Should BMW Make An Electric i1?

MAY 31 2015 BY STAFF 45

The idea of having an all-electric counterpart to cars like the Smart, Toyota Aygo, Citroen C1, Peugeot 108 or Nissan Micra certainly has its supporters, but at the same time, the electric cars aficionados often negate the need of an electric vehicle sitting below the already fairly small i3.

While BMW is likely to size up their electric vehicles range, in order to compete with the likes of Tesla and other upcoming EVs, the idea of a smaller i1 is not that far fetched. There is a niche market for those type of cars which, if sold at a good price, can become popular in large cities. So we decided to look at five reasons why a “tiny EV” would not make sense for BMW in the near future.

*Editor’s Note: This post appears on BMWBLOG. Check it out here.

BMW i1 Rendering

BMW i1 Rendering

1. Can a small all-electric vehicle also be luxurious and drive well?

Getting the electric components and luxury materials combined with great driving dynamics can be achieved. BMW has already proven this with the new i3 and the next generation i3 is likely to improve upon that even more. But putting together a similar package in a smaller car could be a daunting task. Now you have a much smaller frame and cockpit, so less room to play your magic and reduced possibilities. You also need to fit a smaller battery, which in the end might not be a bad thing since the range could remain constant if the weight of the vehicle is lower than the i3.

The second issue with a tiny EV is driving dynamics. The i3 is already light on its feet and shakes quite a bit when hit with high-winds, so a smaller EV would be even more challenging to drive on highways. But if BMW would launch on i1, then the car would certainly be targeted mostly at in-city driving which can create additional problems on its own. BMW i’s core values also stand for great driving dynamics, a phrase emphasized by BMW with every chance they get, so going the Smart route, the marketing slogan of “sheer driving pleasure” would need to be adjusted.

2. Range

The electric range should provide an advantage for BMW over its competition – whether petrol, diesel or electric. The new small EV should definitely allow you to travel up to past 120 kilometers in the city which might make for a great city tax or Uber car. Add some fast charging capabilities it and you could see such a car in public car fleets. Parking would also be easier, especially on those Italian and Greek alleys.

3. Performance

Certainly not the first thing that pops to mind when buying such a car, but with the lowered weight and a low center mass the car could be quite a sprinter. Floor that pedal, let the torque kick in immediately and you can run the streets like you’re in the Italian Job movie. The electric motors combined with the battery packs in the floor of the vehicle could certainty give it go-kart like performance. While its size doesn’t warranty great speeds while cornering, it could prove to be a tough pill to swallow for many of the today’s sports car models. We’re thinking under 7.0 seconds for the acceleration from 0-62mph (0-100km/h) times and even quicker on the 10-40 mph range than the i3.

4. Design

Many have praised the BMW i3 and its design overall. On the other hand, this would be an even smaller package. But starting fresh with a blank piece of paper, BMW designers could certainly put together an attractive car that not only looks “cute” but also sporty.

5. Pricing

This is where it gets tricky for the new model. What price should be set for the new model? While the car should definitely serve as a second or even third vehicle in the garage, it should be fairly inexpensive to purchase. We’re thinking somewhere between 15,000 – 20,000 Euros and BMW would get even younger drivers in their cars. And your wallet won’t feel too bad for having so many cars in your garage.

In true fairness to the current model range, we already have the BMW i3, which by U.S. standards is already considered a small vehicle. The BMW i3 can fit four people and some luggage, it offers a beyond city range so it fits the needs of most electric vehicles customers.

Would a two-seater electric BMW find some loyal customers? No doubt. Will the be enough to justify the high development cost? Only BMW has the answer to that question.

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45 Comments on "Should BMW Make An Electric i1?"

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this article is directed to a european audience as bmw would never export such a car to the US. as such, 15,000-20,000 euros sounds kind of expensive for an “inexpensive” small car in europe.

There is a market for EV’s outside of the US.

i’m not questioning that there is a market for *EVs outside of the US, what i am stating is that if you read the article, it is clearly targeted toward a european audience and not toward a U.S. audience. that is significant because if you look at this car from a U.S. perspective it would probably seem largely impractical, but it is more likely to seem more practical from a european perspective.

Everyone expect a car to seat at least 4 passengers. This BMW i1 which may seat only 2 passengers will never sell or will sell in such a low volume that the company may never get the ROI. I saw the BMW i3 in auto show in all sides. Its a very small car with very little trunk space. Smaller than that – NO.

Ideally they should go for i5 which is somewhat bigger than i3 and may seat 5-6 passengers.

I think first one should ask if a microcar fits the BMW image. Does BMW plan to make a microcar? I see BMW in the past made the Isetta, but so far as I know, they don’t currently make anything that small.

However, it does appear that BMW is seriously considering making a very small car… not sure if this quite qualifies as a microcar, but it’s certainly a very small coupe:

Anyway, my point is that if BMW plans to make a microcar or a very small car, then talking about an EV microcar makes sense. But if they don’t have serious plans for that, then it makes no sense. The era when most EVs were restricted to the microcar category is the past, not the future of the EV revolution.

