BMW’s bona fide dud detector


You won’t see this BMW i3 pulling a battery trailer.

Building a working prototype is expensive, so BMW‘s advanced research teams construct cheaper “pretertypes” for innovations to check whether they’re on the right track.

These are made of paper or even just roughly sketched to quietly gauge public reaction before starting on full-scale models. Quietly because these ideas aren’t patented yet.

Sometimes the reaction can halt an idea on the spot. Rainer Daude, head of BMW’s forward-looking technology office in Munich, gives the example of an idea his team had for a battery trailer designed to extend the range of electric vehicles. They gave it a smart look, even adding the option of sleeping in it. Before the project went any further, they showed sketches to visitors at the BMW Welt, the exhibition center attached to its Munich headquarters.

“Asians were polite, Europeans were more direct, but the response was the same: No one liked it.” he said. It was quickly shelved.

“Pretertyping” is part of BMW’s shift to become more like Silicon Valley — fail fast and innovate fast.

Daude said the doomed trailer project evolved into something that did work: a mobile battery that could quickly charge up those EVs in BMW’s electric car-share fleet that the last user failed to plug in.



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