BMW has confirmed the next car in its ‘i’ range will be the i4, a four-door coupe that’ll slot in between the i3 hatchback and i8 sports car. Expected in 2020, the i4 will also be the brand’s first all-electric saloon.
At the 2018 Geneva Motor Show, Harald Krüger, BMW CEO, indicated production would go ahead. “At last year’s Frankfurt Motor Show, we unveiled our take on the future of e‑mobility with the BMW iVision Dynamics,” he said. “This vehicle will become reality: we will build it in Munich – as the BMW i4.”
The iVision Dynamics concept was on display at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show, and has a similar silhouette to BMW’s Gran Coupe cars. According to BMW, the production version of the car, which has been named the i4, will be one of 12 new all-electric models it plans to launch by 2025.
The iVision Dynamics concept car represented an evolution of the design language featured on the BMW i8 and i3, with fewer contrasting colours for the body panels and smoother surfaces. Features like the large outline of the kidney grille, thin LED headlights and elaborate rear lights have been inspired by the iNEXT concept shown off last year. Another striking feature was its full-length panoramic roof that stretches from the windscreen to the rear window.
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Robert Irlinger, the head of BMW’s i division, hinted that many of the concept’s design cues will be used in the styling of the production i4: “It’s a concept car but we have a good tradition at BMW i that the concept car and the later production car look the same. Yes, there’ll be some changes, but this car [the iVision Dynamics concept] is not far away.”
According to BMW, the iVision Dynamics has a range of up to 373 miles, and while its top speed of 120mph is probably pegged to preserve battery life, a 0-62mph acceleration time of around four seconds is more impressive.
Expected to arrive in 2020, the i4 will be a direct competitor to the Tesla Model 3, as well as plug-in hybrid models. It"s designed to attract environmentally conscious customers and savvy company-car drivers looking to save on Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax.
To achieve its impressive driving range between charging points, it’s likely to feature lightweight carbon-fibre construction. BMW has already invested heavily in the development of this material, which is currently used in the i8, i3 and BMW 7 Series saloon.
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BMW board member Ian Robertson told us: “Legislation means we’ll inevitably have more zero-emission cars and we’re exploring more i models.”
It’s also possible the i4 could follow a similar philosophy to the Hyundai Ioniq, which is available as a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or all-electric model with few external or internal differences. “[The] i [brand] is all about technology,” commented Robertson. “It’s seen as something different in countries other than the UK, where it seems to be more about the power source. But we have advanced technologies feeding into our other products, such as the carbon-fibre used throughout the 7 Series.”
Plug-in hybrid technology has already made appearances across the range, including in the rapid i8 and popular models like the BMW 3 Series saloon. “We’ll have i technology moving into our products from one side in the same way we have technology from our M cars moving in from the other,” added Robertson.
While the pioneering i8 plug-in hybrid sports car has had long waiting lists, the i3 hasn’t been a universal success, despite pockets of demand in California, Norway and the UK.
Robertson told us: “The i3 is working really well where there are government incentives. It’s working exceptionally well in Norway and California and the UK is okay. But Germany has a vision for one million EVs (electric vehicles) by 2020 and it’s looking at how countries such as Norway and the UK have worked with incentives to increase demand.”
Reading between the lines, it’s possible the BMW i4 will be timed to coincide with a programme of German incentives, while BMW may also need time to increase its battery performance for the range and packaging required for an SUV.
According to Robertson, BMW’s battery technology is “developing fast [with] steps made with lithium-ion and lithium-air” batteries. It’s possible the biggest leap will come with solid-state batteries, though. These are expected to be lighter, more compact and have greater power density than is currently possible.
The i4 should be on the road in 2020, giving BMW its first electric saloon car. It’s rumoured the i4 will feature level-three autonomous technology. allowing the car to take care of almost all driving functions.But the driver will still be able to take over when necessary or when they wish to do so.