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[YesAuto Technology] Two changes have taken place in BMW’s iconic kidney grille. One is that the BMW X6 adds a light-emitting grille provided by the lamp supplier Hella, and the other is the new i4 pure electric quasi-production concept car. The two huge vertical scale grilles. This styling is to strengthen the recognition of the BMW brand, and it is also the practice of many brands. Regarding their views, many people will focus their praise or criticism on the designers, but is this kind of functional modeling really driven by them? If there is no technical support, can such a design really be realized? How many fanciful designs have to succumb to technology in the end, which is why many beautiful concept cars become mediocre when they are finally mass-produced. Technology and design, who is driving whom? Today we will talk about this topic through the new changes of the BMW grille.

30 seconds to understand the full text:

1. Car companies need cars that are easier to build, sell more, and profitable. So designers can be the promoters, but technology really plays a decisive role.

2. The large vertical scale grille is actually a classic of returning to BMW. The flat kidneys did not appear until 85 years later;

3. The application of aerodynamics and the construction of highways make the body shorter, and the large grille gradually becomes smaller;

4. The industrialization of semiconductors promotes the automation of stamping production, which makes the vehicles square. Therefore, the BMW grille has become square after the 1970s;

5. The grille is getting bigger and bigger, which is due to pedestrian protection laws and regulations;

6. Pure electric vehicles do not need an air intake grille. The i4 grille is to take care of the aesthetic habits of old users and indicate that they will not forget the tradition while opening a new era.

Is it aesthetically driven or technology driven?

Many people say, “Just a LOGO, is it really worth so much money?” Yes, it is really worth so much money. Ordinary people buy luxury brands, to a large extent, to show their social status and highlight their identity, so LV, Nike, Apple notebooks will design unusually obvious or even sparkling LOGO on their products, and they can’t wait to become the brightest in the audience. Cub. The same is true for BMW. It may not look good if the car logo is too large like the Mercedes-Benz. Then make the iconic kidney grille bigger and brighter, so that people will know that I am driving a BMW.

The BMW X6 launched in 2019 brightens the kidney grille. This is a light-emitting grille system provided by the lighting supplier HELLA. A total of 14 LEDs are placed on the upper area of the narrow plastic frame of the BMW air intake grille. The light source emits light downward through a separate free-form optical element, thus generating a typical waterfall. effect. This kind of technology is actually not that advanced, but under the designer's whimsy, it has promoted the recombination of technology and produced new inventions.

In addition to brightening, making the grille bigger is the mainstream model for BMW and other big brands to emphasize brand recognition. In the past few years, we have indeed seen BMW’s “double kidneys” getting bigger and bigger, so that there has been a fusion, and many car fans have begun to ridicule and spoof the trend of “double kidneys” getting bigger and bigger.

There is at least a process of getting bigger, but when i4 suddenly gets so big, the most important thing is that it becomes a vertical ratio, which makes many people confused. Since the first news after the debut of the BMW i4 concept car, comments on related content and public opinion in the circle of friends have basically been “ugly”, “Huh~”, “what is the design”, “good guys! These two Big nostrils”. Any dissatisfaction with the styling will spray the designer.

However, in fact, in the field of automobile manufacturing, the designer cannot completely determine the shape of the vehicle. The designer can be the promoter, but it is the technical level that really plays a decisive role. We need to know that concept cars generally reflect the brand’s future design and technical direction, and are an important tool used by car companies to test market responses. So they often seem to be exaggerated, but when they are actually implemented in mass production cars, they must not only incorporate market feedback. , More importantly, it is necessary to consider the technical level, manufacturing cost, etc. The most important thing is to build a car that sells more and is profitable.

In other words, the horizontal and vertical changes, size, and brightness of the BMW grille we see are actually largely determined by the level of technology.

In order to enhance ventilation and heat dissipation, BMW used a large vertical scale grille in the early days

The “double kidneys” in vertical proportions are actually a return to BMW's classic styling. This means that China’s car culture is young. If you switch to countries such as Europe and the United States with a century-old car culture, those old drivers who are in their 70s and 80s will not be surprised at all. The original dual grille of BMW was in vertical proportion, which looked like two kidneys, so it was called “double kidneys”. Later, it gradually became flat, but the name “double kidneys” continued. But why did it stand upright in the first place, and then it became flat again? What technology determines this?

