Update: ‘Design & Build’ section updated.
After announcing the China-only BMW i3 sedan in March 2021, BMW Group is working on a global BMW 3 Series Electric with the name ‘BMW i3.’ All around, the latter will be more advanced to lock horns with the established Tesla Model 3, which has now become the default sedan choice for early EV adopters across markets worldwide.
To keep up with the highly competitive nature of the segment, the 3 Series EV will have to offer plenty of novelty. Its new platform, design language, powertrain, in-cabin technology, and other features will enable it to compete. Here’s what we know about the BMW 3 Series Electric:
Global BMW 3 Series Electric goes by the codename ‘NA0’
The internal name of the next-gen BMW 3 Series Electric is ‘BMW NA0,’ as per a post from BimmerPost forum member ynguldyn, who’s usually spot on with BMW scoops. The global-spec BMW 3 Series Electric (informal name) must be a highly desirable global car.
On August 3, 2022, during a conference call to discuss BMW Group’s H1 2022 results, Oliver Zipse, the company’s CEO, indicated that the first Neue Klasse EVs will be the next-gen BMW iX3 and the global BMW 3 Series Electric. Below were his exact words:
For the launch of the Neue Klasse, we are planning a compact sedan in the 3 Series segment and a sporty SUV.Oliver Zipse, CEO, BMW Group (BMW Group H1 2022 results conference call on August 3, 2022)
Neue Klasse to focus on the 3 Series segment
During the Q1 2022 earnings call, Zipse stated that the Neue Klasse would focus on premium mid-size (middle size) cars. He said that the Neue Klasse does not cover from lower segments all the way to the luxury segments.
Earlier reports suggested that the Neue Klasse would be “BEV first.” In addition to BEVs, it was also thought to support gasoline, diesel, and plug-in hybrid cars. Now, BMW Group says that Neue Klasse will be an electric-only platform. Under development at BMW Group Forschungs- und Innovationszentrum (BMW FIZ) in Munich, Germany, this platform will serve as the foundation of the third phase of the company’s electrification.
Design & Build
Bimmerpost member ynguldyn claims that BMW Group plans to launch the global 3 Series electric in a sedan and a Touring (wagon) version (codename: BMW NA1). Despite the rise of electric SUVs, it looks like the German automaker sees wagons as still having potential.
Adrian van Hooydonk, Senior Vice President – Design, BMW Group, has said that future BMW designs will be cleaner, as per a report TopGear released on May 25, 2023. Many recent BMWs have drawn criticism from customers and media, including the latest M3 (Sedan & Touring), 4 Series (Coupe, Convertible, and Gran Coupe), M4 (Coupe & Convertible), 7 Series, i7, X7, and the most controversial of the lot – the XM.
BMW Group isn’t ignoring the feedback, but it has to keep trying new things, van Hooydonk explained. The company isn’t “throwing things out there to see what sticks,” he said, emphasizing the designers have a clear direction internally. The grille, which is currently the most debated topic, will be according to the proportion of the overall vehicle, or according to the kind of expression the company wants it to have, the design boss added.
Different look from the regular 3 Series
The global BMW 3 Series Electric would look different from the internal combustion engine models due to its dedicated EV platform. It will likely be sleeker, more technologically advanced, and more practical. Expect it to have a longer wheelbase and more raked A-pillars, with slightly different proportions.
