BMW iX3 And Future Electrification Pursuits: Too Little, Too Late?

MAY 14 2018 BY CARLO OMBELLO 77

Is BMW‘s electrification strategy with reliance on ICE platforms worthy? Is the automaker simply too far behind the curve?

The BMW iX3 electric concept car was finally unveiled at the Beijing Motor Show (Auto China 2018) last week. The long-touted prototype of BMW’s first electric SUV – derived entirely from the conventional X3 model and expected for sale in 2020 – was accompanied at the show by the BMW i Vision Dynamics four-door concept, previously unveiled at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show and precursor of BMW’s future mid-size electric saloon (a Tesla Model 3 competitor).

*This article originally appeared on opportunity:energy. Author Carlo Ombello graciously shared it with InsideEVs.

More Information: BMW Future Electrification Plans Discussed at LA Auto Show

The German automaker chose the ever more important Chinese event to give new substance to its to-date somewhat confusing electrification plans. Following an early and promising start in the EV sector with the unveil of the BMW i sub-brand in 2011, later incarnated in the i3 and i8 models, BMW had in fact fallen behind the competition and let years go by without meaningful model updates or a clear strategy.

Related: BMW iX3 Debuts With 70-kWh Battery, 249-Mile Range

We now finally have an almost production-ready SUV prototype and a sedan concept indicating two new electric models coming to market over the next two to four years. The choice of segments should not surprise (mid-size SUV and sedan), given their popularity and BMW’s rivalry with Tesla, the impact of which was also confirmed in Tesla’s latest earnings call. And while up to twelve all-electric models are promised by 2025, this is all that should be expected in the near future. Will this be enough to compete with Tesla’s skyrocketing growth and German rivals’ electrification plans in an increasingly crowded EV space?

BMW’s new strategy is based on a rather different vision to what the i brand initially hinted, something many would define more realistic, others simply less ambitious. New, fully electric models will share platforms with standard ICE models, in a move that is motivated by the need to save money and as a way of hedging bets against the uncertain demand for different powertrains in the coming years. BMW seems now ready to get more serious with electric cars, but at the same time is striving to reduce costs and risks.

This is very clear with the iX3. The electric SUV prototype shows only subtle aesthetic differences from the original combustion engine model and will be equipped with a 70 kWh battery, capable of around 400 km or 250 miles of range on the new WLTP cycle. While the claimed range sounds better than most current EV offerings on the market, it won’t be outstanding by the time the iX3 will come to market in two years’ time.

The limited capacity is likely due to at least two factors: first, the use of an existing ICE platform – not built around an ad-hoc, long wheelbase EV design and thus unable to take advantage of a “skateboard” chassis layout that maximises battery space (as in Tesla cars); second, cells with relatively low density compared to the best on the market (again, Tesla’s). On the bright side, the future SUV will boast over 200 kW of power output and fast-charging up to 150 kW via a CCS plug, the fastest available to date. This, together with the nascent ultra-fast charging networks around the world (read Ionity in Europe and Electrify America in the US) should enable long-distance travel without pain and will easily be one of the top selling points of the vehicle.

What about the i Vision Dynamics? Despite its stylized silhouette, undoubtedly bound to be tamed as it gets closer to production under the new BMW i4 name, one aspect already confirms the path taken by the German brand. The long bonnet confirms it will be based on the common platform of its future conventional ICE cars.

Read Also: BMW Confirms i Vision Dynamics Will Become 373-Mile Electric i4

BMW suggests uncompromising performance, with acceleration of 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 4.0 seconds and a range of around 600 km (373 miles), seemingly only possible with a ~100 kWh battery and a super low drag coefficient. It’s not yet known on which technology BMW would achieve such remarkable range on a mid-size car, but since the i4 is not slated for production for another three to four years, one wouldn’t be surprised if BMW is waiting for solid-state batteries to achieve this.

BWM’s new vision is finally taking shape, and it sure doesn’t look as audacious as its first steps just a few years ago, from both a technical and timeframe point of view. While sharing platforms is a path taken by others such as Kia-Hyundai or Volvo, most competition (Mercedes, VW, Audi, Porsche…) is taking a much bolder approach with standalone EV models. The choices made by BMW are likely to support their margins and industrial dynamics in the short term, however, this could prove a double-edged sword in the long run.