The development of aerodynamics makes the grille smaller

The development of aerodynamics in the middle and late 1930s made cars realize the influence of styling on wind resistance. Therefore, many vehicles began to use streamlined styling on their bodies, especially sports cars, which had the demonstration effect of high-end cars. Automobiles have also begun to pursue aerodynamics, and BMW, who was born in airplanes, naturally understands the value of this technology better.

The rise of highways has further promoted the application of aerodynamics in automobiles. Friends who often read the history of automobiles know that highways began to flourish in the 1960s, but in fact, Germany has already begun to develop highways in the 1930s. Thanks to the development of high-speed industrialization, urbanization, and automobile engine technology, the highway came into being. In 1931, the world's first highway was born in Germany.

On the one hand, the development of highways was required for the development of Germany's industrial society, as well as the military requirements of the German blitzkrieg strategy at that time. Therefore, Germany built a multi-lane interchange highway of up to 3,900 kilometers to provide the basis for the high-speed advance of the mechanized army.

The classic Maginot Line collapsed, and the highway played a major role. At that time, the French army commander believed that it would take the German army three days to reach the attack point of the offensive line at the earliest, but the German army relied on highways and mechanization, and the speed of marching had already surpassed the times. Relying on the speed of the highway, it only took one day to reach the destination and circled behind the Maginot Line. The indestructible Maginot Line in the hearts of the French army was hit by dimensionality reduction and collapsed.

After the end of the Second World War, many countries, led by the United States, realized the economic and military functions of highways, so they began to promote highway construction. By the 1960s, highways had developed to a certain scale, while aerodynamics and stamping technology had also developed to a certain extent.

Therefore, starting in the late 1950s, BMW's vertical kidney grille began to become smaller and smaller. That's because under the aerodynamic requirements, the body needs to become lower and streamlined. The technical basis for the improvement of engine combustion efficiency and miniaturization, the front of the car can become more and more flat, and the grille will naturally become smaller and smaller.

The “square” of the grid should start from the semiconductor

It can be seen that before the 70s, BMW's kidney grille was still round, but starting from the first generation of the 3 series (E21) in 1975, BMW's kidney grille has gradually become “square”. Up. The “square” of the grille is largely due to the need to obey the overall style of the vehicle.

The technical background of this modelling change starts with the explosion of semiconductor technology. In the 1960s, Fairchild and Bell Laboratories successively developed planar process technology and epitaxial technology for semiconductor chips. Since then, semiconductor chips have officially opened up industrialized mass production capacity, and the profit after industrialization has further promoted the explosion of semiconductor manufacturing technology. .

In the automotive industry, stamping lines are the first batch of machine tool automation applications. From the perspective of cost control, naturally the simpler the shape of the sheet, the lower the stamping technology requirements and cost.

On the other hand, the oil crisis has severely affected car consumption, which has prompted car companies to provide consumers with models with lower prices and lower fuel consumption. This has further prompted car companies to use automated stamping technology on a large scale in order to reduce manufacturing costs.

Therefore, since the mid-1970s, the shape of cars has generally become angular, like a square box. BMW's rounded vertical grille naturally has to become “square”.

Finally officially flattened

With the rapid development of new materials and new technologies in the 1980s, BMW established BMW Technik GmbH in 1985. Some of the best designers, engineers, and technicians in the company were combined, and these people were able to learn from Freed from the daily trivial work and KPI, they have only one purpose of working here, and that is to design the BMW cars of the future. It can be regarded as a forward-looking design department.

In the concept car at the time, we finally saw the flat kidney grille we are now familiar with. However, the brand’s family-oriented design cannot be changed immediately, so BMW’s kidney grille slowly changed from the mid-80s to the early 90s, from the obvious vertical grille to the square, and then slowly becoming shorter. , Gradually formed close to a square, and then slowly became flat.

So why should it become more and more flat? To a large extent, the reason for the “square” change in the front is the same, because it is because of the overall style of the vehicle. In order to pursue low noise, economy and handling, more and more applications and researches on aerodynamics of cars have made cars lower and lower, and various special body designs have been used to increase downforce and increase grip. .

As a result, we can see that from high to low, BMW's various models have begun to move towards flat design, using a large number of horizontal lines to emphasize the sense of grounding. The front face of the flat grille has become the impression of our generation of young people on BMW.

Why change back to the vertical large grille?