The BMW i Vision Dee that debuted at CES 2023 on January 4, 2023, is an indirect preview of the first Neue Klasse car. This isn’t like how the BMW Concept Compact Sedan evolved into the BMW 1 Series Sedan. Only certain design elements of the electric mid-size sedan concept would make it to the product destined for showrooms. Below is what Domagoj Dukec, Head of BMW Design, told BMW Blog about that matter at CES 2023 (via YouTube):
Vision Dee is, of course, a vision car, and it shows also how we deal with digitalization, but some elements we will, of course, transport to the Neue Klasse.Domagoj Dukec, Head of BMW Design, BMW Group (Interview with BMW Blog at CES 2023)
As part of its sustainability measures, BMW is finding new ways to lower the use of resources, and one of them is reducing add-on parts. The global 3 Series EV could have engraved BMW logos and a laser-etched model badge. It might not come with add-on styling parts like a rear diffuser or side skirts either. BMW may restrict such elements to configurations (or models) which absolutely can’t do without them, like a potential i3 M, for instance. That’s what Dukec suggested while talking about the Vision Dee:
There are no black trim areas because it doesn’t need that. The car itself has a perfect stance and so it feels sporty but without trying too hard and this is somehow what we did in the past, yeah? In (E)30, didn’t have a lot. It had just nice wheels and that’s it, and somehow we believe that we can go back there.Domagoj Dukec, Head of BMW Design, BMW Group (Interview with BMW Blog at CES 2023)
The global 3 Series electric could be the first production BMW with a kidney grille reinterpreted as a digital surface extending across the width, clubbing the headlights and grille. It may not have any chrome inserts either. Like the kidney grille and twin circular headlights at the front, the Hofmeister kink on the sides could be another signature design element replaced with what BMW calls a “phygital icon.” At the rear, Dukec said that BMW will now “always” use twin rear lights, as the L-shaped rear lights it’s currently using are not unique.
We believe that the strongest icon of the BMW was always this twin headlight and now we put it just on the back.Domagoj Dukec, Head of BMW Design, BMW Group (Interview with BMW Blog at CES 2023)
To keep the weight of the 3 Series Electric’s bodyshell in check, BMW Group could rely on its multi-material formula. A combination of aluminum, steel, and carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic could be used when designing it, to reduce energy consumption.
Next-gen head-up display
The BMW 3 Series Electric will take inspiration from the BMW i Vision Circular, developed using the principles of rethink, reduce, reuse, and recycle, and the BMW i Vision Dee that builds on that show car. Zipse confirmed during the latter’s premiere that its head-up display will be available in the production Neue Klasse EV in 2025.
A newly designed Advanced Head-up-Display is just the beginning of what we believe is possible, and it is more than a vision. And I won’t tell you all the details today, but we will bring this technology into our Neue Klasse, and not in the far future, not as a concept, but in series production, and you will be able to experience this in 2025.Oliver Zipse, CEO, BMW Group (CES 2023 on January 4, 2023)
On March 15, 2023, BMW announced its next-gen head-up display inspired by the BMW i Vision Dee’s unit as the ‘BMW Panoramic Vision.’ Zipse said during the company’s annual conference the same day that BMW Panoramic Vision will debut in the first Neue Klasse model in 2025.
BMW Panoramic Vision is an extended head-up display that covers the entire width of the windscreen. It projects information with a higher light intensity and contrast onto a dark-tinted area at the bottom of the windscreen, which results in an extremely sharp image that’s easy to read. It reduces distraction during driving and thus improves safety. The front passenger can feel engaged, even though not actually controlling the car.
The BMW Panoramic Display has the potential to eliminate the need for a separate instrument cluster (driver information display) and infotainment display. In a press release detailing the concept version (shown in the BMW i Vision Dee), BMW mentioned it as a standard feature for all Neue Klasse models.
A high proportion of recycled materials are expected to be used in upcoming BMW electric cars. The BMW i Vision Circular concept gives us an idea of what may be available in the future. For instance, the upholstery would have a velvet-like texture and feel but is made using recycled plastic. Also, expect future BMW electric cars to have a greater harmony between exterior and interior designs. The i Vision Circular uses bronze metal accents in the exterior and interior for greater design uniformity.
To minimize wastage and offcuts, the concept uses 3D printing so that surplus material can be systematically fed back into the materials cycle. Moreover, the Neue Klasse platform would also allow a cab-forward design making the cabin airier. The 3 Series Electric may get a windscreen header that’s placed rearward to improve the sense of space in the cabin.
Flat floor & frunk
The floor will be flat in the cabin, with no center tunnel obstructing the space. This could result in a flexible cabin (for luggage and passengers) and a clean design. Buyers can also expect a ‘frunk,’ or storage space where the engine would typically be. The use of recycled and sustainably sourced eco-friendly materials should be significant, contributing to the company’s carbon-neutral goals.
BMW 3 Series Electric Specifications
BMW is pouring resources into the development of Neue Klasse which would enable the brand to focus on volume production and streamline processes to reduce manufacturing and delivery times. NK would also support multiple drivetrain layouts, including FWD, RWD, and AWD. What’s more, NK can also allow multiple ride heights and support various wheel sizes, ranging between 18- and 22-inches. With this level of flexibility, the future 3 Series variants could be designed for cruising, performance, and even all-road capability.