Will it be successful in a burgeoning EV market? Most competing legacy automakers will be out with hot new EVs within twelve to eighteen months, and Tesla will be churning out hundreds of thousands of Model 3s and Model Ys per year by the time BMW gets both iX3 and i4 to the showrooms. One thing is for sure: by then, BMW won’t have any time left to compromise.

Source: opportunity:energy

Categories: BMW

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77 Comments on "BMW iX3 And Future Electrification Pursuits: Too Little, Too Late?"

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I don’t see how BMW is behind the curve compared to anyone besides Tesla.

They are now behind the curve only because they used to be so far ahead. After the i3 and i8, they sat on their hands. Instead of taking advantage of their many innovative design features, and expanding them to other new or revised models, they sat on their hands for at least four years. So, four years is a significant amount of time in automotive design. They gave it away, primarily because the oddly designed but brilliant i3, didn’t sell in the volumes they had hoped. And their battery technology was frozen in 2012. We’re all worse off for what I believe was a major mistake by BMW management.

If the i4 solves the i3 problem, looks, and it’s carbon fiber, than you can see how it will achieve it’s spec performance. Range and Speed with be greatly improved by a carbon-fiber body. If the i4 is a steel body, then it will have a hard time having a competitive advantage.

The i3 is a great city/suburban car though.
Don’t know why they didn’t come out first with an i4.
But, the i3 is great at relieving city parking space anxiety, while giving you either great performance or great efficiency, with 4 adults seated comfortably on a great suspension.

There were several reports that the sales number of the i3 were so low that internally in BMW the car is considered a failure, particularly given the huge R&D cost. They also didn’t expect such high a proportion of REx versions — without that (which they didn’t plan for originally), it would have been a complete bust.
The rest of the PHEVs were much lower risk (ICE conversions), but basically compliance vehicles good mostly for PR — the AER is atrocious (not worse than most other Euro carmakers, to be sure).

So it’s understandable they’re cautious, and are highly unlikely to do another CFRP car, IMO.

The REX version would have never been such a large seller if it would have had a proper battery to begin with. It should have never had anything less than a 100 mile BEV range, especially for the price.

The i3 is a tech marvel. And the time might come when the learning can be applied in other cars. But it’s not a money-maker for BMW. If it was, we would have seen more of the same like you desire.

The i3 was a benchwarmer because it was expensive, has a laughable range and too goofy looking. I live in China and till this point, there are only two real options for EV: Tesla and BYD. The truth is, the i3 was more of an experiment for BMW and they never took EV seriously until now.

IMO…..i3 Didn’t Sell because they were “Poorly Engineered & Designed, Goofy Looking and “tiny” At a “BIG” BMW Price..

Poorly engineered? Munro claimed it was the most advanced car they ever benchmarked…

They’re STILL ahead of the competition & have committed billions to battery contracts & BEV factories, total clickbait headline.

They suffer from the same problem as Nissan: Build a BEV and proclaim to the world that they are now an EV company only to never give it a significant update until it’s almost too late. The world is passing their sub 150 mile range EV and 15 mile plug in hybrids by in a hurry.

At least it is something…

With EV profits challenging to come by in the current economic climate, to use a platform that can support multiple powertrains and be built alongside ICEs seems like a smart use of resources and reduces risk.

I think BMW is well positioned in the PHEV / BEV space and gas the BoD support to make things happen.

It is never too late. Too little compared to fiat or subaru or honda? Nope. They are above average sadly

BMW is in fact one of the best selling plug-in brands already selling over100K plug-ins last year and aiming for 140K this year. In fact last year it sold the same number of plug-ins as Tesla globally and the only western carmaker to outsell it was Nissan alliance So…maybe there is hope yet for BMW;)

If any of those plugins had 40 miles of real range, and not just Germany compliance cars, it would be significant.

Whit the phevs BMW is preparing their customers for the EVs to come. A BMW client that drives 30 miles per day whit a PHEV will probably buy a EV in 4 years time. So 3 years is good timming for the i4 😉

Yes, and it has introduced new PHEVs very fast.

