At the international media launch for BMW's new X6 "Sport Activity Coupe" in Spartanburg, South Carolina, company officials confirmed that the hybrid version is indeed coming next year. When it launches in 2009 it will be available only with the the 4.4L turbocharged V-8 that is debuting right now in the 2008 X6. The X6 will be BMW's first application of the two mode hybrid system that is being developed along with GM, Daimler and Chrysler. Like GM and Chrysler, BMW will be using a nickel metal hydride battery for the initial applications. Unlike the two American brands, the BMW engine won't be using cylinder deactivation. According to BMW engineers, they didn't see a significant improvement in efficiency with cylinder deactivation compared to the direct injection and variable valve timing and lift system their V-8 uses.
Like the American hybrid SUVs, BMW chose to apply hybrid technology to a heavy, powerful vehicle because the absolute fuel savings (the number of gallons reduced) are much larger compared to the same percentage increase on a smaller vehicle like the 1-series. In Europe BMW, has started to add systems like automatic start-stop and brake energy regeneration to their smaller vehicles. They are implementing each of these technologies on one platform or powertrain combination at time. The start-stop system is currently available on manual transmission four cylinder cars, none of which BMW sells in the U.S. right now. Over the coming years they plan to expand availability to virtually all of their platforms. In the meantime, the X6 Hybrid will save some gas compared to the regular model, but at 5,000lbs and up, it won't be winning any fuel economy competitions anytime soon.