Cells & battery packs
Officially, we know that Neue Klasse EVs will feature BMW Group’s sixth-gen battery cells that will offer an improvement of more than 20% in energy density and up to 30% in range and charging speed. These will be round or cylindrical cells with a standard 46-mm diameter and two different heights – 95 mm and 120 mm. The 3 Series electric should get the smaller version.
Module-less, structural battery packs will integrate the sixth-gen cells. On the cathode side, nickel content will be higher, while the cobalt content will be lower. On the anode side, the silicon content will be higher. It will be possible to use cathodes made of lithium iron phosphate, which could be relevant to the next-gen i3 offered in China and maybe even European markets.
Frank Weber, BoM member responsible for Development, BMW Group, shared more Neue Klasse EV details at the Nachhaltigkeit durch Innovation (Sustainability through Innovation) event, which took place in Munich on September 5, 2022. He said that the company won’t go big on cell power and extreme range, as that would be counter-productive to reducing energy consumption, as per a report CAR published on November 4, 2022.
BMW Group will offer 75-150 kWh battery pack options in the Neue Klasse EVs, but the 3 Series Electric may get 75-100 kWh units for a balance of range and weight.
Range & charging
Speaking to journalists at CES 2023, Zipse suggested Neue Klasse EVs will beat their direct competitors in the core aspects. “We will be the benchmark in terms of range, charging speed, and pricing,” he said, Automotive News Europe reported on January 12, 2023. Currently, the Tesla Model 3 is the benchmark in the segment, with an EPA-est. range of 358 miles (EPA-est. energy consumption: 26 kWh/100 mi) and a peak charging power of 250 kW (75 miles in 5 minutes).
Neue Klasse EVs will be able to take advantage of Electrify America’s 800-volt charging stations. They will be able to add 30 miles of range per minute up to a maximum of 375 miles, Weber said, as per the CAR report dated November 4, 2022. Fast-charging from 0 to 95% will take just about 12 minutes.
BMW M3 electric successor
A BMW M3 electric successor is in the pipeline, Autocar reported on August 15, 2022. BMW M CEO Frank van Meel has told the British publication that if the M3 goes electric, and maybe it will, it will still be an M3.
BMW M is gathering feedback from customers about its potential switch to EVs. So far, the company has learned that 90-95% of its customers are not concerned about the propulsion system as long as it’s a proper BMW M.
Manufacturing & Release Date
According to BimmerPost forum member ynguldyn, the global BMW 3 Series Electric’s production will take place at a plant in Germany and the BMW Group Plant San Luis Potosi in Mexico. German production, which could take place at the BMW Group Plant Munich, where the current 3 Series is made, will begin in November 2026.
The Mexican factory will start rolling out the next-gen BMW 3 Series Electric a year later (in 2027). It started making cars in 2019 beginning with the seventh-gen 3 Series, and since 2021, builds the second-gen BMW 2 Series Coupe as well. The second-gen BMW M2 joined these models in December 2022.
The global BMW 3 Series Electric should debut in 2025. The next-gen electric sedan will enter a highly competitive space—Xpeng launched its entry-level sedan P5 in 2021, Nio released the Nio ET5 in September 2022, Mercedes-Benz plans to introduce the C-Class Electric by mid-decade, and Ingolstadt is also planning a future Audi E4 (A4 Electric). And did we mention the evolved Tesla Model 3?
Electric drive units
BMW Group is likely to employ the e-drive units manufactured in Steyr, Austria, in the new 3 Series Electric. The company has confirmed that it plans to use sixth-gen e-drives in its Neue Klasse models and manufacture the same at the BMW Group Plant Steyr. In an announcement on June 20, 2022, it said that the Austrian factory will build the next-gen e-drives starting in 2025. Steyr will produce more than 600,000 e-drives annually. In the future, the Austrian engine plant will make all the key components for the e-drive, including rotor, stator, transmission, inverter, and housing.
