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BMW’s electrification plans and the brand’s pace surrounding the subject has varied wildly, between pioneering and glacial, over the last decade.
Cars like the i3 city car and i8 sports car were way ahead of their time when both arrived in 2013 but they were, and continue to be, hugely costly for Munich to develop and sell. What’s followed has been a series of plug-in hybrids and arguably little else.
But the brand has big plans ahead, aiming to get 25 electrified vehicles on the road by 2023. That might sound like a big target but be careful - electrified does not necessarily mean emission-free.
In this handy guide, we talk you through all the different electric BMWs - explaining today's range and revealing which battery-powered models are waiting in the wings. Keep scrolling for everything we know so far on BMW electric.
With that in mind, Plug-in hybrids are set to be ubiquitous in Munich’s line-up, as BMW aims to give the ‘power of choice’ to every potential customer. In simpler terms, that means a choice of diesel, petrol, phev and electric for every model on sale. The X3 is the first of Munich’s models to hit this target, following the launch of the electric iX3 earlier this year.
There’ll even be multiple hybrids to choose from; for the 5-Series BMW has revealed a 545e hybrid as well as a 530e hybrid, so customers can choose between multiple PHEVs in each model range. Of course, the i3 and i8 still exist, too – for now.
BMW electric: what's to come?
Naming-wise, expect BMW’s forthcoming EVs to continue the trend seen in the iX3. For example, the i4 will be the BEV version of the 4-series Gran Coupe, and so on. They’ll look largely similar to their ICE counterparts, too; BMW doesn’t want to scare of potential purchases with anything too brash.
The i3 is due to be killed in the next few years, following a brief stay of execution in the form of another facelift and larger battery. There’ll be a new i3 to take its place – an all-electric version of the familiar-looking 3-Series, but an as yet unseen i1 model will take the current i3’s place.
Around 2024, CAR understands we’ll see a compact i1 revealed as a logical successor to BMW’s iconic city EV. We say logical rather than spiritual, because the i1 is expected to be a compact five-door that’ll occupy the same space at the current i3, but without any of the current car’s avantgarde charm.
As you can tell from the name, the iX1 will be an electric variant of the X1 – something we’ve already seen BMW’s engineers testing at length. Now comes the turn of the all-electric version, which will be a more compact version of the recently revealed BMW iX3.
Like its larger sibling, the iX1 should come with a few compromises over the standard X1 – think reduced boot space and therefore practicality – and it’s also likely to look the same, too.
Read more about the iX1 here
The current name for BMW’s forward-thinking EV, and the eventual name of the all-electric 3-series. Confusing isn’t it?
Regardless, it’s going to happen, and we’ve got pictures of it. Aside from the lack of exhaust pipes the only real feature that gives the prototype away is the ‘Electric Test Vehicle’ badge Munich helpfully slaps on its EVs.
There’s no intel yet on the range or performance of the electric 3-Series, but we do know it’ll be based on the vastly improved eDrive tech in the iX3, and later the iNext. The new tech is around 30% power dense than the powertrain shown in the original i3.
Read more about the forthcoming i3 here
The BMW iX3 is, as the name suggests, an all-electric version of the X3 SUV. While predominantly designed for the Chinese market and built there, BMW’s intentions are still for this to be a global model; makes sense given its on-trend SUV shape. BMW is aiming for a 74kWh battery pack, claiming around 273 miles. A 282bhp, 295lb ft electric motor is applied here, and BMW says dimensions and the amount of passenger space inside is unchanged from a regular X3.
Read more about the forthcoming iX3 here
Expected in 2021, the i4 is a hugely significant car for Munich. We’ve seen a concept and already spotted the production EV out testing – and it’s another EV that sneaks below the radar-styling wise.
The final specs will likely mirror what we’ve seen in the concept car. With that in mind, BMW says the Concept i4 will have a range of 373 miles (WLTP), 523bhp, and a top speed of 124mph. Acceleration is as brutal as you’d expect from an electric Gran Coupe: the 0-62mph sprint takes around 4.0 seconds. Competitive, and around the same as of one Beemer’s own V8-powered cars.
Read more about the BMW i4
i5 and M5 EV
Arriving in 2024, the next M5 will be a dramatic change from the current F90. Why? Because it’s expected to be the first M car to be exclusively electrified – either as a ‘Power PHEV’ or full-electric car. There’s that philosophy of powertrain choice.
BMW is openly working on the ‘power BEV’, using a 5-series mule. That model has three e-motors borrowed from the powertrain we’ll see in the electric i4 and the iNext SUV. One drives the front axle while the rear wheels get a motor each. Numbers? 711bhp and sub-3.0sec 0-62mph.
Read more about the electric M5 here
CAR understands the i7 be revealed in 2022 around the same time as the next 7-Series, but it’ll use an all-new platform similar to the one underpinning the iNext and i5.
We’ve got spy pictures pictures that show a prototype EV wrapped in a camo, and featuring BMW’s ‘Electric Test Vehicle’ badge, confirming its powertrain. Munich has been very thorough in disguising the front of the car, but we can still some make some educated guesses about the new i7’s face.
The camo suggests narrower lights positioned lower than the current mode, and you can also spot wing-mounted cameras and an extensive array of autonomous kit at the car’s front.
Read more about the i7 here
And finally, the iX iNext
Currently codenamed iNext, the next all-electric SUV will also go into production in 2021. BMW is already testing prototypes of the new full-size BEV and promises Level 3 automated driving when the car goes on sale. Its powertrain will be similar to that of the i4, so is promising a rough 370-mile range and all-wheel drive.
iNext is one of two so-called ‘enabler models’ within the BMW range, which act as high-tech showpieces and halo cars for BMW. The most powerful of three versions is expected to draw energy from a 105kWh battery and lay down up to 400kW (circa 536bhp) of AWD e-power, with a 2.8sec 0-62mph acceleration time and a range of over 375 miles.
‘When we started with the BMW i3 and BMW i8 it was all about enabling us for electromobility and also with the strong focus on holistic sustainability,’ BMW’s electromobility spokesperson Wieland Bruch told CAR.
‘That role of BMW i has now passed. We have rolled out the technology to more and more models of the BMW mother brand and also towards Mini. Now the next highlight comparable to an i3 and i8, will be the iNext.’
‘The purpose of the iNext is not to become a whole model family in itself, the role of the iNext is to pioneer new fields of technology.’ he added. ‘You all know that the car will be fully electric, but it will be fill electric in combination with advanced automatic driving features, and with an interior of the future that will pave the way for many other model lines in the mother brand portfolio.’
Read more about the iNext
And what about the next i8?
BMW teased us with a concept named the Vision M Next at the 2019 Frankfurt motor show. The Vision M Next would’ve been a huge milestone for M division, ultimately paving the way for a full-electric M car. But it’s been cancelled.
Design-wise, the M Next took two reference points. The first was the mid-engined, spaceframed BMW M1 sports car that laid exotic foundations for the M division in 1978. The second was the radical BMW i8.
But when we interviewed then R&D boss, Klaus Frohlich in mid-2019, he reassured us that his ‘power PHEV’ is more than motor show eye candy: ‘We are no-nonsense guys, we deliver what we promise.’ That was until Coronavirus and the increasing costs R&D forced Munich to redirect cash into the more mainstream EVs you’ve just read about.
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