The latest on the BMW i1 & BMW i2 EV projects

Update: ‘BMW i1’ updated with information ruling out Neue Klasse.

The global media have widely reported BMW’s electric plans. While the BMW i7 has debuted, projects like the BMW iX1, BMW i5, and the BMW i3 sedan are expected to come to fruition next. And according to the British press, there are some strictly guarded secrets, allegedly including affordable electric vehicle projects like the BMW i1 and BMW i2.

BMW i1

A CAR magazine report stated that the top management approved an entry-level BMW i1 electric, but there were certain roadblocks regarding the platform the electric car would use. There was no mention in the report whether the i1 would be a 1 Series successor or have a different positioning.

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 China. BMW may have considered using the platform developed jointly with GWM for the BMW i1.

The possibility of the i1 using the Neue Klasse platform has been ruled out. 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 global 3 Series electric is expected to be the first vehicle based on the Neue Klasse. Moreover, the platform was expected to be ‘BEV-first,’ but now there are reports of it being ‘BEV-only.’ Entry-level BMW models are expected to be based on dedicated platforms, similar to what Mercedes-Benz is doing with its MMA strategy.

BMW 1 Series rear
The BMW 1 Series is sold in the European markets, where it starts at EUR 27,000 (Germany). However, it’s not on sale in the U.S., where the 2 Series Gran Coupe marks the entry point for sedans while the X1 is the most affordable BMW SUV. Image used for representational purpose only. Image: BMW

Daimler uses similar platform sharing and cost optimization strategies, using Geely’s Sustainable Experience Architecture for the Smart city models, and SEA already underpins the Zeekr 001. The first BMW vehicle based on the innovative Neue Klasse platform will be the next-generation BMW 3 Series/X3, slated for launch in 2025.

The suspected BMW i1 has been rendered by industrial designer Giorgi Tedoradze (featured image of this story). 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.

BMW i3 electric sedan China model
The BMW i3 is a China-only model and uses the existing CLAR platform. A global BMW 3 Series electric based on Neue Klasse is expected in 2025. Image: BMW

LFP battery

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 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 Group LFP advantages and limitations
LFP chemistry is less energy-dense than NMC, but it offers more charging cycles and a longer life span. Image Source: Dr. Peter Lamp/BMW Group

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

The possibility of an electric 2 Series has drawn mixed reactions from enthusiasts. Some are confident about its arrival, while others believe it’s merely an idea. There’s also a possibility of BMW using a tweaked version of the 2 Series Gran Coupe’s UKL2 platform. However, a crossover-shaped iX2 would make more business sense.

BMW announced the G42 2 Series Coupe in July 2021, and it is different from its FWD 4-door cousin. The coupe uses the brand’s Cluster Architecture (CLAR), and it went on sale in Europe early in 2022. 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.

BMW 2 Series Coupe : BMW i2 may be in the works
A CAR magazine report says that the iM2 would mark a milestone on the BMW M division’s 50th anniversary in 2022. The car pictured here is the 2 Series Coupe, used for representational purposes only. Image: BMW

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 and i2 names 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

BMW electric vehicle (EV) strategy
The BMW i1 and BMW i2 are inevitable launches for BMW, which has announced that BEVs (Battery Electric Vehicles) will be available in 100% of today’s market segments by 2030. Image: BMW Group Investor Presentation (April 2022)

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.

Featured image: BMW i1 Isetta by Giorgi Tedoradze