Alas, plug-in doesn’t say much, if anything, about how environmentally friendly a car is. Apart from i3 Rex and Volt, all the PHEVs on the market are much closer to a regular hybrid, indeed any regular ICE, than to a typical BEV in this respect.

If PHEV was restricted to only be the range-extended kind AND required to have an all-electric range of at least 75 miles, I’d be more positive towards them. Unfortunately they mainly serve to muddle the waters as it is.

>> Apart from i3 Rex and Volt, all the PHEVs on the market are much closer to a regular hybrid, indeed any regular ICE, than to a typical BEV in this respect. If PHEV was restricted to only be the range-extended kind…

328 miles on this tank so far and it still reads full. Those results from my Prime are not closer to hybrid, period.

The marketing of “range-extended” clearly doesn’t equate to much when looking at real-world data.

Remember the goal is to deliver vehicles which significantly reduce emissions & consumption. To actually achieve that, they much be able to compete directly with traditional vehicles… not just be an offering with a fancy label.

Actual real world data from an US agency (don’t remember which) says otherwise: Prius PHEV only getting electric usage in the low fourties on average, while Volt is around 70%, and i3 REx 80%.

Smart companies like BMW, GM and Honda experimented early with credible entries (at time of introduction) and are now taking what they learned and putting together serious plans for electrification in the next decade. Tesla is ahead in product but lacks expertise to mass produce efficiently. Tesla will get past the current speed bump but competitors will get some more time to catch up. There will be real competition for Tesla and lot of choices, including several from BMW.

Honda sells the Fit EV in Japan.
Honda could compete today.
Honda chooses not to compete.

Yeah, they build the number 1 (car) nameplate in the US, so can’t be doing too badly eh?

Agreed, but there will also be upheaval in the market. Autonomy and electric drivetrains are each huge shifts that new entrants will try to use to get in. We still seldom take the Chinese companies very seriously, but it seems almost unthinkable to my mind that none of them will succeed in the west. Their enormous market and kinda colluding government (although all governments collude with national industry, China just has more leverage) means they’ll get the knowledge. The Koreans look strong as well. They don’t sell any EV in volume yet, but it seems to be because they don’t want to rather than the products being weak. On very long trips – the sort I consider irrelevant because nobody takes them – the Ioniq is actually the non-Tesla EV that gets you fastest and cheapest to the destination, because it charges fastest and consumes least, giving it a stellar “mph” charging rate. In winter testing in Norway the Ioniq went farther on its 28 kWh pack than the new LEAF with 39.5 kWh. The 2018 LEAF charges at about 40 kW in such conditions, the Ioniq at 70 law. But since it can drive 50% longer on a kWh… Read more »

Too bad they hardly bring any Ioniq EV to U.S., even California. I hope this doesn’t apply to their upcoming offerings, Kona and Niro EVs.

Anybody know the status of the bigger battery Ioniq EV? Is it still part of their plan?

Nissan should be further along. Kind of disappointing.

Exactly, the current version of the Leaf drivetrain should have come out in 2016 and the “new” Leaf should have had a base battery that would be competitive with the Bolt and the SR Model 3. There is no compelling reason to buy a new Leaf.

“precursor of BMW’s future mid-size electric saloon (a Tesla Model 3 competitor).”

If they serve drinks in that car it better have level 5 autonomous driving ability. 😉

Saloon is UK name for sedan 😉

LOL!!!

Ethanol powered REX Saloon? A little shot for me, one for the REX…….

Given the rate new electrics are hitting the market they still have plenty of time. And given that BMW planned to offer different powertrains in the X3 the iX3 won’t suffer as much had an electric version been a complete afterthought. They are behind, which is weird considering their head start with BMWi. But I still wonder if that’s a result of their partnership with Toyota. BMW partnered with Toyota on a sports car the Z4/Supra, and hydrogen. I guess they were fooling around with fool cells while Jaguar, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz pushed ahead.

