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BMW Doubles Down on EVs

What’s iNext?

BMW is planning a major push into all-electric vehicles. Engineers in Munich are working on a program called Project i20, also known internally as iNext, that will see an all-electric car – to be called the i5 or i6 – hit BMW dealerships in late 2021. In addition to a pure electric drivetrain, the car will also feature the most advanced autonomous capability yet from BMW.

One of the big learnings from the i3 and i8 programs that their all-carbon fiber construction remains expensive despite BMW’s pioneering of mass production techniques using the ultra-light material. As a result, Project i20/iNext is being based on an evolution of the hybrid aluminum/steel structure used in current BMW sedans, with recycled carbon fiber used wherever possible.

2014 BMW i3 eDrive rear three quarters above in motion

The i20/iNext will boast a choice of motors ranging from 136 hp to 247 hp, four-wheel drive, an exceptionally low center of gravity, and an extremely tight turning circle. Visually, think of it as a bigger, prettier, and more aerodynamic i3. A fully autonomous version is planned for 2025.

As for the i3, it is due for replacement in 2022. BMW is currently evaluating three proposals for the car, one of which emulates the current car’s carbon-fiber construction, another uses all-aluminum construction, and the third features a blend of five or six materials. Production volume is expected to remain in the five-figure bracket until 2025, by which time improvements in battery performance, charging infrastructure, and the availability of broadband Internet will make pure EVs more viable.

The i8 sports car is also due for replacement in 2022, but may slip to 2023. The current i8’s three-cylinder, range-extending internal combustion engine will be ditched in favor of three high-revving (25,000rpm) electric motors producing a total of 750 hp and more potent batteries capable of delivering a 300-mile range. Also part of the package are four-wheel drive, four-wheel steering, torque vectoring, and an active suspension system that scans the road ahead.