Update: ‘BMW not abandoning smaller cars in the EV era’ section added.
The global media have widely reported BMW’s electric plans, much of which isn’t secretive any longer. While the BMW i4, BMW i7 and the BMW iX1 have debuted, projects like the BMW i5, and the global BMW i3 sedan have been confirmed to come to fruition next. And according to media reports, there are some strictly guarded secrets, allegedly including affordable electric vehicle projects like the BMW i1 and BMW i2.
BMW not abandoning smaller cars in the EV era
Oliver Zipse, Chairman of BoM, BMW Group, has not only said that BMW will continue selling models in the lower market segments in the transition to electric mobility, but also reckons that it could be the core of its business in the future. The German CEO did not state the model names, but his remarks almost certainly refer to the full electrification of the 1 Series and 2 Series cars. Zipse was speaking on a stage of a Bosch event in Berlin, Germany, as reported by Reuters. His comments come at a time when rival Mercedes is pruning its compact car (EV) line-up to 4 models, to focus on “Core Luxury” with the C- and E-Class models.
According to BimmerPost forum member ynguldyn, who is a credible source for BMW’s product plans, a model called BMW i1 is on the cards and it goes by the codename ‘BMW NB0.’ Production of the i1 NB0 will start in November 2027 and end in October 2035, as per ynguldyn’s information. There is no mention of whether this model would be a 1 Series successor or occupy a different positioning. The platform of the electric car is also a missing piece in the puzzle at the moment.
BMW entered into a partnership with Great Wall Motors in 2018 to develop and sell electric vehicles in China. The two brands also agreed on a 50:50 joint venture to sell MINI electric vehicles in the local market. BMW may have considered using the platform developed jointly with GWM for the BMW i1, but could then have dropped the idea, favoring to start with models that have good margins and segments that are less price sensitive.
The previously proposed idea of the i1 using the electric-only Neue Klasse platform also looks unlikely. During the Q1 2022 results call, Oliver Zipse, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG, stated that the Neue Klasse would focus on premium mid-size cars. The next-gen BMW iX3 will be the first vehicle based on the Neue Klasse, followed by the all-electric BMW 3 Series. Entry-level BMW cars could be based on a new dedicated platform, similar to what Mercedes-Benz is doing with its MMA strategy.
The suspected BMW i1 has been rendered by industrial designer Giorgi Tedoradze (featured image). The designer has presented the BMW i1 as a three-door city car with short overhangs and an overall compact footprint. He has used a creative iteration of the vertical kidney grille, and the render showcases the vehicle with a highly cab-forward stance with a minimal bonnet area.
The render has iconic 4-eye headlamps housed in a sleek headlamp unit. We can also see door-mounted rearview mirrors, low-profile tires, and BMW’s iconic M Performance decal running through the length of the car. The decals are present on the bonnet as well. Overall, the render presents the BMW i1 as an unapologetic, sporty, and enthusiastic little car.
Dr. Peter Lamp, Head of Battery Cell Technology at BMW Group, suggested that LFP cells would be suitable for entry-level BMW cars. If the BMW i1/i2 ever sees the light of the day, it may comprise an LFP battery, which is more affordable than an NMC battery and has a longer lifespan. LFP doesn’t contain Cobalt, which is rare and often associated with unethical mining practices.
For sure, LFP will not be suitable for a 7 Series, or even a 5 Series. But it might be reasonable for, for example, a 1 Series entry model, maybe not over the whole different kind of offers within the 1 model. So, it has to be carefully checked for which individual product line and for which individual car model it makes sense or not. But for sure, it’s more on the lower side, the smaller car and within those, with maybe the entry positions.Dr. Peter Lamp, Head of Battery Cell Technology, BMW Group (Virtual event for analysts and investors on 26 November 2021)
BMW would use LFP cells in China, and Europe, stated Dr. Lamp during the BMW Group Virtual event in November 2021.
We believe that, the wish to have also an entry position for an electric car, like for the combustion engine we have the 116 (BMW 1 Series 116i variant), for example. This might be also relevant in Europe. So, I don’t believe that LFP will only be restricted to China.Dr. Peter Lamp, Head of Battery Cell Technology, BMW Group (Virtual event for analysts and investors on 26 November 2021)
BMW i2 & BMW iM2
BimmerPost forum member ynguldyn’s intel suggests that a BMW i2 will follow the BMW i1. Codenamed ‘BMW NB8,’ this secret EV will be in production between July 2028 and June 2035.
BMW announced the G42 2 Series Coupe in July 2021, and it is different from its FWD 4-door cousin. The coupe, which went on sale in Europe early in 2022, uses the brand’s Cluster Architecture (CLAR). A CAR magazine report dated April 2021 suggests that an iM2 based on the G42 2 Series is under development. There are strong indications that this EV would pack incredible performance.
The iM2 is speculated to contain sport four electric motors, one on each wheel, with a combined output of 1 megawatt (1,000 bhp). The motor set-up would enable a precise torque vectoring system that would offer outstanding performance. Some reports suggest that the iM2 has already lapped the Nurburgring in under seven minutes. The CAR magazine report says that the iM2 would mark a milestone on the BMW M division’s 50th anniversary in 2022.
Internally referred to as Project Katharina, the iM2 is expected to come with extensive carbon fiber (on the mirrors, hood, roof, and spoiler), massive diffusers at the rear, two-door configuration, hollow-spoke mag wheels, and thin-walled glass to make it distinguish from the regular 2 Series Coupe.
BMW’s CEO ‘teases’ an electric convertible
Oliver Zipse, Chairman of BoM, BMW Group, hinted at the arrival of a 2 Series Convertible electric in an interview with Auto Zeitung in June 2021. He mentioned that the 2 Series and the X7 use the same platform (CLAR) and that an electric convertible was entirely possible. “How many convertibles do you know in this world?” he asked, hinting at BMW’s commitment to developing emotive cars like coupes and convertibles.
BMW i2 name registered
The BMW Group has filed trademark applications for the ‘BMW i2’ and ‘i2’ monikers. The trademark filings can be considered preliminary yet unofficial news on the arrival of entry-level electric Bimmers. BMW may be ensuring that the legal formalities are cleared to protect the nameplate in markets where it is necessary to do so.
BMW’s electrification strategy
Like most other carmakers, BMW has pledged to go all-electric. By 2023, BMW Group is expecting 13 BEVs in its portfolio, including MINI models like the MINI Electric and the Electric MINI Countryman. BMW Group is also planning to boost BEV sales to over 2 million units by 2025. By the end of the decade, 50% of BMW cars will be electric, with a BEV expected in every segment where BMW operates, including the 1 Series and 2 Series carlines.
With BMW’s core European markets planning to fully transition to zero-emission vehicles this decade, the company will need to introduce entry-level electric cars to replace the 1 Series and 2 Series. Pricing the potential BMW i1 and BMW i2 reasonably seems challenging or impossible given the current battery prices. However, the costs and supplies of core EV components will significantly ease by the time the German automaker reportedly plans to bring these models to the market. BMW can also look forward to enhanced volume utilization and energy efficiency for batteries by that time, which will be just as crucial in getting the entry-level models right in terms of price and specifications.
Featured image: BMW i1 Isetta by Giorgi Tedoradze