BMW reveals its second battery-electric model, the iX3.
Based on the third-generation X3, the new CUV is positioned above the existing i3, debuting what BMW describes as its fifth-generation eDrive system. It features a newly developed electric motor and lithium-ion battery that provides the iX3 with 282 hp and an official range of 285 miles (459 km) on the WLTP test cycle.
First previewed in concept car guise at the 2018 Beijing auto show, the iX3 breaks new ground by being the first BMW to be built in China for export.
Production of the first of three new electric-powered i models set to go on sale within the next 18 months will take place exclusively at a joint venture factory operated by BMW and Chinese automaker Brilliance in Shenyang, Liaoning province.
While U.S. sales have been ruled out, BMW says the iX3 will be sold in key European markets including Germany.
Holding true to the appearance of the earlier concept, the production version of the iX3 (pictured below) is differentiated from the standard X3 by a new-look front grille with vertical air ducts at each corner, altered breather element behind the front wheelhouses, revised sills underneath the doors and a lightly revised rear bumper.
Blue elements within the grille, sills and rear bumper signify the iX3’s electric propulsion. It also receives uniquely designed, aerodynamically optimized 19-in. wheels shod with 245/50 profile tires as standard, which contribute to a claimed drag coefficient of 0.29.
Although its model name suggests it is all-wheel drive, the iX3 is planned to be offered exclusively with rear-wheel drive. Power comes from a rear-mounted synchronous electric motor producing 282 hp and 295 lb.-ft. (400 Nm) of torque, with drive channeled through a single-speed gearbox.
The in-house-developed electric motor, described as a fifth-generation unit, avoids the use of rare earths, which lowers manufacturing costs and bolsters environmental credentials compared to the electric motors BMW has produced until now.
Power density, a key indicator of efficiency, is said to be 30% greater than that of the electric motor used by the existing i3. The new electric motor also is engineered to achieve its peak torque at higher sustained revs than BMW’s earlier units.
Exact details are yet to be revealed, though sources suggest it can achieve up to 17,000 rpm compared to the 14,000 by the i3’s electric motor.
As well as featuring in the new iX3, BMW’s fifth-generation electric motor will be used in more powerful tune by the upcoming i4 sedan and the production version of the iNext concept. Both are planned for introduction by the end of 2021.
BMW claims a 0-62 mph (100 km/h) time of 6.8 seconds for the 4,817-lb. (2,185-kg) iX3, some 0.4 seconds more than the conventional 248-hp turbocharged 3.0L gasoline inline-6 X3 sDrive30i. Top speed is limited to 112 mph (180 km/h) in a move aimed at preserving range rather than any concern over stability, according to the automaker.
The electric motor is allied to a lithium-ion battery with a gross energy content of 80 kWh (74kWh net) that operates at 400 volts. BMW puts the range at 285 miles. This compares to the 193-mile (311 km) WLTP range quoted for the i3.
By integrating the battery wholly within the floorpan and underneath the rear seat, BMW claims to have lowered the center of gravity up to 3.0 ins. (76 mm) compared to internal-combustion X3 models, for what BMW describes as “noticeably enhanced lateral dynamics.”
As with the X3, BMW will offer its new i model with an optional adaptive M suspension.
Unlike the i3, which uses battery cells supplied by Samsung SDI, the iX3 receives cells from Chinese battery manufacturer CATL. They use the same NMC-811 chemical process, but BMW says the cobalt content in its latest EV battery has been significantly reduced.
The decision to use CATL as a battery supplier stems from regulations specifying all-electric cars produced in China must use a domestically produced battery.
BMW offers several charging possibilities, including a 150-kW DC fast-charge function. It is claimed to provide an 80% state of charge in 34 minutes.