Indeed, from what I gather, fuel cell vehicles were actually meant to carry the brunt of the load for the “i” series. When this dream busted, they apparently gave up on the entire project; the engineers and managers defected to other companies; and now they are scrambling to catch up with the rolling EV train, just like the other major fuel cell proponents…

This article would have been more useful if it made some kind of projections for BMW’s competition, based on what we know about who is bringing what to market, and when, and in how many projected numbers. If that was in a graph, then we’d be able to see whether in fact BMW is letting themselves get behind, or whether they’re being patient and letting everyone else spend the $ getting the battery tech up to profitability levels. I’d like to see a graph or a timeline, comparing the iX3 with at least the Jaguar iPace, VW ID Crozz (or whatever it’s called), Mercedes EQC, Audi e-Tron, etc. That would make this article a lot more useful. Including each manufacturer’s normal time between concept and production would make it really interesting. The iPace is going into production, the EQC and the e-Tron are in pre-production testing, and look like they’re really close, so all 3 will have at least a year’s head start on BMW. VW seems like they have a long way to go before their new EVs actually get to production, maybe 2021? Especially considering how much they like to show off concepts without getting them to production.… Read more »

Hi Marcel,

I’m planning to write more on Mercedes EQ first, then a German comparison article, then if I have enough data I might venture into some charts. Fact is, little is known about their production targets at the moment…

What’s with these articles that belittle the work of every manufacturer other than Tesla?

Because most other manufacturers have done nothing more than lip service to the EV market. I can tell you that if it were not for CARB regulations, there would probably be less than 5 plug in cars on the market right now.

“lip service”?
Really? Both GM and Nissan will cross the eV credit threshold before Tesla.
And, they both manage to make truckloads of money doing it…

I said “most” not all.

It’s what they do. Green Astroturfing.

“What’s with these articles that belittle the work of every manufacturer other than Tesla?”

Maybe if other auto makers demonstrated anything more than a lukewarm attempt to build large numbers of compelling, popular plug-in EVs, they would get more than lukewarm reviews from an EV advocacy site like InsideEVs. A conversion car like this, nothing more than taking a gasmobile and awkwardly shoe-horning an EV powertrain into it, doesn’t deserve anything more than a “Meh” reaction.

Sadly, even non-Tesla BEVs which might be compelling enough to sell in large numbers — cars like the Jaguar I-Pace and the Chevy Bolt EV — are not made in large numbers by those other auto makers.

Compelling BEVs are designed from the ground up to be fully electric cars.

I think they’ll be expensive but sell pretty well. Tesla will obviously grab share, but less so in Europe than in the US. BMW and most other manufacturers don’t think there will be much money to make from EVs before 2022-2025. I think, unfortunately, they are wise to play it slowly. I think they worry about Tesla, but I don’t think they are panicking, and nor does it seem like there’s much reason to. Even with fast growth, Tesla will make no more than perhaps 200k cars, worldwide, in 2018. It’s pressure of a kind, but it’s not obviously better for BMW to sell EVs at no profit than it is to sell perhaps more of their most profitable cars than they’d do if they offered lots of great EVs now. After all, Tesla probably won’t simply disappear if BMW offers more competing products. There’s cannibalisation to worry about, too – and probably many buyers who primarily want the BMW badge. The more profitable they are, the better positioned they will be to offer compelling EVs when doing that becomes more profitable than selling ICE. Of course there are risks. But there are risks with an adhesive EV strategy also.… Read more »

Nissan didn’t go in too soon — just in the wrong market segment…

BMW is “NOT ALL IN” on EV’s . They are Being too Overly Cautious to the Extreme . They Appear Scared to Build a Dedicated “EV” Platform . IMO, they are getting off on the wrong foot right from the start . At BMW Prices People Expect a Ground Up “TRUE EV” At the very Least ! This Move Indicates That They Suspect Failure with their EV Program . So Now they Have their “Compliance Platform” Ready For Quick Change to Shove the ICE Drive Train Back into it if need be ., With the Hopes to carry on, business as Usual.. Until Demand totally Dwindles For These Unwanted ICE Polluters as EV Technology Advances and Surpasses ICE in every way to the point that ICE Becomes the True Dinosaur that it is !…Then What ? “BMW”

Munro says TM3 uses several hundred pounds of industrial glues to hold the cars together–
so it’s not obvious how a “bespoke” platform is helping anybody.

