Rarely do you get the chance to have an early glimpse at the future of motoring as car-makers face pressure to become increasingly green.
But that was my privilege this week when I was granted an exclusive visit to German car giant BMW's research and development centre on the outskirts of Munich. It is the size of a small town and employs more than 4,000 engineers, experts, technicians and even psychologists, and bosses say it is developing the environmentally-friendly cars of tomorrow today.
My visit coincided with the opening of the IAA Mobility Show taking place just up the road. Traditionally at this time, Germany's biggest motor show would take place in Frankfurt. But against the background of environmental concerns and imminent bans on selling new petrol and diesel models at the end of the decade, motor manufacturers decided it was time for a change.
Zooming into the future: The new all-electric BMW iX SUV
So Frankfurt moved to beautiful Munich — with its modern trams and many cyclists — and the show became not just about motor cars but rather 'mobility' in all its forms, with green technology, electric motor bikes, scooters and bicycles also to the fore.
BMW alone has set ambitious targets to slash emissions and to make all of its vehicles 100 per cent fully recyclable within 20 years. But the company also wanted to demonstrate that sustainability can go hand in hand with luxury. Its guiding principles are: rethink, reduce, re-use and recycle to mitigate global warning.
BMWs are manufactured using nearly 30 per cent recycled and reused material on average. The company is working on increasing that in next-generation cars to 50 per cent and, ultimately, 100 per cent.
To help communicate these aims, chief executive Oliver Zipse unveiled in Munich a futuristic iVision Circular zero-emissions electric car made entirely from recycled materials and fully recyclable at the end of its life.
It was developed at BMW's FIZ research and development centre, which I visited. The company said: 'The four-seat BMW iVision Circular looks ahead to a compact, all-electric vehicle for the year 2040 focused squarely on sustainability and luxury.'
Quick-release fasteners for the wheels, seats and instrument panel, and a cord tie in the rear seat bench show how key elements can be quickly detached at the end of the car's life.
Other features include the BMW logo being engraved and the vehicle badge lasered to avoid add- on parts, bumpers are manufactured from recycled plastic and exterior surfaces are created from anodised recycled aluminium, not paint.
Slightly transparent tyres are made from certified, sustainably grown rubber. 3D printing minimises waste, with surplus material recycled, and seats use upholstery made from recycled plastic.
BMW said the iVision Circular is separate from the next generation of its electric and fossil fuel vehicles but many of the 'green' elements will be included.
THE GRAND REVEAL
Visiting BMW's new £90million advanced simulation centre soon afterwards, I saw a month before it goes live how 14 advanced driving simulators were helping BMW reduce carbon by removing the need to build early prototypes. Inside a giant pod that resembles a Martian from War Of The Worlds a test driver in a car follows a lifelike road on a 360-degree surround screen, while the machine on stilts races back and forth in a vast 400 sq m arena, replicating the effect of a real highway.
Safe as houses: BMW Concept iX5 Hydrogen Protection VR6
This work has gone into the development of the new all-electric BMW iX SUV and BMW i4 sport-back saloon which received their motor show premieres in Munich.
Fully electric versions of the high volume BMW 5 Series, small hatchback, X1, flagship 7 Series saloon and the successor of the Mini Countryman are already in the pipeline.
Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles will be an important secondary measure to reduce emissions, says BMW, which showed an iX5, and an armoured high-security version. Bosses revealed they shot at the car and even exploded grenades underneath to prove its safety.
In the driving seat: Ray Massey at BMW's research and development centre on the outskirts of Munich
The firm is also preparing to launch a next generation 'New Class' of cars — based around a flexible platform that will allow both electric and hydrogen vehicles to run off the same basic underpinnings.
An electric BMW e-bike range and a prototype electric CE02 motorbike were also showcased in Munich.
STRIKE A BALANCE
However, car-makers will have to tread carefully during the transition to a greener future. There's a real danger that some of the rhetoric espoused by fundamentally profit-driven car industry corporates will be dismissed as 'greenwash' — appeasing customers with real environmental concerns while making no changes.
