By on July 23, 2009

Well how do you like that? My very first editorial for TTAC took GM to task for spending (at least) a quarter of a billion bucks on its overly complex Two-Mode hybrid drivetrain. Way back in February 2008, I noted that “the chances increase daily that BMW will join Mercedes in washing its hands of two-mode technology entirely.” And guess what? It’s looking more likely by the day. Automotive News [sub] reports that Two-Mode co-developers BMW and Daimler will probably end their participation in the ill-fated alliance by year’s end (Chrysler is AWOL). BMW will launch a Two-Mode X6 globally and Daimler will bring a Two-Mode ML stateside this year, and then . . . basta. “None of the other hybrid development work in our company is based on the two-mode technology,” say BMW sources. Well that was a cool billion (split four ways) well spent. At least they got Automobile magazine’s “Technology of the Year” award.

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18 Comments on “BMW and Benz Walking Away from Two-Mode Technology...”


  • avatar
    kaleun

    Well, only the full-hybrid (like Toyota) really is worth the effort. The Prius can run AC and drive slowly without IC and consequently is the most efficient hybrid. (given its mileage at given size and comfort). Honda, for example or Saturn with their two-mode hybrids don’t really have much better than mileage than the non-hybrid versions.

    Other benefits of Toyota: electric oil pump, electric water pump…. less maintenance, optimum cooling and lubrication at any load.

    either you do a hybrid right, or not at all.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Well, only the full-hybrid (like Toyota) really is worth the effort.

    GM’s Two-mode is a full hyrbid system, just packaged differently, and (in theory) easier to integrate in an existing vehicle. You’re confusing two-mode with GM’s “mild” system; Two-mode is essentially a hybrid system packed into the transmission case; the mild system in the Aura and Malibu (and Honda’s IMA) is a big starter motor-cum-supercharger.

    The problem with two-mode is that it’s expensive and has serious packaging problems. It started life as a solution for buses and has had real trouble moving downwards.

  • avatar
    ckb

    I don’t see blowing that money as a bad thing at all. If anything, more money should be spent on crazy technologies that don’t look like they’re going to work. If they do, the rewards far outweigh the risk. So this doesn’t work. But I’m sure plenty was learned along the way that will help make the next big thing better.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Neither BMW nor M-B should be building hybrids of any kind – it violates their brand image. And the same is true for Lamborghini, Porsche, Ferrari, Aston-Martin, and any other very high-end brands.

    Besides, it’s a waste of resources to develop vehicles people won’t buy.

  • avatar
    kowsnofskia

    “Neither BMW nor M-B should be building hybrids of any kind – it violates their brand image.”

    Did building a hybrid LS violate Lexus’s brand image?

  • avatar
    AKM

    Besides, it’s a waste of resources to develop vehicles people won’t buy.

    Priuses are everywhere…

  • avatar
    kaleun

    psarhjinian : thanks for clarifying.. my mistake.
    Well, in the end only the performance numbers (mileage, acceleration) determine if a drivetrain is good or not and Toyota can really show something in that department.

    I think companies whose cars are in the shop all the time with regular ICE all the time anyway (BMW, GM, Mercedes, VW…) should stay away from new technology anyway. they would jsut give hybrids a bad reputation when they are on the side of the street with the hood open. Toyota built an excellent reliability case for hybrids (and no one can argue that, whether you like hybrids or not)

  • avatar
    rnc

    In terms of BMW, MB and VW, perhaps thier cars are in the shop all of the time (really not to much more than any other car, perception over reality) b/c they are pushing the envelope of technology of ICE’s.

    In reality the hybrid system toyota uses is simple in some ways and low tech in some ways (which also makes it reliable).

    Side Note: I think that it was incredibly smart of VW not to push so hard into the US by building cars that would appeal to a wider swath of the current buying public and assuming that the 16m market was always going to be there. Let the market come to the cars that they have been building in Europe all along, with Energy $ (peak oil and all) and CAFE, that is where cars are headed and they will be there already waiting. There’s a reason they are the only profitable volume maker (with 10 brands, but 10 brands done the way they should be)

  • avatar
    carguy

    When have either BMW and Mercedes shied away from (over)complicated technology? Seems like an unlikely reason. It’s more likely that they come up with more efficient solutions in-house that better suit their product plans.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Well, in the end only the performance numbers (mileage, acceleration) determine if a drivetrain is good or not and Toyota can really show something in that department.

