We had heard rumors that BMW had initiated a project to come up with a direct rival for the Volkswagen ID.3 and other electric hatchbacks in the same class. That model was going to end up being called the i1, but according to a recent German media report, the Bavarian automaker has pulled the plug on the project, in order to focus more on developing larger electric sedans and SUVs.
The i1 would have eventually been a replacement for the highly popular i3; the latter won’t get a direct replacement, but the i1 would have been roughly the same size, even if a completely different (more conventional) vehicle. Granted, it would have been a more expensive proposition than the Volkswagen, but even with the price premium, Europeans would still probably have bought it.
Now, Automobilwoche informs us that BMW has ceased development of the i1 because such a model precisely because it would have only really been suitable for Europe, but not other important markets such as North America or China (where SUVs and large sedans respectively are far more popular and would provide far better return on investment for the automaker).
According to the same source article, BMW hasn’t completely abandoned the idea of launching a new small EV. It is now reportedly working on a slightly larger i2 EV sedan, although development work on said model is not very advanced - the source indicates that this model just exists ‘ on paper ‘ right now.
It may very well be a fully-electric version of the 2 Series long wheelbase (only sold in China right now), or it could be a completely different model based on different underpinnings. We’ll just have to wait and see which solution BMW goes for, if this project does move past the ‘ on paper ‘ stage.
BMW will still reportedly launch an iX1 compact electric crossover. It will basically be a BEV version of the X1 ICE crossover, similar to what the iX3 is to the X3. To us, this idea of abandoning the compact hatch but going forward with a high-riding model with a similar footprint is very similar to what another (rival) German automaker did.
You may remember that before we even knew the EQA was going to be a crossover, Mercedes-Benz first previewed that model with a hatchback, an electric version of the A-Class. However, the EQA hatchback was dropped very very similar reasons (mainly that crossovers are just more popular these days) and the EQA became the electric version of the GLA.