The move towards electric vehicles is making for some strange bedfellows in the auto industry, with mergers and joint ventures between rivals becoming more and more common. Jaguar Land Rover has joined on the bandwagon, pairing with former parent company BMW Group to develop next-generation Electric Drive Units (EDUs).
Land Rover was owned by BMW Group from 1994-2000, between ownership spells by British Aerospace and the Ford Motor Company. Though BMW's ownership was relatively brief, their magnum opus was the third-generation L322 Range Rover, which was heavily related to the 7 Series and X5, including using BMW's V8 engine in the earliest models. Although Ford transitioned to the Jaguar V8 in 2006, some parts were still sourced from BMW to the end of the L322's run in 2012.
JLR and BMW will team up on improving BMW's "Gen 5" electric drive system, which is going to be utilized on the upcoming BMW iX3 electric SUV. All the research and development will be done in BMW's home city of Munich, Germany, using teams from both companies. However, once the drive system is designed, JLR will manufacture their own examples at their engine plant in Wolverhampton, England.
Though JLR and BMW will develop the units together, they will put a different spin on each final product. Perhaps a Land Rover unit may focus more on low-end torque for the trail, while a BMW unit for a sports car model will have a smoother overall power band for the track.
Electric vehicle (EV) drivelines work differently from traditional ones, and this EDU will combine all of the components currently used to power a vehicle (engine, transmission, electronics) into one unit.
JLR has already gone into EVs with the Jaguar I-Pace, a fully-electric SUV. BMW has built the fully electric city-sized i3 since 2013. Future paths indicate electric versions of every Land Rover model will come in the 2020s.
Creating new drivelines is a considerable investment, and we've already seen Ford and Volkswagen pair up to develop new EV systems as well. There are already rumors that Peugeot is looking to buy JLR to help strengthen the companies in this new path, among other reasons. Meanwhile BMW has made an unusual pairing of their own, developing their new Z4 roadster on the same platform as Toyota’s new Supra hardtop sports car. So JLR and BMW, companies with a shared history and teams who have worked with each other, makes sense as partners. It allows them to compress the development timeline as well, as people begin to clamor for EVs.
The coming years are already looking like they'll see the traditional auto industry players and relationships upended, and a partnership with two companies that broke up long ago may be just the beginning.
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