Concept Expands BMW’s Ambitious Electrified Lineup

The i5 is among four new all-electric models to be confirmed by BMW at the Frankfurt show. Others include the first series-production electric-powered Mini, an electric-powered version of the X3 and a separate i-brand model with the working title iNext.

Greg Kable

September 7, 2017

3 Min Read
i5 4door notchback sedan to slot between BMW i3 i8
i5 4-door notchback sedan to slot between BMW i3, i8.

MUNICH, Germany – BMW will preview the third model in its electrified i brand lineup with the unveiling of a new concept car at next week’s Frankfurt auto show.

The eagerly anticipated model, which is expected to take the i5 name into production, is planned to be introduced in 2021 as part of a range of up to 25 plug-in hybrid- and all-electric vehicles announced by BMW chairman Harald Kruger in an update to the German automaker’s “Number One > Next” model strategy.

“By 2025, we will offer 25 electrified vehicles – 12 will be fully electric,” Kruger says Thursday in a statement released to media in Munich.

Kruger confirms the existence of the new i model, calling it a “significant milestone in BMW’s roadmap for e-mobility.

“It is a vision of how we imagine a 4-door, fully electric vehicle between the i3 and i8. It is a vision we want to realize in the foreseeable future,” he adds.

The i5 is among four new all-electric models to be confirmed by BMW at the Frankfurt show. Others include the first series-production electric-powered Mini, an electric-powered version of the X3 and a separate i brand model known under the working title iNext.

While shrouded in secrecy five days before its planned unveiling, the i5 is expected to take the form of a 4-door notchback-style sedan offering accommodation for up to five adults and a pure electric range of between 311-435 miles (500-700 km).

Commenting on the technical aspects of the new i model, BMW R&D chief Klaus Frohlich says: “The i model we have planned for launch in 2021 will incorporate our fifth-generation battery electric system – a step that will take us to the next level.”

The fifth-generation system has been conceived around a new generation of battery cells and electric motors, providing what Frohlich describes as “a big leap in energy density and overall range” over the existing i3.

WardsAuto can confirm plans by BMW to provide the new i brand model with advanced new autonomous-driving technology. Frohlich says future i models will be differentiated from BMW’s more mainstream EVs planned for introduction by 2025, including the upcoming Mini Electric and BMW X3 Electric, by innovative Level 3 and Level 4 autonomous-driving technologies.

“It’s time to forge ahead – not just step by step, incrementally working our way up from Level 2, but by mastering Level 5 from the very beginning,” he says. “Autonomous driving requires the full range of factors: system leaps, additional redundancy requirements, computing power and connectivity. We are preparing to offer highly autonomous driving by 2021, when the iNext is launched – wherever legislation allows it. And based on this, we will implement Levels 3 to 5 in our range.”

In confirming the new i model for the Frankfurt show, Frohlich says it and the iNext: “are two completely different models.”

The iNext, which builds off the Vision Next 100 unveiled as part of BMW’s 100th anniversary celebrations this year, will take the form of a high-riding CUV model, according to BMW sources familiar with initial styling proposals and who suggest it will be called the i7.

Frohlich, who has led BMW’s R&D operations since 2014, also confirms BMW’s plans to electrify all models through the development of flexible platform architectures and modular drivelines for both front- and all-wheel drive as well as rear- and all-wheel drive configurations.

“Our fully flexible architectures and modular systems ensure we can make fast decisions about which models to make, and with what type of drivetrain,” he says, adding, “The enhancement of the architectures continues and with double battery capacity, we are now ready to integrate BEVs (into BMW’s mainstream lineup) as well. Our vehicle architectures on the one hand, and our modular systems for powertrains on the other, will give us unique flexibility.”

The first models using BMW’s flexible architecture will be the Mini Electric and BMW X3 Electric.

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