    Two-mode shows a lot of potential in heavy applications: it’s robust and easily adaptable in a way that Toyota’s eCVT might not be when faced with truck-duty loads. I’d be interested to know what kind of hybrid system Toyota uses in the Dyna trucks (eg, if it’s a BAS variant or HSD)

    Two-mode actually nets good mileage and performance. Where it falls down is more an issue of marketing: GM crammed it into vehicles that hybrid buyers don’t care about: heavy, luxury-trim trucks. Had they made it an option for base-trim fleet trucks it might have done better; when abstracted up to the hundreds/thousands of vehicles level, the cost savings in fuel is significant. Even putting in the Lambdas would have been something.

    I suspect Mercedes and BMW dropped out partly (mostly) because of their famously arrogant cases of Not Invented Here syndrome, and partly because they want to go the cheap-and-easy route of implementing BAS systems.

    A shame, really, because if Toyota’s hybrid marketing machine has a weakness, it’s in the luxury- and mass-people-mover markets. Priuses are alright, but they’re still small and barely above economy car, while the Lexus “h” models don’t commmand the mindshare.

    Mr. Niedermeyer was right that splitting it’s attention between three efforts (BAS, Two-Mode, Volt; four if you count fuel cells) was a stupid move. They had a chance with Two-Mode and thoroughly flubbed it because they couldn’t focus and can’t figure out a market.

  • avatar
    slateslate

    Well, as long as we’re talking conspiracy theories here…….my conspiracy theory is that someone at BMW and MB crunched the numbers and forecasted that’s better off to stick with diesel as the eco-friendly fuel source either because:

    1. they guess that gas prices over the next decade are going to be pretty stable and hence hybrids won’t be viable or

    2. they guess that there won’t be enough production of lithium salts/whatever other rare earth metals that you need, as a result hybrid systems will be too expensive when compared to diesel, or

    3. Hans Sauerkraut actually perfected a 300 MPG hybrid system but the evil oil companies are keeping the discovery under wraps along with the 100 MPG carburetor.

  • avatar
    MBella

    Two-Mode is very similar to Toyota’s system, so I don’t really see why it would be challenge to implement in most cars. Both GM and Toyota have systems that use transverse (Vue, Prius, Camry, etc..) and longitudinal (Full size trucks, LS600H, etc…) mounted engines. These systems are “two-mode” because they can be “series hybrids” where the engine drives a generator that charges the battery, and a drive motor drives the wheels, or “parallel” hybrids, where the electric motor(s) and engine work together to propel the car.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    @kowsnofskia:
    Did building a hybrid LS violate Lexus’s brand image?

    Yes, it did, in my opinion.

    @AKM:
    Priuses are everywhere…

    Yes, they are. And they only cost $25k, just a little north of other ‘economy’ cars and relatively mainstream.

    Maybe BMW and M-B learned that their clients are better at math than other hybrid buyers, and they simply aren’t willing to pay the price premium which they would never recover. Which is why I don’t drive a Prius.

  • avatar
    Juniper

    Well, as long as we’re talking conspiracy theories here…….my conspiracy theory is that someone at BMW and MB crunched the numbers and forecasted that’s better off to stick with diesel as the eco-friendly fuel source either because:

    Not in the US. BMW just copied Chryslers $4500 clunker match deal to get rid of their Diesels.

    Diesels Wagons Sticks. I like them all, but not the average consumer.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Two mode: works fine; costs way too much.

    GM has hinted it costs them at least $10k (over the price of a conventional drive train).

    Toyota has said their HSD is down to less than $3k each (over a conventional drive train).

    Therein is the reason for the very big expensive sound of a billion bucks flushed down the drain.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    either you do a hybrid right, or not at all.…

    13 MPG to 21 MPG…call me crazy, but percentage wise that is a great improvement. I am actually surprised that they didn’t sell better. Most people I know don’t give a rat’s ass about offroad ability and towing. But they do care about utility. Also, suburban mothers (no pun intended) usually have some bent towards efficiency and environment. I guess this class of vehicles are just not fashionable anymore. Too bad: the utility of a Suburban with the guzzle of a car seems like a winner to me.

    I guess like the Air France Concorde, a technological success but an economic failure.

  • avatar
    charly

    Hybrids have the advantages that the make faster 0-100 times without increasing the engine.
    BMW sells fast who’s maximum speed is limited electronically –> Hybrids sounds quite right for BMW

    M-B sell over engineered cars –> what is more over engineered than a Hybrid?

  • avatar
    hazard

    It’s completely ridiculous to say hybrid’s don’t fit a luxury marque’s brand image. Hybrid tech is expensive – so where better to put it than in luxury cars? Hybrid can be used to boost performance – so where better to put it than in a performance car? Hybrids are also overly complicated – fits perfectly with MB and BMW. C’mon folks, this is the company that gave us iDrive.


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