BMW Group’s headline announcement at its annual conference 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 every volume BMW car in the future.
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 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.
Debuts 6th generation eDrive system
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.
Midsize EV to be the first model
BMW Group has already confirmed that it plans to launch the first next-gen Neue Klasse model in 2025. Oliver Zipse, the Chairman of BMW Group’s BoM, has said that a 3 Series or an X3 will likely first sit on the Neue Klasse platform, as per a new report from CAR. Zipse was speaking in an interview with the British publication, in which he also revealed that there will be two versions of the new platform: Low and High.
During a media roundtable at the 2021 Munich Motor Show (IAA 2021), Weber confirmed that the Neue Klasse platform will underpin a BMW 3 Series and a BMW X3, as per a report from BMW Blog. The R&D boss was talking about how Neue Klasse will spawn high-volume models, unlike the BMW i3’s platform, not its first applications. BMW Group will use 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 likely even SUV coupes (SACs). Either the first-ever global 3 Series electric or the next-gen iX3 could debut the Neue Klasse platform.
Zipse suggested that the Neue Klasse platform will allow at least three different technical configurations:
- Rear electric motor (eRWD)
- Rear electric motor + front electric motor (eAWD)
- Rear electric motor + front internal combustion engine (plug-in hybrid AWD)
The Neue Klasse platform’s lifespan will likely be 15-20 years. However, BMW Group doesn’t see all its 140 markets or even a majority of them becoming ready to fully transition to EVs at the time of its rollout. That is why it is considering keeping the Neue Klasse platform usable for ICE applications. In other words, though the next-gen iX3 ends up having a wider reach globally than now, the company will launch a next-gen X3. Expect BMW to use this dual-power strategy across segments.
Theoretically, BMW Group’s Neue Klasse platform is similar to Daimler’s MMA platform. ‘Electric First’ is the powertrain strategy for this platform, and should there be a need, a combustion engine can be fitted. BMW Group may launch all its Neue Klasse models with a pure-electric powertrain, and in some cases, a hybrid powertrain. Every Neue Klasse BMW would have an electrified rear axle, be it a BEV or a hybrid EV. Daimler has said that the MMA platform is meant for only compact and mid-size cars, while the Neue Klasse platform may allow building big cars like the X5 and X6.
All Neue Klasse EVs will be predominantly rear-wheel driven.
Uncompromisingly electric. Neue Klasse and the cluster architecture are an electric architecture. All the vehicles that come off this new architecture will always have the electric machine on the right axle (rear axle) and will always propel that vehicle. When there are options like Fuel cell or maybe other range-extending options, it will not affect where the main propulsion is going to happen.Frank Weber, BoM member responsible for Development, BMW Group
Next-gen battery pack & Fuel Cell capability
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. Zipse confirmed that the company will launch a production version of the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT concept, which will be the BMW X5 hydrogen FCEV, next year. He said that the production version will be manufactured in a low volume, 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.
Solid-state battery packs will eventually make it to Neue Klasse BMWs, but until then, it will keep improving the present technology and making it more efficient and sustainable.
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
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.
New aesthetics & design
One can also expect to see a new design language emerging with the launch of the Neue Klasse platform. In every way, the new platform reimagines the motor car. 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 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 putting 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
Coupes, sedans, SUVs and other 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, Frank Weber, the R&D boss of BMW Group, 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
Cheaper to manufacture EVs
The Neue Klasse EVs will be cheaper to produce, too. Weber said that the Neue Klasse electric cars’ manufacturing costing 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
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.
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
Featured Image Source: BMW Group