New 2021 BMW i1 electric hatch to join range

BMW's i boss reveals plans for 12 electric cars by 2023, with an electric version of the 1 Series set to arrive within the next two years

BMW i1 - front (watermarked)

BMW bosses have exclusively revealed to Auto Express that an entry-level, electric hatchback based on the 1 Series is in the product plan. And it could be here as early as 2021.

The German firm has outlined an electrification strategy under which 12 fully electric cars and 13 plug-in hybrids will arrive in showrooms in the next four years. BMW is targeting the more premium and more profitable segments initially; the first to arrive will be the iX3 SUV, followed by the i4 saloon and then BMW’s technological flagship, the iNEXT SUV.

Best electric cars on sale right now

However, the head of BMW’s i Division, Robert Irlinger, has now suggested that BMW’s flexible vehicle architectures will allow the firm to explore the option to develop more affordable and smaller electric vehicles. “Even in the front-drive architecture you will see fully electrified cars,” he told us. “You will see electrification in our whole portfolio. We can rework our front-wheel-drive as well as the rear-wheel-drive platforms and both are able to show all technologies – our customers have the power of choice.

“Whatever they demand they can get – a plug-in hybrid X3, a fully-electric 4 Series, too. That’s a big step and a big change in our strategy.”

As previewed by our exclusive image, BMW’s strategy for its range of electric cars is to keep them visually similar to their conventionally powered counterparts. It’s expected that an electric 1 Series will simply be marked out by flashes of brighter bodywork and a blanked-off front grille.

The flexibility of the firm’s platforms will also enable BMW to offer the electric hatch with the option of two electric motors, to give four-wheel drive, or a single motor that will deliver front-drive at a lower price point. 

The i4 gives a clear hint at the naming strategy, with Irlinger revealing that it will be an all-electric version of the next 4 Series Gran Coupé. “The i4 is the four-door sports sedan, fully electrified, clearly visible as an iCar,” he explained. “You can see the concept of the 4 Series as a two-door coupé and the i4 is going be the four-door coupé – it’s going to be based on the concept, but it’s fully electric.”

With the iX3 and i4 confirmed, the X5-sized iNext could be badged iX5. With that in mind, it would be logical for an electric 1 Series to wear an i1 badge and for an electric 3 Series to wear an i3 badge, but where would that leave the car that started the i brand off, the current i3?

Irlinger added fuel to the rumours that the i3 as we know it won’t be replaced. “We are not in the normal process of having a car that has to have a successor.”

What do you think of our exclusive BMW i1 image? Let us know your thoughts below...

Recommended

Best 60s cars: the 30 greatest cars of the 1960s
Best cars of the 60s - header
Best cars & vans

Best 60s cars: the 30 greatest cars of the 1960s

The swinging sixties brought a vast array of unforgettable cars that would establish the path of the industry for decades to come. We pick our top 30 …
21 Jun 2021
BMW i Hydrogen NEXT SUV begins real-world testing
BMW i Hydrogen - front
BMW

BMW i Hydrogen NEXT SUV begins real-world testing

Testing has begun on the new BMW i Hydrogen NEXT fuel cell vehicle on European roads under everyday driving conditions
16 Jun 2021
Pay for parking from your car with BMW's new RingGo app integration
BMW and Ringo
BMW

Pay for parking from your car with BMW's new RingGo app integration

BMW drivers can now use their infotainment systems to pay for parking without the need for a phone or cash
15 Jun 2021
New 2021 BMW iX electric SUV priced from £69,905
BMW iX- front
BMW iX

New 2021 BMW iX electric SUV priced from £69,905

The new BMW iX electric SUV will get two battery sizes in the UK when it arrives in November, with ranges of 257 miles and 380 miles
1 Jun 2021

Most Popular

Land Rover unveils limited-run Defender Trophy Edition
Land Rover unveils limited-run Defender Trophy Edition - front
Land Rover Defender

Land Rover unveils limited-run Defender Trophy Edition

Just 220 examples will be built to honour past Camel Trophy Land Rovers, all of which have been reserved for the North American market
30 Jul 2021
New 2021 Volkswagen Taigo coupe-SUV breaks cover
Volkswagen Taigo R-Line - front
Volkswagen Taigo

New 2021 Volkswagen Taigo coupe-SUV breaks cover

The new VW Taigo is a sportier, more aggressive looking version of the brand’s T-Cross and is aimed at lifestyle buyers
29 Jul 2021
New 2021 Kia EV6 boasts up to 328 miles of range
Kia EV6 - front
Kia EV6

New 2021 Kia EV6 boasts up to 328 miles of range

Kia reveals more specs for its bespoke electric car, with the EV6 offering long range and an 18-minute 80 per cent rapid recharge time
21 Jul 2021