I disagree, in the future threre will be EVs in every segment. So while EV are not longer restricted regarding class, there still will be a smart EVs or other electric microcars in the future.

It’s odd that you say you disagree, then post something which in no way whatsoever disagrees with my post.

I agree with Rex. They need an i5 way before they need an i3. Make it a dual electric motor CUV and people might actually buy it

Sorry. I meant before they needed and i1.

I am so tired of hearing the term “City Car” In America we don`t have just city cars our country is so large. If a “City Car” can`t travel from one city to another it really is a waste of money.

So what. Thats 30% of the market, leaving another 70% for sell.

I also don’t understand that weird notion of city car, as if you body size was getting smaller when you enter a city. Does the notion of city shoes even exist? No because if you have one size of shoes it is for the city as well as for the country. And if they mean that you don’t need a valid crumple zone in the city, well think again, risks there are at least as high as on a country road and people don’t stick to speed limits in the city neither.

It may be amusing or perhaps occasionally interesting to reflect on English usage, where the literal meaning of a word or phrase often does not not matching its use. For example, we park in driveways but drive on parkways.

But complaining about it is even more pointless than swimming upstream. The lack of consistency regarding English labels predates the automobile revolution by centuries. Not much chance of changing that now.

There are cities in the Americas where an 8′ 8″ long car fits barely between driveways, but an 8′ 9″ car will get ticketed and towed. These are also cities where the average personal income is around $75K and their housing doesn’t come with parking, so street parking is the only option. These are the BMW i1 potential customers.

Even the Smart Fortwo has a length of 8′ 10.1″, according to the website.

I simply don’t believe your assertion about public parking spaces restricted to cars less than 8′ 9″ long.

Here you go:

Crazy short space, along with super passive aggressive note. 🙂

Some jerk leaving a note on a windshield is a long way from evidence that a city will ticket and tow your car if it’s as long as or longer than a Smart car.

Let alone multiple “cities”, as you claimed.

you’re joking about this, right? i mean, there are times when the neighboring driveways are too close together or when they put curb cuts too close together (i guess so that wheelchair traffic can simultaneously cross the street in each direction) such that you end up with a “space” that is usable, at best, only for motorcycles. there is no such thing as an 8’8″ parking space for an automobile, at least not in the U.S.

I don’t think he’s joking, I think he’s trolling. Trying to see just how much bilge water we’ll swallow.

They could make a lower silhouette 2 door coupe version of the i3, and it’d look nice with that rendering, but it would probably be called the i4.

I could see a 2 seat car Like in the z4 roadster category, but I don’t see them building a micro car… besides they already own Mini Cooper.

Yes I agree the Mini would be a better fit, see :

These are All *forced* “HALF Baked” FAKE Efforts From The “ICE” Companies to Show they’re In. They’re 0nly Going Through the Motions., They’re all in BED With BIG OIL, & Can’t Care Less About “EV’s”! They Won’t come up with Functional EV Because, (1)they Cut Corners and Don’t Have their Heart in it,…Their Heart Is 0n “ICE”.((PUN INTENDED))……(2)They’re Only PRETENDING to want build “EV’s to Fool The Public & To Point Out & to Prove That EV’s have Too many RANGE & Other Disadvantages., Hence Discouraging EV’s (3)…CONCLUSION…The Last Thing The
“ICE Companies Want To Do Is Build A “Practical” “EV” & Break Their 100yr. Plus, Loyalty Bond, With BIG OIL. They & God 0nly Know what They Stand to Loose…NOT SMALL POATOES!

Be Patient. More range is comming 🙂

Cars in these small sizes will more likely come from the Mini brand (BMW subsidiary) in my opinion.

An i1 is certainly possible but there would be overlap with Mini models (given the i3’s small size, as others pointed out).

I wish they would make that MINI Superleggaria Vision concept as a pure EV.

That Shark fin and the Union Jack taillights made it awesome. Something James Bond . . . or, more likely, Austin Powers could drive. 😉

This article is clearly written from an American viewpoint. In Europe the i3 falls in the supermini category, which is a very large segment of the market. But smaller cars (not as small as the Aygo, or smart) like the 107 are quite popular too. So manufacturers should start making cars for this market. Currently there is 1 model available: the e-UP, but it’s range is also quite limited.
I don’t see why ‘city cars’ should get lower ranges than non city cars. The fact that they are mostly driving in cities doesn’t mean people won’t want the range of a Leaf or more when they leave that city. Only very few people buy a car just to drive in the city, and in that case Twizy might be a better option.

Is there fully enclosed version of Twizy?

Cause all those open Twizys I’ve seen are good for 1/2 of Europe only.. 😉

Yes and no. There is a version of the Twizy will full doors and windows, but according to the review linked below (photo included) it’s not watertight, so still doesn’t have a real car’s passenger cabin:

While not 100% watertight, it will keep you almost completely dry. I’ve driven it in the rain and I can’t say I got wet.

I had a 1961 Morgan which was the same. Great in the sunshine.

