BMW will be celebrating its centenary next year, and plans to look forward rather than back with the unveiling of its next i model, the i5.
Speaking exclusively to Auto Express, BMW’s board member with responsibility for sales and marketing, Ian Robertson, said: “Legislation means we’ll inevitably have more zero emissions cars and we’re exploring more i models, although no firm decisions have been made yet.”
However, while a Tesla Model S-rivalling saloon or an extended version of the i3 have been rumoured, it’s understood from within Munich that an SUV is likely to be favoured by BMW’s hierarchy, and our exclusive images show how the i5 might look.
BMW would put its own twist on things with the same sort of advanced tech seen in the i3 and i8, plus the latest in autonomous driving and connectivity features. So expect low-weight carbon fibre to feature heavily alongside all-electric power, with a range well in excess of 200 miles.
Robertson is keen to stress that the i brand isn’t just about electric power. “i is about all technologies,” he told us. “It’s seen as something different in other countries to the UK, where it seems to be more about the power source. But we have advanced technologies feeding into our other products, such as the carbon fibre used throughout the new 7 Series.”
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He also stressed how the i brand will have longevity, with electric power – in plug-in hybrid form – likely to be available across the BMW range in the next couple of years. “We’ll have i tech moving into our products from one side in the same way we have technology from our M cars moving in from the other,” he told us.
Sales of BMW’s i3 haven’t quite taken off globally in the way they have in the UK, although the i8 has enjoyed exceptional demand around the world. “The i3 is working really well where there are government incentives,” said Robertson, “It’s working exceptionally well in Norway and California, and the UK is OK. But Germany has a vision for one million EVs by 2020, and it’s looking at how countries such as Norway and the UK have worked with incentives to increase demand.”
The arrival of an i5 could be timed to coincide with new German incentives, suggesting sales of the car are well over a year away. The development of battery technology will also play a part in the car, both in terms of range and packaging.
As Robertson explained: “The tech is developing fast – we’ll see steps made with lithium-ion batteries and then lithium air will make progress. But next we’ll see solid state batteries without the wet sticky stuff in them – that’s where real progress will be made in terms of density and packaging.”
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BMW has recently announced revisions to the i3’s battery pack, taking the range of the full EV model from less than 100 miles to around 130 miles.
“Germany has a vision for one million EVs by 2020, and it’s looking at how countries work with incentives”
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