Update: ‘Midsize EV to be the first BMW Neue Klasse model,’ ‘Debuts 6th generation eDrive system,’ ‘Next-gen battery pack & Fuel Cell capability,’ and ‘Production Sites & Release Dates’ sections updated and ‘Range,’ ‘Generative design’ and ‘TopElectricSUV says’ sections added.
BMW Group’s headline announcement at its annual conference for 2021 on March 17, 2021, was the ‘Neue Klasse’ platform, Phase 3 of the firm’s electrification strategy. That doesn’t mean that a ‘BMW Klasse’ car is coming from Munich. BMW Group is not aping the Mercedes-Benz nomenclature but using the German name for a new vehicle platform that would underpin most volume BMW cars in the future.
BMW Group aims to increase the share of EVs in its sales to more than 50% by 2030. Here’s what we know so far about the BMW Neue Klasse, which is set to play an instrumental role in this target:
The ‘Neue Klasse’ platform takes its name from the Neue Klasse of the 1960s, which marked the beginning of a radical change in BMW’s production direction back then. History will repeat itself later this decade when the BMW line-up adopts the Neue Klasse platform. Neue Klasse is more than just a vehicle platform, though. It includes new software architecture and a new level of sustainability.
2023 preview, 2025 launch
The first model based on the Neue Klasse platform will have its world premiere in concept form at CES 2023, which will take place in Las Vegas, USA, between January 3 and 8, 2023.
The next highlight on our road to the Neue Klasse will follow in January 2023. At the CES in Las Vegas, we will be unveiling a Vision Vehicle that will underpin our digital expertise.Oliver Zipse, CEO, BMW Group (BMW Group H1 2022 results conference call on August 3, 2022)
The market launch of the revolutionary BMW will follow in 2025, the year expected to be a turning point for many automakers globally in the shift to EVs.
Midsize EV to be the first BMW Neue Klasse model
BMW Group has confirmed that it plans to launch the first next-gen Neue Klasse model in 2025. BMW Group CEO Oliver Zipse has said that the next-gen BMW 3 Series or BMW X3 (electric) will likely be the first Neue Klasse platform model, as per a report from CAR. In the same interview, Zipse revealed the two versions of the new platform: Low and High.
During BMW Group’s Q1 2022 results conference call, CEO Oliver Zipse said that the company’s main focus with the Neue Klasse platform will be “the middle car segment.” It will not cover models from the lower segment all the way to the luxury segment, he added. It seems BMW Group will adopt a different technical solution for the 1 Series and 2 Series families when shifting to EVs in those segments. During the company’s H1 2022 results conference call, Zipse reaffirmed that the first Neue Klasse EV will be a midsize model
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)
According to the start of production timelines of various future models Bimmerpost forum member ynguldyn has shared, the next-gen iX3 will arrive before the global i3 and thus be the first Neue Klasse EV.
Zipse suggested during the Q1 2022 earnings conference call that BMW Group will launch only EVs on the Neue Klasse platform. We expect two different technical configurations:
- Rear electric motor (eRWD)
- Rear electric motor + front electric motor (eAWD)
The Neue Klasse will have only one drivetrain, it’s BEV only. And I think it’s from a timing point exactly the right time to do so.Oliver Zipse, CEO, BMW Group (BMW Group Q1 2022 results conference call on May 5, 2022)
Debuts 6th generation eDrive system
While the company is using the 5th generation eDrive system on current models like the iX, i4, and i7, the goal for BMW in 2025 is to launch a new cluster architecture that is able to deliver the entire BMW product portfolio with one building principle. “This is the latest technology available, from battery cells, how we evolve our in-house competency, how we do our eDrive system – the electric machine, we develop ourselves – so this is an in-house product, and you can expect another generational step when we introduce it in the new cluster architecture,” Frank Weber, BoM member responsible for Development, BMW Group, said on the Neue Klasse platform.
The Neue Klasse will also come with our new Generation 6 drivetrain generation for the first time with more output, new cell chemistry, and new cell formats.Oliver Zipse, CEO, BMW Group (BMW Group Q1 2022 results conference call on May 5, 2022)
Discussing the Neue Klasse architecture with BMW Blog, Weber said that it’ll be possible to offer EVs with one motor, two motors, and four motors, the BMW specialist publication reported on September 19, 2022. He said that the quad-motor setup will deliver up to 1 megawatt (1,000 kilowatts or 1,360 horsepower).
