On February 16, 2023, the German patent office published a BMW patent application filed in August, 2021, which specifically appears to both depict and describe the development of a ShiftCam-type variable valve timing system for a single-cylinder engine. This improvement would, according to the patent, reduce weight, fuel consumption, and emissions while also improving power and torque development—just as the ShiftCam technology already does on its larger Boxer brethren. 

In this application, BMW spells out the existence of valve actuating elements that could be connected together in order to affect a predetermined valve lift and timing on one or more valves at once. Those elements could include either two or more cam pieces, or more likely one cam piece with two or more different cam contours to control valve timing for different purposes. The more compact design would inherently shave weight from the valve train, in addition to providing potential fuel consumption, emissions, and power generation benefits.  

Such a system could use two or more actuation profiles for the valve train, which could be programmed by BMW (or possibly by riders, if BMW decides to allow for such a setting) depending on what enhancement characteristics are desired, such as in the case of engine mapping for selectable ride modes.  

Gallery: BMW single-cylinder ShiftCam patent images

Could this indicate that BMW is working on serious updates to the existing thumper found in the likes of the G 310-series? Given the company’s track record of technological developments and improvements so far, as well as its general drive toward efficiencies on multiple planes, it would certainly not be a surprise if it did. There’s been no official word thus far, but then again, most OEMs don’t want to tell you what they’ve got in the oven until they’ve decided it’s the right time, do they? 

At the same time, we must also caution that while filing patent applications indicates a certain level of intention on the part of the filer, just because a patent exists doesn’t necessarily mean that the thing described in that patent will ever come to fruition. For many and various reasons, development paths can change and even diverge at any point. Thus, the one thing we can tell you at this point is that a patent application for this tech definitely exists—but whether we’ll actually see it in action in the future remains to be seen. 

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