So finally we come to our original question, why is the current i4 returning to the vertical grille again, and it has to become so big? First of all, this is of course not retrogression, but progress, only to continue our history under the premise of progress.

Let’s start with the grille getting bigger. Before the 21st century, people’s main focus on vehicle design and development was on the vehicle and its members. However, since entering the 21st century, the design and development concept of automobiles has begun to pay attention to pedestrians outside the vehicle, that is, the concept of pedestrian protection, and reduce the use of vulnerable road traffic. The injury received by the person in a traffic accident.

In fact, in 1987, the European EEVC (Vehicle Safety Enhancement Committee) established a pedestrian protection working group to conduct pedestrian protection research, but the development has been relatively slow.

The EU issued the EU Pedestrian Collision Protection Technical Directive 2003/102/EC in 2003. From October 1, 2005, all new cars entering the EU market must meet this technical standard, and from September 1, 2010 onwards. The stricter test and index requirements in this standard. In 2009, the E-NCAP evaluation agency officially included the pedestrian protection test in the star evaluation system. Subsequently, major automobile production regions such as the United States and China also began to formulate relevant regulations, and car companies also began to change their designs.

The relationship between the pedestrian protection regulations and the grille is to reduce the injury of pedestrians' lower limbs when they are collided. The most closely related to this situation is the bumper. Many of our consumers often complain about the use of weak plastics for bumpers, thinking that they are cutting corners, but they don't know that this is actually a legal requirement.

Of course, it is not enough to replace the material. The plastic bumper needs to be further weakened and increase the buffer area, so there will be a lot of hollows on the bumper. At the same time, when a pedestrian is in a collision, the vertical contact area between the lower limbs and the vehicle is more important, and the cushioning of this area has a great impact on pedestrian protection.

The car company bosses require the vehicle design to be high-end and recognizable, and the regulations require pedestrian protection. The talented designers, after hard thinking, simply made a large enough “mouth” to strengthen the visual impact of the front face, and it can be achieved. Pedestrian protection regulations. The automakers have moved quickly. Before the EU introduced the 2003/102/EC regulations in 2003, the corresponding products had already been introduced.

The historical burden of BMW is heavier, and it cannot be as radical as Audi, so the grille gradually gets bigger. Facts have proved that this approach is correct. In the following ten years, BMW's kidney grille continued to grow larger, and BMW fans continued to complain and even spoof.

Besides, the grille becomes vertical. This is for BMW to return to the classics while opening up a new era. Entering the 2010s, new energy vehicles have ushered in rapid development. Major auto companies have all spent a lot of money to conduct forward-looking technical research in advance. However, established auto companies such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz have the most tentative participation, and they often use their new brands to test. Water, the Lord is not in a hurry to transform.

The BMW i4 production car will become BMW's first mid-sized high-end pure electric vehicle, and will be benchmarked against the Tesla Model 3. The reason why BMW has launched such a relatively high-volume mainstream model level is that on the one hand, it cannot sit back and watch being slaughtered by the Tesla Model 3 in the North American market. On the other hand, it is that the new energy market is beginning to mature.

Of course, it should be noted that the i4 and 4 series are built on the same platform. Based on the platform structure, the grille also needs to be retained to greet the functionality of the fuel vehicle. Unlike many brands such as Mercedes-Benz and Audi, BMW does not intend to develop an exclusive platform for pure electric vehicles, but to build a universal platform that supports pure fuel, pure electric and hybrid models.

to sum up:

The design of the luminous grille and the large vertical scale grille seems to be an aesthetic change, but in the background, it is actually changes in science and technology that affect the design, but the change in people’s perception of life is also conversely Affected the development of technology.

The light-emitting grid is likely to be the mature and large-scale LED technology. At the same time, the vehicle circuit system and control system have a foundation, so it can support the manufacturing cost. The grille becomes vertical, perhaps more because BMW needs to show the opening of a new era. The fully enclosed front face is the key feature of pure electric vehicles. The i4 chose to use a large decorative grille and a black imitation grille panel. Creating the style of a fuel car is also for the users to better accept it. After all, such a face-like front face design is currently the most accepted.

So is car design basically dominated by technology? After reading this article, there should actually be an answer: only when the technology is mature, design can dominate the shape, but the design can make demands. But more importantly, technological innovations have a high probability of making great changes in design concepts. (The picture comes from Wei Jiangpeng, the home of the network car)