Tesla will be “all in” and unprofitable forever. The other guys will build great cars and come at their pace when there is a real market. it’s still a tiny niche.

And, for being “all in” Tesla sure missed the boat on CUVs, which the market actually wants.
I count 6 nameplates with CUV BeVs that will be in the market before the mythical Model Why.

Tesla Spends Profits to “Grow The Company”.. Elon works for “Free” . Elon Pays For his Tesla Stock with His own money too ! …Unlike other Big Auto CEO’s That get Free Stock and Grab UnEarned & UnDeserving Bonus monies & Stuff Their Bank Accounts…

Yeah, Elon made a big deal about “investing” $10M back in to “burn the shorts”… while ignoring the simple fact that he’s got $2.7 BILLION in margin loans out backed by his stock.
If it goes south he is right-and-truly in a bad way, because the banks will not hesitate to dump millions of shares of his stock in the market– while filing the SEC documents to make it a public disclosure. Headline “Tesla CEO sells stock as price declines”.
He is far more worried about stock price than he lets on.

We all wish we had Elon’s money Problems….lol… Spacex alone is making Leaps & bounds with space technology that was never accomplished by “No – One” Except Elon in the History of “Rockets” , with technology & software that is shared with Tesla and all his other companies …… Keep Wishing ……. Elon & Tesla & all his Companies will Will Do just “Fine” as he keeps on Proving all the Envious Tesla Haters and Shorters Wrong over & over, until they all Desist …

BTW… Ten Million $$$ USD ..is a Big if not a Huge Deal..If you don’t think so and you got a few million Falling out of your Pocket that you don’t need, Send some my way..lol

Munro is a hired Gun to Put Tesla Down , He does a Lot of work (if not all his work) for Big ICE auto . He’s been Flip Flopping like a Fish out of water on Tesla Model 3 Lately . Last I heard There is Lots about Tesla Model 3 That He really Likes . Munro Began changing his Tune after driving a Model 3 and During the Tear Down …

Several hundred pounds of glue? Pretty sure you got that wrong.

There is nothing wrong by the way with using glue. That’s what the aerospace industry has been doing since forever. It saves weight.

Which car companies are the most behind? Mazda? Anyone have other companies that belong in the bottom 10?

Subaru is right there with Mazda.

Mitsubishi is nowhere

Mitsubishi probably has the best PHEV in the market.

Which they for some reason decided not to release in the US for several years, and now will be quickly surpassed by its competition in a year or two.

Their distribution is in disarray here in the US. if they’ve got good product it’s not here on the streets, at least in CA. And, if they are invisible here I doubt they have much going on in TX, NY or FL.

They sold everyone they could make in more profitable Europe. Why sell them in US?

They are now in an alliance w Nissan and Renault making them the largest automotive group in the world.

I submit Fiat belongs in the bottom 10. They’re not even trying to make a profitable EV. The only EV they make is the 500e, which even Fiat admits is a money-losing compliance car.

too late? What are you kidding?

The segment’s only 0.7% of the world market. BMW will be ready with mainstream cars (the 5-series eV is already a nice offering) when the market’s ready.

It is funny to suggest BMW is too late while nobody has made a profitable EV yet and the market penetration is less than 1 percent. When Apple introduced iPhone the cellphone penetration was close to 100% in US market and they became number 1.

If you believe battery density will improve as much as EV proponents claim, there are few advantages to a dedicated EV platform, an ICE platform will save massive costs. The batteries should fit within the wheelbase of an ICE car in a few years. If batteries don’t get denser and cheaper, probably there will never be a viable electric car market, so why bother?

Hi agzand,

It’s indeed another way to look at it. I believe BMW think exactly as you suggest and are happy to increase their effort slowly. Major automakers are falling in either category (slow or aggressive).

My argument is that BMW started bright and early with an outstanding model (the i3), and instead of building on it they changed course of action. Now they will at best play along with others, but more likely have to catch up with companies releasing their cars this and next year (Mercedes, Audi, VW, etc.). The EV market is likely to double or triple by 2020 and continue to do so in the following years, as momentum grows it will be harder to catch up, unless they hope in a late “invasion” of BMW models.

