Update: ‘Production Sites & Dates’ section updated.
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. Here’s what we know so far on the Neue Klasse:
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 in 2025 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.
Midsize EV to be the first model
BMW Group has confirmed that it plans to launch the first next-gen Neue Klasse model in 2025. Oliver Zipse, CEO, BMW Group, has said that the next-gen BMW 3 Series or BMW X3 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 earnings conference call, 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.
When it (Neue Klasse) hits the market, it will be concentrated on the 3 Series segment.Oliver Zipse, CEO, BMW Group (BMW Group Q1 2022 annual conference call on May 5, 2022)
The Australian report claims that BMW NA5 and BMW NA0 are the codenames of the next-gen 3 Series and next-gen X3, respectively. However, BMWBlog‘s intel state BMW NK1 and BMW G45 as the internal names of these future models, respectively.
Debuts 6th generation eDrive system
While the company is using the 5th generation eDrive system on current models like the iX3, iX, and the i4, 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,” said 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 annual conference call on May 5, 2022)
Zipse suggested during the Q1 2022 earnings conference call that the BMW Group will launch only EVs on 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 annual conference call on May 5, 2022)
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.
BMW Group aims to achieve two million cumulative sales of EVs by 2025 and increase the share of EVs in its sales to more than 50% by 2030.
Next-gen battery pack & Fuel Cell capability
The Neue Klasse BMW models will make use of a newly-developed electric drivetrain and next-gen battery packs (Gen 6 battery packs). “An electric drive train based on the hydrogen fuel cell could also be a part of this,” Zipse said at the event. In H2 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.
The Gen 6 battery packs of the Neue Klasse platform-based BMW EVs will consist of cells that 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. In November 2021, BMW Group gave a presentation on battery cell technology. When asked about the changing requirements to battery cells when it comes to integration into Neue Klasse, Dr. Peter Lamp, Head of Battery Cell Technology, BMW Group said:
We are, I would say, nearly done with our design of the new generation, and there will be communication coming up. So, you may have to wait still a few weeks to get a deeper insight how revolutionary our new design is.Dr. Peter Lamp, Head of Battery Cell Technology, BMW Group (Virtual event for analysts and investors on November 26, 2021)
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.
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
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 recently unveiled models like the iX and 2 Series to explain how every BMW Group 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.
In other words, expect future BMWs to have more individual designs rather than looking just like upsized/downsized versions of other models in the brand’s line-up. 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.
BMW i Vision Circular concept
The BMW i Vision Circular is the German automaker’s vision of its 2040 compact car. The highly aerodynamic concept car offers a luxury-class interior on a small car footprint, and its proportions take the brand in a new direction. The kidney grille is a digital surface and extends across the width of the front end, merging with the headlights.
From the sides, the car looks as if it’s surging dynamically down the road, thanks to the amplified shark-nose appearance of the front-end, the aggressively raked windshield, and the rising beltline. At the rear, the dark glass tailgate discretely integrates the car’s display surfaces and light functions.
The BMW i Vision Circular name highlights BMW Group’s focus on circular economy for sustainable materials. The company has designed it around the four principles of the circular economy: Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. It has made the concept car entirely out of secondary materials or renewable raw materials. The BMW i Vision Circular is fully recyclable. Individual mobility shouldn’t take a toll on the climate, and automakers need to do more than just put an end to tailpipe emissions. That’s what the concept represents.
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
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 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). Either the first-ever global BMW 3 Series electric or the next-gen BMW iX3 could debut the Neue Klasse platform.
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 & Dates
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. According to the report from WhichCar, this will be the production site of the next-gen BMW 3 Series and next-gen BMW X3.
The BMW Group Plant Munich will roll out Neue Klasse BMW electric cars starting in 2026. Currently, these are the two factories that the BMW Group has confirmed for the production of Neue Klasse models. It plans to gradually transfer the new architecture to global production sites in the coming years.
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 north west of the Hungarian city, this factory will have an annual production capacity of approximately 150,000 vehicles. It will consist of a press shop, bodyshop, paintshop, 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