BMW may be playing catch up with Tesla in the electric car industry, but there's one field of electrification where the German automaker reigns supreme: electric wingsuits. Following three years of development, BMW took to the Austrian alps to test an electric wingsuit that can reach speeds of up to 186mph.
Tony Stark, anyone? — Wingsuits can increase the glide range of a skydiver, allowing them to cover more ground horizontally before opening their parachute. By adding an electric motor with rotors, a diver can get a boost of speed that increases their range even further.
The electric wingsuit was a collaborative effort between BMW i (its EV division) and its Designworks arm (that tests new ideas), and features a chest-mounted rig with a total output of 15 kW split between two impellers. They spin at a speed of 25,000 RPM and can generate thrust for five minutes.
That's not exactly going to take you across a mountain range, but allowed professional skydiver Peter Salzmann to clear significantly more horizontal space than coasting on wind alone. Normal wingsuits can reach horizontal speeds of about 62 mph as they descend.
In the video below, three operators fly over the mountains — two conventional wingsuit operators along with Salzmann and his electrified suit. As the trio began to descend around the peak, Salzmann activates the electric motor, heading skyward again and clearing over the summit as the other two circled down.
Professionals only — It looks pretty fun, if a bit scary. Wingsuit flying has a fairly high injury rate and increasing speed dramatically surely can't help. The U.S. Parachute Association even mandates that a person must accumulate 200 skydives before they can use a wingsuit. Salzmann is a professional skydiver with years of experience under his belt.
We don't expect you'll be able to buy one of these bad boys anytime soon. The wingsuit is really just a publicity stunt to draw attention to BMW's iNext, the automaker's new electric crossover that it plans to debut on November 11.
The company is hoping to breathe new life into its electric car roadmap after years of minor updates to the BMW i3 compact sedan. The company has retired the i8 hybrid supercar, and hasn't even brought its iX3 to the U.S. Nonetheless, it's planning a slew of EVs in the next couple of years, and while none of them are expected to include an electrified wingsuit, it's certainly one way to remind us of the brand.