Japanese car companies often introduce proven products to new factories overseas. But BMW’s brand-new Hams Hall factory near Birmingham in central England is also building a brand-new engine, the first in the world to dispense with the traditional throttle butterfly to control engine speed.

Guided vehicles transport components and finished engines

In sizes between 1.6 and two litres, the new engine design will appear first in four-cylinder petrol form installed in new versions of the 3-series Compact due in showrooms in June.

A valve operating system called Valvetronic replaces the traditional throttle butterfly of carburettor or fuel injected engines with infinitely variable intake valve lift.

Everything is made as easy as possible for the human engine builders

This, BMW says, reduces exhaust emissions and gives a stronger response from a quieter and smoother engine.

The company claims that the new engine doesn’t require a specific grade or quality of fuel to achieve maximum fuel economy and, in an apparent dig at rivals, says “there is no need for oil grades not readily available in the market”.

BMW says the Valvetronic technology reduces fuel consumption typically by 10 percent and enables it to meet strict new European Union rules requiring a reduction of range-wide CO2 emissions to 140 grams per kilometre by 2008.

The Valvetronic cylinder technology will be introduced on the German automaker’s eight and 12-cylinder engines by 2002.