According to Weber, the Neue Klasse line-up will include a “real high-performance M product” that will be the most demanding model in that portfolio. BMW M may employ the top-end quad-motor powertrain in this Neue Klasse EV.
Weber hinted that the operating voltage could be 800 volts going ahead (an upgrade from today’s 400V system), which should allow charging at a much higher capacity compared to the iX’s 200 kW.
“The charging times that we have here with the iX or our other products is that in less than 10 minutes, you have 100 km of range. Updating this from 400 to 800 volt is a change in the generation because it affects batteries, power electronics, and machines, and it is not something you can easily do,” Weber said when answering a question about upgrading the current architecture to 800V to match Kia and Hyundai.
Weber has told the British publication CAR that every minute of charging will add 30 miles of range up to the level which allows a range of 375 miles. A 0-95% rapid charging session will take just approx. 12 minutes, as per the report.
Next-gen battery pack
The Neue Klasse BMW models will make use of a newly-developed electric drivetrain and module-less batteries. The latter will be part of the EVs’ body structure. The batteries used in the Neue Klasse EVs will consist of the sixth generation of BMW Group’s lithium-ion cells. Unlike the prismatic cells of the fifth generation, they will be round cells.
The cylindrical cells will have a higher nickel content and lower cobalt content on the cathode side and a higher silicon content on the anode side. The new cells will offer an improvement of more than 20% in energy density, up to 30% in 10-80% SoC charging speed, and up to 30% in range (WLTP). They’ll allow cost reductions of up to 50%.
The sixth-gen BMW battery cells will come in two sizes: 46 mm (diameter) x 95 mm (height) and 46 mm (diameter) x 125 mm (height). According to a report CAR published on November 4, 2022, the smaller version will go into sedans (and presumably other low-floor cars, incl. wagons) and the bigger version will go into SUVs.
The Gen 6 battery pack cells will have significantly higher energy density. BMW Group plans to also substantially reduce the use of primary material with the switch to the new battery technology. The company wants the next-gen electric powertrain to offer a range comparable to state-of-the-art internal combustion engines, and that too at the same level of manufacturing costs
Compatible with hydrogen fuel cell powertrains
Hydrogen FCEVs could also be a part of the 21st-century Neue Klasse line-up. By the end of 2022, BMW Group will launch the BMW iX5 as a low-volume hydrogen FCEV, but we expect that if there’s enough demand for the model in the Neue Klasse era, a BMW X5 FCEV could be a regular, high-volume derivative in the future generations.
During the H1 2022 results conference call, Zipse reiterated the company’s intention to keep the Neue Klasse platform compatible with hydrogen vehicle applications. Zipse said that the company needs to launch hydrogen vehicles if it wants to ensure that the lack of charging infrastructure and scarcity of raw materials affecting BEV sales doesn’t hamper its growth. Dr. Nicolas Peter, BoM member responsible for Finance, BMW Group, said during this conference call that the company is yet to take a call on Neue Klasse hydrogen cars.
The Neue Klasse is electric-only because the hydrogen car is an electric car. So, that’s a simple question. And whether we do a hydrogen drivetrain, we will decide on a later point but because it’s a net electric car it’s what we need to do.Dr. Nicolas Peter, BoM member responsible for Finance, BMW Group
Nordic countries, Germany, France, Belgium, and the UK, might have enough charging infrastructure, but the other half of the globe, including other European countries, is “extremely unlikely” to have enough charging infrastructure by 2030, Zipse said. If the company faces an emission-free world in the future, not having hydrogen vehicles in the line-up will mean losing market share, he added.
No swappable battery system
BMW differs in its approach towards charging compared to Nio, which is establishing battery swapping stations in China. A BMW representative quoted to Automobilwoche on February 28, 2022, that the charging and logistics infrastructure for battery swapping stations is not feasible. While swapping would standardize battery logistics for the upcoming Neue Klasse platform-based EVs, BMW hasn’t found a business case in the investment required. Instead, BMW will pour resources into battery technology.
The CAR report mentioned earlier states that the size of battery packs in the BMW Neue Klasse EVs will range from 75 kWh to 150 kWh. During his conversation with British magazine, Weber indicated that taking range to the extreme, which would make cars heavier, would be counter-productive; maximum efficiency that keeps energy consumption to the lowest possible level is the focus instead. Thomas Albrecht, head of Efficient Dynamics, BMW Group, has told Autocar that there’s no plan to offer a range of over 1,000 km (621 miles) in the EVs with the sixth-gen cells, calling it unnecessary.