The i3 isn’t that small. it is narrow but not uncomfortably small. It is about the same size as a 1 series, yes I know it has one less seat but it is a bit niche and BMW probably wanted to make it super efficient for brand reasons hence the long thin shape. The i brand is all cutting edge stuff so all the arguments here about mass market, IMO, don’t make a lot of sense. The i1 would probably be a single seater or a one at the front one at the back job. Maybe a 3 seater? Don’t know, but it would have to stand out and be very very high tech. I think what most people here want is a BEV 1 series, a conventional small electric car that sells in large numbers, costs comparitivly little and has a longer range. My geuss is that this will not come from a luxury brand like BMW or tesla but from GM or Nissan. Once BMW starts loosing sales to those brands the 1 series bev will appear, just like the i3 followed the leaf and the i8 followed the model s. If nissan brings out the 30 kWh… Read more »

To sum up:

Everything better.
And cheaper.


Should BMW make a new electric car, any electric car?

Absolutely yes!

And an electric motorcycle.

If it’s going to be *super* small, instead if the i1, they should call the it he i^2, which would actually be -1.

Going lower than the already, unable to seat five, BMW i3 is not in demand. Let’s forget about sub i3 and focus on the clearly needed i5. A 5 series with conventional seating and aspect but the i3 system inside.

Too bad no other company is proposing that because it would really skyrocket in the market. I could personally convince at least 27 persons on such a car that I know off right there.

Yes, they will need to make one someday. But No, they shouldn’t build one right now as their next car. ICE cars come in a vast array of sizes and shapes for a reason. It is because there is a market for them all. EV’s/PHEV’s will someday have to offer an alternative to every ICE car size and shape. But right now the biggest bang for the gas-saving buck is the SUV/CUV market, and 4-5 door passenger cars. These use more gas than 2-3 door small cars, and sell more cars in the US where drivers drive more miles per year than the EU. BMW needs to work on these three things (in this order): 1) Work with CARB to fix the dangerous BEVx-induced flaws with the US version of the i3 REX. This can be so much better a car with a few fixes. Also increase the battery range. 200 is the new 100. 2) 3-Series based PHEV which then is developed into a pure EV with battery advancements. The PHEV needs to have a target of 70-80% miles per year in EV mode 3) CUV/SUV based PHEV which then is developed into a pure EV with battery advancements.… Read more »

“The PHEV needs to have a target of 60-70% miles per year in EV mode.”

The Volt already achieves that. All that is necessary to achieve a majority of electric-powered miles is that the battery pack be big enough.

I hope to see 90%+ electric miles in PHEVs, and I hope that is achieved soon. Even the Volt’s battery pack isn’t large enough to satisfy me. Here’s hoping that along with 150+ mile BEVs, we’ll start seeing 70+ mile PHEVs.

Lensman — Yup, I totally agree with your entire post. I’m giving BMW an intentionally low target, since GM has already been able to achieve it for nearly half a decade with the Volt, so BMW should be able to match that.

The Volt like the i3 needs five seats like the Model S with no battery between the legs of the middle seater. The Volt also lack the range of the i3 which should be increased to 100 miles by the way since that would achieve 95% electric driving. The i3 need to grow in size and get rid of that luxury pollution and subsequent price contamination. The Rex need to be improve to a much more compact shoebox sized free direct piston generator like the one of Toyota.
That is the car that is needed and that we keep not seeing coming on the market. An affordable 100 miles ev with a compact Rex and seating five with no luxury leader, wood and exaggerated e stuff. A car able to replace 95 % of all the petrol cars around.

Uh . . . sure . . . and don’t let it look so goofy . . . I mean ‘polarizing’ . . . as the i3.

I would much rather see BMW develop a longer range battery for the existing i3, than to develop an even smaller EV. While I think there may be a market for this i1 in the EU, I believe a 5-seat EV with more range would do much better in the US.

The 22KWh battery and 28hp REx in the i3 are both woefully inadequate for most US driving conditions. A battery with 200 miles of range is needed badly for the i3 in the US.

BMW’s motorcycle division should build an enclosed trike like this.

In 2010 they rode this around the world too! Averaged 100 Wh/mi, from the wall (less than 80 Wh/mi at the wheel), at 50 mph average.

The Vectrix drivetrain, in the TREV, was OK, but pales in comparison to what Zero is doing now. An 18 kWh Zero setup would take you a real 200 miles, as proven by ElectricTerry.

Built in quantity these could sell for $20K with no government subsidies. Now that could be truly disruptive, getting Americans out of their cars, and out of debt!

“The Vectrix drivetrain, in the TREV, was OK…”

Using a DC motor in a conversion vehicle may be “okay”, but every production EV since the GM EV1 has used an AC motor with a modern, efficient inverter. Electric drivetrains using cheap DC motors are no longer part of the EV revolution; they’re now part of the past.

The Vectrix motor in the TREV is a brushless, permanent magnet, electronically commutated motor, as is Zero, BMW C Evolution, YASA, UQM, and many more.

You may want to tell Monster Tajima he has chosen cheap motors that are now part of the past. lol