BMW Future Electrification Plans Discussed at LA Auto Show

22 hours ago by Tom Moloughney 37

BMW i Vision Dynamics concept. The production version will launch in 2022. Will this be the last pure BMW i car?

What BMW’s electric future looks like, according to top brass.

Last week at the LA Auto show, BMW introduced the i8 Roadster and the i3s, both mid-cycle LCI refreshes. The new Sport version of the i3 had made its debut in Frankfurt this past September, but the i8 Roadster was indeed a world premiere.

The BMW i8 Roadster made its world debut at the 2017 LA Auto Show

However, the biggest BMW news coming out of LA wasn’t about a specific electric model. The real news is that BMW announced that they are changing their future vehicle architecture, abandoning dedicated electric vehicle platforms, and will instead use a new flexible vehicle architecture that will accommodate combustion, PHEV and full battery electric powertrains.

BMW’s new flexible architecture will accommodate ICE, PHEV and BEV powertrains.

This is a pretty significant change of direction for BMW. Previously BMW had stated that a dedicated platform was necessary to optimize efficiency, performance and interior space. Beginning in 2021, all new vehicles, including next generations of existing models will be produced in ICE, PHEV and full battery electric versions.

This news now explains how they will meet their previous announcement that they will offer 12 fully-electric vehicles by 2025. BMW currently only offers one fully electric car, the i3. In 2019 the MINI Electric will launch, and in 2020 the X3 BEV will hit showrooms. That means BMW will need to introduce nine more fully electric vehicles between 2021 and 2025. One of those cars will be the BMW i Vision Dynamics, scheduled to be available in 2022, but that still leaves eight more fully electric models to come.

2018 BMW i3s. Does the new direction in vehicle architecture mean there won’t be a 2nd generation i3? Photo credit: BMWBLOG

And, it might even still be nine more. That’s because it’s unclear whether the i3 survive BMW’s transition to the new flexible vehicle architecture? The i3 uses a dedicated platform, and BMW has now stated that they are moving away from such. Does this mean there will not be a second-generation BMW i3? I had the opportunity to ask the head of BMW i, Robert Irlinger that exact question at the LA Auto show, and he simply smiled and said, “We’ll see” – not exactly a ringing endorsement.

BMW’s flexible vehicle architecture means every model BMW makes will be available in ICE, PHEV and pure BEV

This means the i Vision Dynamics will likely be the last BMW to employ a dedicated platform, and the last car that is exclusively developed for BMW i. However, BMW i is far from being phased out. While the combustion engine and plug-in hybrid cars will be marketed and sold by BMW, the fully electric versions of every model BMW produces will be sold under the BMW i nameplate. BMW i will also continue to serve as an incubator for next-generation ideas, technology, and autonomous driving systems.

While this may sound like BMW is hedging their bet on electrification, you wouldn’t know that from their press conference at the show. It was all about electrification, in fact. Board member Klaus Froehlich took the stage and proclaimed, “For us, electric mobility is the new normal.” He continued to explain how they are going to fully electrify their entire lineup of vehicles, and no longer need dedicated platforms for the battery electric models, “For us, an end to specific vehicle concepts for electrification.”

BMW’s new flexible architecture incorporates skateboard-like design, not unlike a dedicated EV platform.

So BMW i won’t have a distinctive-looking lineup much longer. BMW i vehicles will look the same as conventionally-fueled BMWs, the only difference is that they will be all electric. Froehlich went on to explain how they will electrify their entire lineup of product offerings, “We are taking steps to enable us to build all model series with any type of drivetrain from 2021. Combustion, plug-in hybrid and fully battery electric, according to market demands.” In other words, their electric offerings will be regular BMWs, except with a plug and no tailpipe. That will undoubtedly be good news for many BMW fans who never warmed up to the i3’s unconventional styling.

BMW’s electric road map through 2025

But can this really be done without compromise? It’s been commonly accepted that while such variable platforms can work, they are never as good as a dedicated platform. Compromises are always needed to accommodate a variety of powertrains and removing the combustion engine from the front of a vehicle dramatically changes its performance in crashes. You can’t just remove such a large mass without re-engineering major structural components up front at the same time.

Will BMW’s new flexible architecture deliver cars that are equally as good regardless of which powertrain is employed? The jury is still out. They seem to be now taking a path to electrification that no other OEM has committed to. BMW certainly believes they can, and partly because of their new fully scalable, modular electric power system as seen in the BMW Group video above. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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38 responses to "BMW Future Electrification Plans Discussed at LA Auto Show"

  1. Alok says:

    Thanks Tom, very interesting.

