New BMW i4 set to lead charge of six new electric cars
The new all-electric BMW i4 is set to boast a range of around 373 miles and our exclusive images preview how it could look
The arrival of the new iX3 sees BMW tap into a potentially lucrative, but ultimately safe sector of the electric car market, with battery-powered SUVs growing in popularity. However, the firm’s next steps to expand its EV line-up will be far more adventurous, because we know that six new electric BMWs are on the horizon. These will include all-new models and electric versions of firm favourites, part of BMW’s promise to have 12 new EVs on sale by 2025.
Forming a key element of the new-look i line-up from 2021 will be a four-door all-electric coupé intended as an i-division counterpart to the new 4 Series and M4: the BMW i4. Although this won’t take on the Tesla Model 3 directly (an electric 3 Series will do that), it will serve as a more style-conscious alternative to the popular American EV and, indeed, the forthcoming electric 3 Series.
The new BMW i4 will be based on the Concept i4 revealed earlier this year – described then as around 85 per cent representative of the final car – and our exclusive images give an indication as to what the road-ready i4 will look like. BMW will try to carry over some 4 Series DNA into the i4 in the form of large, but blanked-out double-kidney grilles dominating the front end, hinting at the all-electric powertrain. The four-door body means that it’ll have more mainstream appeal than the two-door 4 Series Coupé, while as on the iX3, lots of blue exterior detailing will be applied.
The new i4 will use what BMW calls its ‘fifth-generation’ electric drivetrain technology. This makes its debut in the new iX3, but the i4 is where it comes to the fore.
The new BMW i4 Concept has been revealed and it shows us what to expect when BMW pulls the covers from the finished i4 saloon later this year. BMW i4 Concept revealed
. Previews new i4 saloon
. 373-mile electric range
. 530hp electric motors
. 0-60mph in less than 4 seconds
. Top speed of more than 124mph
. Uber-minimalist cabin
. Huge infotainment display
. Sound effects by Hans Zimmer
Compared with the tech on older electrified BMWs, models with this latest set-up benefit from a new electric motor and transmission system that’s more compact and lighter, for greater efficiency and sleeker packaging. BMW has also focussed on reducing the number of rare earth materials in the battery and electric motor system. None are used to construct the motor, while the battery uses two thirds less cobalt than before.28
Energy density is where the company has made big strides, however. The iX3’s battery has around 20 per cent more capacity for its physical size compared with previous-gen BMW batteries. BMW says that the new system will support an EV capable of 435 miles on a charge, but for the i4 a range of 373 miles is targeted.
The developments seen on the i4 will be followed in 2021 by a new bespoke electric SUV – the iNEXT, or iX, which will stand at the top of BMW’s line-up. It’ll be about the size of an X5 but with a low, X6-aping roofline and interior space comparable with the X7.
Close followers of BMW’s EV plans might remember that the i4 was going to have a range of 600 kilometers, or about 400 miles. But it wasn’t clear if that figure, which would push it ahead of the competition, was based on the EPA or European WLTP. EPA estimates tend to be more conservative. BMW is now clarifying the range and has said the EPA estimate will be 270 miles.
The i4 will have the fifth-generation BMW eDrive, a platform that features a brand new electric motor, power electronics, charging unit and high-voltage battery. This fifth-gen platform will also show up in the iNEXT SUV and the iX3, which is headed for the Chinese market. The 80-kilowatt battery pack in the i4 is flat, according to BMW, and weighs 550 kilograms. For comparison, the battery pack in the Tesla Model 3 weighs 480 kg.
The unveiling of the i4 concept builds upon earlier announcements from BMW to push deeper into electrification. In November, BMW announced it would spend more than €10 billion euros ($11.07 billion) on battery cells from Chinese battery cell manufacturer Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. and Samsung SDI. BMW’s original deal with CATL, which was announced in mid-2018, was for €4 billion worth of battery cells. This new contract is from 2020 to 2031, the German automaker said at the time.
BMW Group will be the first customer of CATL’s battery cell factory that is under construction in Erfurt, Germany. BMW played an active part in establishing CATL in Germany, according to Andreas Wendt, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG responsible for purchasing and supplier network.
New BMW i4 design
Not much about the new BMW i4 Concept is particularly surprising. Its simple, flowing lines and massive kidney grille are a combination of what the German brand has already shown on the iNEXT SUV and the 4 Series Concept from 2019. The broad-spoked alloy wheels and thin wing mirrors help smooth out the airflow around the i4 Concept so it can slip through the air with as little fuss as possible, and the bright blue contrasting trim helps passers-by tell it apart from a petrol- or diesel-powered BMW.
New BMW i4 Concept aerodynamics
The BMW i4 Concept gets some seriously clever aerodynamics to help it produce as little drag as possible. For a start, almost all of its grilles and intakes have been blanked off and the alloy wheels have big flat spokes to stop them producing too much turbulence. The BMW i4 gets some normal door mirrors – no fancy cameras here like on an Audi e-tron – but they’re super thin to help reduce drag. At the back, there’s a massive rear diffuser. And, it isn’t just a fake one like you get on a Honda Civic Type R – it’s the real deal.
New BMW i4 interior
The BMW i4 Concept might look fairly conventional on the outside – from some angles, at least – but its interior is an altogether more eye-popping affair. The large windows and massive panoramic glass roof, along with swathes of white upholstery, mean it looks impressively airy and there aren’t any buttons or unsightly air vents to clutter the place up. Instead of BMW’s dual-screen infotainment system (with one display on the dashboard and another in front of the steering wheel), you get a single sweeping widescreen that looks very similar to what you’ll find in most modern Mercedes. BMW’s signature iDrive rotary dial has been given a crystal makeover, too.
New BMW i4 electric motors and range:
The BMW i4 Concept is powered by a single electric motor that BMW claims will produce 530hp – as much as some of its petrol V8 engines. This means the i4 Concept can sprint from 0-60mph in less than 4 seconds and reach a top speed in excess of 124mph. The i4 Concept’s 80kWh batteries can store enough juice for you to drive 373 miles between charges. That’s significantly more than the 322 miles a Tesla Model 3 Long Range can deliver and just a few miles shy of what the Tesla Model S can manage. BMW claims you can recharge the i4 Concept’s batteries from empty to 80% full in just 35 minutes using a 150kW charger.
New BMW i4 Concept driving
BMW has packaged the i4 Concept’s 550kg battery pack under the car’s floor. This helps keep the car’s weight as close to the ground as possible, which means it’ll have less reason to lean and lurch in sharp corners. Typically, BMW saloons feel more agile than those from other carmakers, and you can bet the German brand will work hard to make sure this is true of its electric cars, too. Even better, BMW has hired composer Hans Zimmer (of Inception soundtrack fame) to produce the sound effects for the i4 Concept – just don’t go expecting Leonardo DiCaprio to be the voice of the sat-nav…