BMW has released pictures of its upcoming, all-electric i4 4-door showing it winter testing in a light disguise. The new model will push the brand’s electric range towards the mainstream market when it arrives in 2021, narrowing the gap between the company’s radical i3 and i8 EVs and its traditional 3 and 5 Series saloons.
The new BMW i4 appears to adopt conventional BMW styling. The enlarged connected kidney grille and narrow headlights seen on recent electric BMW concepts have been ditched in favour of the standard 4 Series Gran Coupe’s body shell.
Up to now, BMW’s standalone i models have been very distinct from anything else in the firm’s line up, helped by their unique construction and the use of materials, such as carbon fibre, that are notoriously difficult to apply to larger-scale production models.
However, to keep costs low and volume-production attainable for the i4, it will be based on BMW’s latest CLAR platform, which is a modular architecture designed to underpin everything from the 3 Series up to the 7 Series – and to accommodate petrol, diesel, plug-in hybrid and pure-electric powertrains.
BMW confirmed at the 2018 Paris Motor Show that the i4 will follow soon after the iX3 all-electric SUV and the production version of the larger iNEXT crossover. Company boss Harald Kruger revealed the dates for the pure-electric models that will join the i3 in BMW’s line-up.
Kruger said: “we have already over 300,000 electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids on the road, and more are on the way. In 2019 we’ll launch the MINI Electric. In 2020 the BMW iX3 will come. Then in 2021 we will launch the BMW iNEXT and the i4, so by that year we will have five core electric vehicles on the ground. This underlines our strong commitment to future mobility.”
BMW design director Adrian van Hooydonk told us, “I think in the next few years, electric mobility will become standard; it will become normal. It will become just one of those powertrains that you can choose. And that will probably lead to the customers not necessarily wanting a design differentiation.
“With the original i3, we wanted to give our customers the feeling that they are stepping into the future. But in the future we will offer our customers the choice; they can be very secret about the fact that their BMW is electric, or they will be able to be overt about it.”
BMW i4: range, charging and battery tech
BMW will use the same battery and electric motor technology developed for the i3 and i8 in the i4, delivering range and performance figures to rival the likes of the Tesla Model S. BMW claims a range of 600km (373 miles), a 0–62mph sprint of 4 seconds a top speed of 124mph.
The head of the German firm’s i division, Robert Irlinger, expanded on BMW’s planned battery tech, stating: “we asked the customers; it seems to be that the starting point for i3 in the early days was okay. But it seems that now, 300km (186 miles) is the minimum that you can offer to have an accepted range for customers.
“Then there’s competition – Tesla, Audi and Mercedes are doing 400km (250 miles) in WLTP. So it seems to be again beyond 300km – up to 600km (375 miles) or 700km (435 miles). But if you look at the numbers we’ve already spoken about, the iX3 will be beyond 400km and the i4 will be around 600km. The iNEXT will be on top of that, as well.”
Irlinger admitted that BMW could offer the i4 with a choice of battery capacities for different price points. “It could be that different ranges are a good solution,” he said. “If it’s true that 300km is enough for some customers, then it could be wise to do a 300km version and a 600km version.
“We’ll have to look at demand, of course, because up to now, what we’ve found is that the customers tend to always buy the bigger battery anyway. But if you live in a city and do most miles there, and you have your own charging point or good infrastructure nearby, then 300km at a cheaper price could be fine.”
While the i4 may look more conventional than the i3 and i8, it doesn’t mean that BMW’s i sub-brand will be toned down completely. Van Hooydonk insisted that the CLAR platform gives enough scope for the packaging of a pure-electric vehicle but he added, “We will still, when we feel it makes sense, do a complete, bespoke, standalone car. Not all cars have to happen on the CLAR platform.”
This could be a reference to the iNEXT, which is likely to showcase autonomous technologies and could be pitched at the summit of the BMW line-up – necessitating its own architecture.
Do you think the BMW i4 will be a groundbreaking electric car? Let us know your thoughts in the comments…