BMW Group will begin using generative methods to develop structural components like the substructure of the rear seat system, for instance, beginning with the Neue Klasse models. The components developed with generative design can be up to 50% lighter than conventionally developed components.
In the generative design process, designers and engineers use AI algorithms and cloud computing to create infinite alternatives and choose the best one. BMW Group first used generative design to develop a component for the i8 Roadster. The company designed the aluminum mountings for connecting the convertible top to the body using this method and then produced them in a 3D printing process. It expects to develop and design around 20% of all vehicle components using this digital technology in the future.
Regional tech stacks & New Operating System
Thanks to a “digital-first” approach, the Neue Klasse EVs will offer a whole new type of user experience never seen before in neither a BMW nor any other production vehicle before. The experience will match the specific needs of each region worldwide, and it will be possible to deliver that with what BMW Group calls “technology stacks” that tailor the vehicle’s OS as per the local conditions and update it constantly. It will be possible to purchase and enable optional features throughout the vehicle’s lifecycle.
There will be another operating system that will be a revolution and a new Human Machine Interface that has never been seen in the industry before. So it’s a very new way of how you express digital content in a vehicle environment.Frank Weber, BoM member responsible for Development, BMW Group
New aesthetics & design
Citing its sources, BMW Blog reported on November 3, 2022, that the BMW Neue Klasse concept debuting at CES 2023 will preview the brand’s new design language. The company may steer clear of polarizing designs, unlike the approach it took for some recent models like the i7 and XM, as it wouldn’t want to risk a project like this that is of paramount importance to the brand’s future.
Adrian van Hooydonk, Senior Vice President of BMW Group Design, talked about the design of its future cars coming in 2025 and later, presumably including the Neue Klasse models, to BMW Blog in late 2021. He began with the design of the iX and 2 Series to explain how every product needs to be instantly recognizable not only as a BMW but also as that particular model. To this effect, it is emphasizing “stronger character” for each of its products.
van Hooydonk also indicated that future BMW models will have “fewer and reduced lines” and a “cleaner look.” Designing the cars due in 2025 has already begun, and those models would need to be more sustainable than the current BMWs in addition to being more aesthetically appealing. BMW Group may use some of the design elements of the BMW i Vision Circular concept for these future BMW models.
Wherever the quality and availability of materials allow, secondary materials, such as recycled steel, plastics, and aluminum, will be used. The company will see to it that the raw materials can be recycled at the end of their lifecycle and be used in new vehicles.
When we say we want to build the greenest battery electric vehicle and it should come from BMW, it is more than a slogan, I have to say. Making the greenest battery electric vehicle means that you really challenge your entire supply chain. And not only for battery or battery cells and where the raw materials come from – you do this for aluminum, for steel, for many other components..plastic materials, and you look at recycling and raw material in a different way. If you look at this combination – electric, digital, circular, and environmentally friendly, and a new way of expressing yourself, the aesthetics you can expect in 2025, will change quite dramatically for our products.Frank Weber, BoM member responsible for Development, BMW Group, in 2021
Supports coupes, sedans, SUVs, and different body styles
Neue Klasse in the 1960s initially gave brand-new sedans that have been succeeded by models like the BMW 5 Series and BMW 3 Series today. However, the BMW line-up has evolved in the new millennium to include SUV models in every segment. So, the Neue Klasse range will include coupes, sedans, SUVs, and SUV coupes. During the Q&A session after the conference, Weber talked about Neue Klasse with analysts and hinted at the same. He said:
Neue Klasse is based on the new cluster architecture as we call it, and this new cluster architecture which is going to be consistently electric, digital, and sustainable, is indeed the new building principle for the whole BMW portfolio. It is supposed to cover the whole BMW portfolio.Frank Weber, BoM member responsible for Development, BMW Group, in 2021
High-volume models in tow
At a media roundtable at the 2021 Munich Motor Show (IAA 2021), Weber talked about how the Neue Klasse will spawn high-volume models, unlike the BMW i3’s platform, which did not go beyond one car. BMW Group will utilize the Neue Klasse platform for “the biggest segments” it has globally, Weber said. The shift of the high-volume models to the new platform will be gradual, though, as the company can’t take all of its volumes immediately onto it.