    Definitely it will help with economies of scale.

    But what about the BEV (i Vision Dynamics based, or i5, or whatever) announced for 2021?
    Is it postponed to 2022? Or will there be another one in 2021 before this 2022 iVision Dynamics based BEV?
    2021 is already quite late, in my view…

    Thanks

    1. mx says:

      Yes, after driving an i3 my wife was ready to sign on for the i5, then, BMW dropped it. Sad.

    2. mx says:

      Yes, after driving an i3 my wife was ready to sign on for the i5, then, BMW dropped it. Sad.

    3. mx says:

      The i3 offers a nice REX solution.
      -Battery in the floor.
      -Carbon-Fiber construction.
      It would be a real disappointment if they lose the special carbon-fiber solution, and just stick with steel, they lose performance and efficiency down that road.

  2. John says:

    Let me guess- BMW plans to keep pumping out REX platforms, all the while continuing to spout off about offering ‘all electric’ platforms in “3-5 years from now..”

    Heard it before, it’s the typical response from every legacy manufacturer.

    1. mx says:

      The REX is the OPTIMAL real world solution.
      The gas engine is rarely used in the real world, and yet it offers you the complete freedom to not having to worry about finding broken chargers in distant locations.
      Let’s be real. A Pure EV solution won’t be optimal for at least 8 years in Europe, and 16 in the USA, and 32 world wide.

      1. Assaf says:

        @mx,

        Why stop there? BEVs won’t be practical in 128 years in Africa, 256 years in Australia, and 512 years in Kamtchatka!!!1111 🙂

        Meanwhile, the 125-mile eGolf, 140-mile ZOE and 150-mile Leaf are selling like hotcakes wherever they are offered en masse…

        1. ffbj says:

          Ha,Ha.
          Trouncing someone with their own logic.

      2. Mark.ca says:

        I don’t get that line of thinking coming from you, man. I thought you are smarter than that. There is no reason for rex and bev not to coexist, zero reasons! In fact, that will be the best way forward. A 2 car family to have a rex type of car and a pure ev will be a real world solution, RIGHT NOW, not in 10 or 100 years.

        1. Dan says:

          I think you’re in agreement with mx. Your comment sounds like you’re disagreeing with his Rex comment.

        2. mx says:

          I’m in complete agreement with this comment.
          For a one car family a REX is needed.
          For a two car family an EV i3, which is one second quicker and more efficient, would be Optimal.

          I just don’t want you “purists” to demand they drop the Best Hybrid Solution out there.

          1. Lawrence says:

            The Rex is in the same vein as a 300 mile range EV. Most people are fine with 100 miles of range but that extra is just in case you need it. Of course it’s preferable that someone doesn’t burn fossil fuels but really, I’m by far more concerned about the other 97% of the population out there than a Rex that occasionally burns gas to get somewhere far from home.

      3. David Murray says:

        Indeed. Some of these people don’t get what it is like living in areas that have little to no charging infrastructure. We had a Leaf for 5 years here in Texas and I think our charging infrastructure actually SHRANK during that time, rather than grew. Now the Leaf is gone and we have a Volt and i3 Rex. Both run as EVs 97% of the time. But at least we won’t be getting stranded now!

    2. WARREN says:

      Wake up, where have you been? BMW is certainly not typical in their plug on development efforts.

  3. John says:

    Oh and by the way, a company that rolls out a “World Premier” topless version of their 4-year old, overpriced and underperforming i8 doesn’t impress much..

    1. 2018 BMW i8 Roadster…. Almost better than a 2008 Tesla Roadster?

      1. Clive says:

        Nope the other way around

    2. Take a close look at the video. It shows an all electric i8 appearing with the fifth generation drivetrain. Probably in 2022.

  4. Big Show says:

    “They seem to be now taking a path to electrification that no other OEM has committed to.”
    Isn’t this the same (maybe slightly weaker) electrification plan that Volvo has already committed to?

  5. Pinewold says:

    To me this model makes sense when you do not know what the future holds! If every car coming off the line can be whatever the customer wants the risk of all in or not in is eliminated. Risk of compromised design is less than risk of miss timing the transition.

