• Electric Concept X5 eDrive
  • Concept Active Tourer Outdoor
  • Production models including i3 and X5

One of the biggest auto shows in the world is held every other year in Frankfurt in BMW's home country of Germany. Frankfurt is especially important for European manufacturers -- just as important as the Detroit Auto Show is for domestic automakers here in the U.S. This year, BMW is showing several vehicles from its current production lineup as well as two BMW concept cars. These include a plug-in hybrid version of the X5 SUV and the Concept Active Tourer Outdoor, a compact vehicle with a tall roofline and features for outdoor lifestyles.

The Concept X5 eDrive applies a plug-in hybrid drivetrain to BMW's popular X5 SUV. The result is significantly improved fuel economy and the ability to travel about 19 miles in zero-emissions, all-electric mode. BMW says the X5 eDrive will achieve efficiency of 3.8 liters per 100 km with its 4-cylinder gasoline engine and 95-horsepower electric motor. That's about 62 miles per gallon, making the X5 eDrive far less thirsty than the most efficient gas-powered X5, which is rated at 22 mpg in combined city and highway driving. Of course, the Concept X5 eDrive gives up some cargo space to its lithium-ion battery pack, but BMW claims there's still enough room for two large suitcases or four golf bags.

Both BMW concept cars at Frankfurt, the X5 eDrive and the Concept Active Tourer Outdoor, use plug-in hybrid drivetrains to deliver efficiency without sacrificing too much power. The Concept Active Tourer Outdoor is compact, with proportions similar to the Ford C-Max. More a tall wagon than a small SUV, the front-wheel-drive vehicle includes features for those on the go. An integrated bicycle rack is located in the cargo area, and BMW says interior materials are tough and easy to care for. Although the concept is aimed at drivers with an active lifestyle, all-wheel drive is absent.

BMW will show several production models at Frankfurt along with these concepts. The third-generation 2014 X5 will be on display, as will the i3, the first all-electric BMW. The new 4 Series Coupe, which replaces the 3 Series Coupe, will be on BMW's Frankfurt show stand, as well.

These concepts suggest the important role that electrification is likely to play in BMW's future lineup. Efficiency is important for the brand, but so is maintaining the exciting driving dynamics that BMW owners love. Electric and plug-in hybrid power appear to be part of BMW's strategy for achieving these goals.

What it means to you: Expect greater efficiency from future BMW products as the German automaker leans on electrification to improve efficiency without sacrificing (at least too much) performance.

See all Frankfurt Auto Show news

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Nick Palermo is an automotive writer and lifelong car nut. He follows new and late-model used vehicles for AutoTrader.com, writes about vintage cars for Hemmings Classic Wheels and blogs on all things automotive at LivingVroom. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and twins.

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