The low version of the Neue Klasse platform would underpin sedans and wagons, and probably even the low-riding coupes and the convertible models. The high version will form the basis for SUVs (SAVs) and SUV coupes (SACs).
Though the Neue Klasse EVs will be the most digital BMWs ever, relatively fewer CPUs will be used in them compared to present-day BMWs, “possibly five, or six, or seven” and that will be “a big leap” in the auto industry, Zipse said.
Not particularly a feature of the Neue Klasse platform, per se, but autonomous driving will be one of the main highlights models developed using it. These models could initially offer Level 3 autonomous driving and be hardware-ready for enabling Level 4 autonomous driving at a later stage. The core of their autonomous driving technologies will be next-gen SoC sourced from Qualcomm.
On November 16, 2021, Qualcomm announced that its Snapdragon Ride vision system-on-chip will be the base for BMW’s next-gen Automated Driving stack. Qualcomm Car-2-Cloud services platform will manage ADAS central compute SoC controllers. BMW Group will bring a full spectrum of ADAS/AD functions, including front, rear, and surround-view camera computer vision in a Qualcomm-made dedicated computer vision SoC, as well as a high-performance ADAS central compute controller.
Cheaper to manufacture EVs
The Neue Klasse EVs will be considerably cheaper to produce. Weber said that the Neue Klasse electric cars’ manufacturing cost will be comparable to equivalent internal combustion engine cars. “On the eDrive capabilities, there is a major step. On the cost side alone, you can expect, from the complete eDrive including batteries, probably more than 30 percent cost reduction,” he said.
You can expect certainly more than 30% (cost) reduction on the battery cell alone, but interesting is the complete eDrive system, because when it comes to the battery-electric performance, efficiency is the key driver.Frank Weber, BoM member responsible for Development, BMW Group, in 2021
Production Sites & Release Dates
Hungary & Germany
BMW Group will start production of the BMW Neue Klasse models in 2025, marking the beginning of the third phase of transformation. Initially, the manufacturing will take place in a country offering lower production costs than Germany – Hungary. BMW Group plans to manufacture Neue Klasse models initially at a new factory in Debrecen, a city located in the eastern part of the country, starting in 2025.
The BMW Group Plant Munich will roll out Neue Klasse BMW electric cars starting in 2026. The BMW Group plans to gradually transfer the new architecture to global production sites in the coming years.
Mexico & USA
According to Bimmerpost forum member ynguldyn, the BMW Group Plant San Luis Potosi (Mexico) will also make Neue Klasse EVs. While the Hungarian factory will start rolling out the next-gen iX3 in August 2025, the Mexican plant will begin the production of the same model a year later. Similarly, production of the global i3 will start in Hungary in November 2026 and then in Mexico a year later.
Eventually, the BMW Group Plant Spartanburg would also start making Neue Klasse EVs. BMW Group has confirmed a USD 1 billion investment for the American vehicle assembly facility, plus a USD 700 million investment for a nearby battery assembly facility in Woodruff.
On June 1, 2022, BMW Group stated in a press release that it had laid the foundation stone for the Neue Klasse EV plant in Debrecen. Spreading over more than 400 hectares to the northwest of the Hungarian city, this factory will have an annual production capacity of approximately 150,000 vehicles. It will consist of a press shop, body shop, paint shop, and assembly. The entire factory will be CO2-neutral and use renewable energy resources instead of fossil fuels. It comes after an investment of more than EUR 1 billion, and it will employ more than 1,000 personnel over the next two years. BMW has confirmed the launch of the plant in 2025.
BMW Group & solid-state batteries
BMW Group is concurrently working on commercializing solid-state battery (All-Solid-State-Battery) technology also this decade. In an announcement on April 19, 2021, Weber said that “it will be powerful, safe, cost-effective, and recyclable.” The company will unveil an EV concept featuring ASSB technology well before 2025.
By the end of the decade, we will be implementing an automotive-compatible solid-state battery for series production.Frank Weber, BoM member responsible for Development, BMW Group, in 2021
Featured Image Source: BMW Group
The Neue Klasse platform will be the foundation of the third generation of BMW electric vehicles. It will be much more than a vehicle chassis, combining a new software architecture and new methods of sustainability. It will enable the German automaker’s global-level, high-volume transition to EVs, providing its customers with a user experience not seen before in any of Munich’s series production models.