    As an EV advocate, it is sad that everybody is not all in on EV’s. My bet is BMW is severely punished next year for not having a 3 Series EV. They may loose more than 20% of the market if Tesla delivers Model 3 in volume next year.

  6. Stimpy says:

    I am highly skeptical that any “lowest common denominator” approach can compete with dedicated EV-only platforms such as those from Tesla. There are always going to be trade-offs.

    1. vdiv says:

      Right! Economies of scale versus honed performance… Doesn’t sound like BMW.

      1. mx says:

        Look at how the US Stock Market screams in pain with Tesla’s huge investments. Maybe BMW can’t get funded in the EU market.

  7. Assaf says:

    Rather disappointed with BMW’s electrification process thus far.

    4-5 years in, the i3 has remained a solitary unicorn, in a vehicle class that hard to define but definitely too small even for many Europeans and BMW fans.

    Their PHEVs seem to use the battery mostly as an acceleration booster, with rather pitiful electric-only ranges.

    And knowing that >90% of all automaker electrification plans arrive years behind schedule or get repeatedly cut, hearing that their next BEV is only slated for 2 years from now and again in a small vehicle class… well, I guess the EV revolution will do its 2nd generation mostly without BMW.

    1. Brian says:

      As the owner of a handful of BMWs best internal combustion vehicles (as well as a newly acquired i3) I have to say that many of my BMW-loving peers have not been convinced of the benefits of EVs. They see the market transition as inevitable, but want BMW to continue making the cars they are used to loving. News that BMW is not pushing hard ahead with its EV program is good news to them. Personally I am disappointed as I will need a replacement for the i3 in 3-4 years!

      1. Assaf says:

        @Brian thanks for the insider insight…

        Indeed, mercifully the broader population of car owners is a bit different from the subgroup of BMW owners, no offense intended 🙂

  8. ffbj says:

    I don’t think BMW needs to making plans for all the models they will have in 2025.
    I don’t think they really get it.

  9. James says:

    Flexibility sounds great. I think the Volt has proven how great it is to not need that charge unless the opportunity presents itself.

    The trick is to not make a platform that is a compromise as a gas car and also an EV. Just like so many products designed to multitask don’t perform as well as one designed to specialize.

    This seems such a risky plan for BMW as they built their business upon a performance message.

    1. Tom Moloughney says:

      You hit it on the head with “not to make a platform that is a compromise”. Can they do this without compromise? Other OEMs say no, but BMW say’s they can. We’ll know in about 5 – 7 years.

      This decision could be the biggest decision that BMW has made in recent history. It could turn out to be genius or it could sink the brand if what they get is a compromise for all their cars. A very bold, but risky move, IMO.

  10. Will says:

    After those models the last 8 i assume will be thier models with an electric car.

  11. Get Real says:

    Missed opportunity.

    Clean sheet PEVs using the skateboard design is where the future lies.

    If they just took the I3 approach and made all their platforms use the same approach of a skateboard platform using the battery pack as the floor and an optional drop-in REX for those who want more they would have a much less compromised design then stuffing batteries in the trunk.

    They can use more powerful REX engines and bigger gas tanks then the I3 to avoid the limitations that CARB put on them.

    They don’t even need to use carbon-fiber and could stick mainly with AL and high-strength steel.

  12. mtefre says:

    So BMW is going rely on in-house innovation to increase battery density, with a goal of up to 700 km range in 2022. Sounds like someone in the marketing department is scheduling engineering creativity with a timetable.

  13. Cv1221 says:

    Sounds like the longevity of the i3 is in the intensive care unit.

    “Is she gonna make it doc?”

    “We’ll see.”

    1. David Murray says:

      Spoiler.. she’s not going to make it. Turns out CFRP isn’t the way forward for affordable automobiles.

  14. ModernMarvelFan says:

    That is great! The more the merrier..

  15. Bill Howland says:

    I of course don’t know for sure, but sure sounds like BMW is ‘homogenizing’ their offerings.

    They started this when the MINI lost its distinctive look and now the interior looks like most BMWs.

  16. Merv says:

    It sounds like they’re hedging their bets because they are hedging their bets. I own a Chevy Volt and love it. But it’s a car of the present, not the future. By hedging their bets, BMW EVs of five years from now will be compromises, when they could be special. The silver lining is that they are moving away from the quirky EV paradigm epitomized by the i3 and the previous generation Leaf, and making them normal cars. But, they could have been better normal cars instead of compromised normal cars.

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