustainability. That’s a real switcheroo from the olden days, when concern about the environment went arm in arm with visions of granola and open-toed sandals.

Of course, it’s hard to beat mass transportation, walking, or cycling for planet-saving mobility. However, to the extent that cars are a necessity, a luxury, or both, BMW demonstrates that selling more and better electric cars is just the tip of the sustainable vehicle iceberg.

The company has been focusing like a thousand points of light on its manufacturing carbon footprint along with other lifecycle and supply chain impacts. One particular area of focus involves procuring more renewable energy for its manufacturing facilities. Another has to do with critical materials for electric cars, including a collaboration on sustainable lithium mining with other industry stakeholders.

As with everything else about the 7 Series reboot, the attention to detail on decarbonization is almost excruciating, so let’s not get into that, except to note that BMW Group has staked a claim as the first German automaker to engage with the Science Based Targets initiative for global decarbonization, through the SBTi Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign.

The affiliation with SBTi and the Business Ambition campaign links BMW Group with the United Nations Global Compact, which has enlisted an ever-sprawling network of corporate leaders to up the ante on global economic decarbonization.

Electric Cars Heart Heat Pumps

An electric car is not the only place you’ll find a heat pump. Once confined to the backwater of home HVAC systems, heat pumps have emerged as a key instrument in the effort to pare fossil energy consumption down to the bone. Now we have clothes dryers and water heaters alongside electric cars.

Heat pumps have a special place in the hearts of electric cars because they help resolve the pesky problem of battery range in cold weather, when drivers need more juice to keep the cabin warm. Of course, one can simply factor climate control into battery range when out for a spin, but why should one do that when a heat pump can do the heavy lifting.

BMW also has another cold weather solution for electric cars up its sleeve, which involves the H-word and fuel cells, so stay tuned for more on that.

Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.

Photo: Courtesy of BMW Group.

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

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