BMW vigorously refutes any 'greenwash' charge and insists its environmental ambitions are sincere and that it is taking concrete steps to achieve them. But Bayerische Motoren Werke (BMW) should be careful it doesn t become too Bavarian Motor Woke.
Cool and the gang: The prototype electric BMW motor bike set to go into production
BMW's social media team has come under fire for mocking on Twitter the baby-boomer generation — alienating their heartland customers across Europe where the average age is around 54 — in a campaign for the new all-electric iX SUV that spectacularly backfired.
Opening the IAA Mobility show German Chancellor Angela Merkel – in one of the last acts on her 'farewell tour' before she steps down later this month - said she welcomed the show extending beyond just the car to wider mobility, but noted: 'The focus will of course continue to be on the car. We will see many world premieres here and also cars of the future. I am pleased that the trend towards electro-mobility is now clearly visible.'
Looking ahead: BMW chairman Oliver Zipse
BMW chairman Oliver Zipse said: 'The BMW i Vision Circular symbolises our ambition to be a pioneering force in the development of a circular economy.
'Our overriding aim is to reduce CO2 emissions throughout a vehicle's entire life cycle.'
BMW simulation chief Dr Joost Venrooij told me during my visit to their research centre: 'We are driving to day the cars of the future. We take the road into the laboratory.'
Shame that Extinction Rebellion and other environmental protesters trying to block the surrounding roads to the green motor show were stubbornly and unfairly turning a deaf ear to the sound environmental messages the firm was sending out.
5 MORE STARS FROM MUNICH
Volkswagen ID Life
Unveiled in prototype form, VW's entry-level electric hatchback will be on sale in the UK priced from £17,000 to £21,000 and will likely carry the name ID.2 when it goes into production.
Renault Megane E-Tech
Flying the flag for France, a real-world production-ready all-electric family car available to order from early next year priced from around £30,000 and with a range of about 292 miles.
Cupra Urban Rebel
A Spanish electric hot-hatch that's set to arrive in the UK from around 2025 priced from about £17,000 thanks to the Cupra brand. Expect 0-62mph in about 3.2 seconds and a range of 180 miles.
Mercedes Maybach EQS
This vast flagship range-topping luxury SUV has a huge grille and a £160,000 price-tag to match. Good job it includes a champagne fridge. Expect a range of around 373 miles.
Start-up Israeli firm City Transformer showed their shape-shifting 'folding car' that reduces in width from 1.4 metres in performance mode to just one metre in tighter urban streets. Priced from £10,700 for early-bird pre-orders and then £13,700.
PETROL PRICE HIKE FOR UNLUCKY DRIVERS
The introduction of new greener E10 fuel has seen motorists paying up to 10 per cent more to fill up. This is because it is not suitable for some older cars and drivers must use more expensive Super Unleaded.
The problem has been sparked by the Government's decision to make 'greener' all standard petrol sold at the pumps from September 1.
And a regional postcode lottery is revealed in analysis by car dealership chain Vertu Motors (vertumotors.com). As part of the Government's drive to reduce CO2 emissions, the potential amount of bioethanol added to unleaded petrol has been increased from 5 per cent to 10 per cent.
All change: Signage at the pumps reflects the new percentage — with the outgoing fuel called E5, and the new fuel showing as E10
Signage at the pumps reflects the new percentage — with the outgoing fuel called E5, and the new fuel showing as E10. However, the policy is affecting around 600,000 older or classic cars for which E10 is not suitable.
Across the UK, drivers of these cars are facing an average 10p per litre price rise to make the switch, equating to an average £5 increase per fill up, according to Vertu. The study shows that motorists in the North East are being hammered hardest with a 13p (almost 10 per cent) increase to switch to Super Unleaded. Drivers in Northern Ireland face the lowest cost to switch (6.8p per litre).
Vertu Motors said: 'The Government and fuel providers have had a long time to smoothly roll this change out. However, for the unlucky 600,000 drivers who now have to pay up to 10 per cent more for their fuel, this is potentially just the beginning of their cost increases.'
The Government says the switch will save around 750,000 tonnes of CO2 from going into the atmosphere — the equivalent of taking 350,000 cars off the road.
More details at gov.uk/ check-vehicle-e10-petrol.