Of course time will tell and I may well be on the wrong side of EV forecasts. 🙂

At the end of the day, whoever makes the best product will win market share. If in year 2025 BMW come up with a better car than Tesla, or one with lower cost, people will buy that over Tesla. This is not a sprint. It is a marathon. BMW might look like it is behind in 2019 and 2020, but if they manage a better car in 2021 they will instantly catch up. I am not defending BMW (I actually think their core models 3-series/5-series are becoming boring and losing their edge), but I won’t be too worried about their BEVs yet. Same with Toyota.

There are few markets where brand loyalty is as strong as the automotive market. If they lose significant market share, it will be hard to regain it, even when they manage to come up with something competitive again.

“…nobody has made a profitable EV yet…”

I’m fairly sure Nissan would disagree with that claim.

Tesla does sell its Model S and Model X at a profit, and soon will also with the Model 3. Just because Tesla is spending more on rapid growth than it gets in gross profits doesn’t mean they don’t make money selling their cars!

When the current generation of Model S and X are out of production, once you look at the life of the project, they won’t be a profitable product. Tesla can pretend that they are profitable by focusing on a quarter (and not paying their vendors in that quarter) or other accounting gimmicks, but in a few years when they are finished with these models, they will be in a deep hole for both models. Then they have to spend billions again for the next generation of Model S/X. This is the story of automobile companies, and has been going on for decades. It is a low margin, low profit business, and that is the reason all car makers (except Tesla) trade at such low PE ratios. Model S/X real gross margins are about half of other luxury brands. Even with these higher margins, other companies are struggling with sub 10% net margins. There is no way Tesla can be profitable with these gross margins.

Nissan wouldn’t disagree I’m afraid. They claimed their EVs will be profitable “soon” — implying that they haven’t been in the past…

If Apple had introduced just yet another cell phone, they wouldn’t have become #1. What they introduced was the first *smart*phone with mass market appeal. Just as Tesla introduced the first *electric* car with mass market appeal, rather than just yet another traditional car.

Is there any plans to save the BMW i3. Its price of $44,000 for a 114 mile range is too low for its 4 seater spacing and little cargo space.

I think their plan is $10k discount through utilities. They offer this in all significant EV markets. So it is really a $34k car.

The last few articles titles of this site are overall very negative and not very constructive. Please change your tone to a more constructive one else I will find my information elsewhere

Hi Olaf, I have written a few articles lately on major automakers making their progress in the EV market, they just so happen to appear all at the same time on this site. I am by no means a lover of negativity, my blog’s motto is “It’s too late to be a pessimist”, I always see the glass half full.

I mainly aim at teasing those companies for their late and inconsistent efforts, but it’s not all bad news, absolutely. More articles are coming and it’s not all of the same. Stay tuned. 😉

With EV’s being what? Less than 1% of the worldwide market it’s absurd to call anyone “ late to market” I do not understand the mentality of writing these articles. It just seems dumb.

I do not think it’s an unwise move for other manufactures to allow Tesla to appear to be the bellwether in the EV market with current technology that’s probably obsolete in a decade or so.

i’m really concerned about BMW!
“BMW Group expects record sales this year as it reported a 5.3 percent rise in 2017 operating profit on surging demand for high-margin SUVs, helping to offset higher research spending.”
😉

I think they are doing fine, as they aren’t likely to have quite as deep a pool of resources as most of the other players. They’ve made a name for themselves as a forward thinking company, but I’m of the opinion that they can’t afford too many “loss-leaders” at one time.

Historically, being right in terms of technology is no guarantee of success

“Edison and Tesla. At the end of the nineteenth century, there was the so-called War of currents: on the one hand Edison (and his company of the same name) fiercely defended the direct current and, on the other hand, the Westinghouse Company, where Tesla made a fundamental contribution, by alternating current. Who won? The alternating current. And who was rich and famous? Edison. His company also gave rise to the giant General Electric. What about Tesla? He died practically in penury. Historically, being right in terms of technology is no guarantee of success.”

Westinghouse used AC before Tesla contributed his advancements…

More importantly, such a comparison makes little sense: Edison was first and foremost a businessman; Tesla was the epitome of a mad scientist. They weren’t really competitors — they were not even playing the same game.