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This is because BMW uses shutters that close off the grille to enhance aerodynamics when maximum cooling is not needed. Now, BMW is applying the same idea to motorcycles.
A recent BMW patent application describes a “tilting vehicle” that has a movable air-guiding device in its cooling system as reported by Cycle World.
The patent application includes illustrations that clearly show a shutter-style system located in front of the radiator of a liquid-cooled boxer twin motorcycle.
Similar to cars that use a similar system, the purpose is to provide enough cooling to support high-performance engines that are working at their maximum level, but also to improve aerodynamics when the engine is not stressed and producing less heat.
The patent identifies the issue with motorcycle radiators being mounted where they’re exposed to the most airflow possible, which creates a significant aerodynamic obstacle.
This issue is compounded by the fact that the cooling system has to be designed to handle extreme weather or performance conditions, unlike the conditions that will be encountered on a daily basis.
According to BMW’s patent application, “the cooling arrangement is typically designed based on the highest power requirement that can be expected, which can occur during extreme operating conditions. In everyday situations where the cooling system has lower performance requirements, it is consequently ‘oversized'”.
Most motorcycles use a radiator to cool the engine, but this can create air resistance and inefficiency. BMW has come up with a solution called “active shutters.” It’s like a venetian blind that can open or close in front of the radiator to let in more or less air, depending on how much cooling is needed.
By redirecting air around the radiator instead of through it, active shutters can reduce drag and make the motorcycle more efficient.
BMW has illustrated this idea on an adventure bike and it could be used on their new R 1300 GS boxer engine model. BMW already uses a similar system in their cars, so it should be easy to adapt it for motorcycles if it works as well as they hope.