With annual report season in full swing, it was BMW’s turn on Wednesday to take the microphone and tell us about its electric vehicle plans for the next few years. The German automaker was an early leader in terms of electrification, producing innovative cars under the “i” subbrand and selling a lot of plug-in hybrids to boot. But it fell behind rivals in the development of longer-range battery EVs, which is one reason why then-CEO Harald Krugër stepped down in 2019 just weeks after announcing plans to amp up the electrification effort.
He was succeeded by current CEO Oliver Zipse, who is now pushing the accelerator pedal. BMW’s plug-in sales were strong in 2020 despite the obvious challenges, increasing sales to 193,000 units. For 2021, Zipse wants this number to grow by 75 percent. If the company succeeds, it will have sold a million plug-in vehicles since 2013. BMW says it will have 13 BEVs on sale in 2023, from compact cars to the biggest, most luxurious cars to wear the blue-and-white propeller. And by the end of 2025, the plan is for BMW to have delivered a total of 2 million plug-ins to customers.
This is the new BMW i4
BMW also showed off a little of its next production BEV, a four-door sedan called the i4. It adheres closely to the Concept i4 we saw this time last year, although it’s a little less concept-y, obviously. BMW said it will release full details about the i4 in the coming weeks, but it did say the car “will enter the market during the course of 2021,” three months ahead of schedule, and that one version should have an EPA range of 300 miles (590 km under WLTP).
iX SUV deliveries start in 2022
We did get more info on BMW’s next BEV, the iX SUV. We first saw this one—inside a Boeing 777F cargo plane, no less—as the iNext concept in 2019. Then, last November, BMW took the wraps off the production version. When it reaches US showrooms in early 2022, the car will mark the end of one era and the beginning of another. For decades, BMWs flagship has been the big, powerful 7 Series sedan; now it will be a big, powerful electric SUV.
It’s more sustainable to build, both in terms of the raw materials it uses (less cobalt, fewer rare earths, more recycled plastics and fabrics) and the electricity required to turn that all into an SUV. And BMW said that its new fifth-generation drive unit is much better packaged, with 30 percent greater power density than previous systems. (The company also quoted the drive units as being 93 percent efficient.)
The battery pack uses prismatic cells, and the range-topping iX xDrive50 will pack more than 100 kWh under the cabin, sufficient for an EPA range of 300 miles (600 km WLTP). And BMW reiterated the fact that it will fast-charge at up to 200 kW, charging from 10-80 percent in 40 minutes. This strongly implies that the iX uses an 800 V electrical architecture, as current 400 V DC fast chargers top out at 150 kW, but BMW’s press kit doesn’t go that in-depth.
Flagships aren’t cheap, however. US pricing hasn’t been finalized yet, but BMW said that it expects the iX to start “in the mid $80s.”