The batteries of the new 3 Series Electric will likely come from Debrecen, Hungary, where the company plans to build a high-voltage battery assembly unit on the site of the future vehicle plant. It will assemble the sixth-gen round battery cells into a battery house – a metal frame, which it will later integrate into the underbody of its EVs. Assembly of the batteries will begin in 2025. As for the sixth-gen round battery cells, they may ship from one of the two European cell factories (CATL or Eve Energy) that the BMW Group announced on September 9, 2022, each of which will have a total annual capacity of up to 20 GWh.
Gas-powered BMW 3 Series to continue
The launch of the electric BMW 3 Series will be a global event, but the gas-engined version is not going away. As part of BMW’s commitment to providing customers with the Power of Choice, a thermal-engined model will remain in dealer showrooms for years to come. After all, the 3 Series is the bread and butter for BMW.
BimmerPost forum member ynguldyn says that an eighth-gen BMW 3 Series is in the pipeline. It will consist of sedan and wagon versions, codenamed ‘BMW G50’ and ‘BMW G51.’ It will enter production in July 2027, which means customers should be able to get the standard 3 Series well into the next decade.
Electric vehicles are unlikely to be democratized by the middle of the decade in many regions where BMW has built a market share. In an interview with auto motor und sport in January 2022, Frank Weber (BoM member responsible for Development at BMW AG) shared that even in 2025, customers may not be able to freely drive an electric car due to infrastructure limitations. The progress isn’t as fast as some may have imagined.
Weber said that BMW would not like to put customers in a situation where only EVs are listed on the menu. The brand “will not force” customers to choose between new (electric models) and “old” (ICE models), according to Weber. EV adoption has already gained momentum in China, Western European markets, the United States, and Canada, but ICE models will continue to dominate sales in many markets like Southeast Asia and South America, among others, throughout this decade.
BMW 3 Series sales in the U.S.
In 2022, 3 Series sales in the U.S. declined by 38.5% to 30,400 units (2021: 49,461 units). Most of the U.S.-built X range of SUV and SUV-coupe models grew during this period. The X5 (82,372 units), X6 (13,676 units), and X7 (30,706 units) recorded a year-over-year growth of 35.6%, 42.6%, 17.1%, and 33.2%, respectively. The only exceptions were the X3 and X4, the sales of which declined 13.3% to 65,799 units and 7.7% to 9,797 units, respectively. The German-made BMW iX which wasn’t available in the U.S. in 2021 saw sales of 5,665 units.
BMW Electrification Roadmap
In BMW Group’s Investor Presentation dated April 2022, the brand shed light on its E-Mobility Roadmap. By the end of 2023, 90% of the segments (where BMW has a presence) would have at least one BMW electric car. For Phase 2 of the roadmap, the BMW iX3, BMW iX1, and BMW i7 have arrived, while the BMW i5, Rolls-Royce Spectre, next-gen MINI Cooper electric, MINI Aceman, and the Electric Mini Countryman are in the pipeline. The company expects 10 million BMW pure-electric cars to be on the roads in a decade.
Between 2025 and 2030, BMW is expecting global sales of BEVs to accelerate, and by 2030, 50% of its total global sales will be BEVs. Moreover, BMW is expecting over a 50% increase in BEV sales by 2025, with more than two million BEVs expected to be on the road. Additionally, BMW Group has a target of having one BEV in every segment where it operates. This would mean that customers would have a pure electric option for every price point by 2030.
It is likely that the next-generation BMW 3 Series electric will be one of the best EVs the company will offer in 2026, with a great balance between performance, efficiency, and range, thanks to the Neue Klasse architecture. A notch above the Tesla Model 3 in terms of quality and comfort is to be expected. It could be the most affordable BMW EV offered in the U.S., where the iX1 isn’t available, and is showing no signs of arriving in the future.
BMW 3 Series Electric FAQs
What will be the BMW 3 Series Electric price?
The BMW 3 Series Electric price might start at USD 50,000 (MSRP).
What is BMW 3 Series Electric release date?
We may see the global BMW 3 Series Electric in 2025. Market release is expected in late 2026.
What are BMW 3 Series Electric rivals?
The 3 Series Electric’s competitors would be the Tesla Model 3, Mercedes C-Class Electric, and Audi E4 (A4 e-tron).
Featured Image Source: BMW