BMW to expand i range

BMW is set to expand its BMW i division's range as a drop-top i8 Roadster, longer-range i3 and i3 REX, and iNext model are confirmed to be in the pipeline. The news was announced at the company's annual accounts press conference, along with a statement revealing plans for a plug-in hybrid Mini.

The model we know most about is the i8 Roadster which has been around in a couple of concept form - most recently as a technology demonstrator with no doors. An i8 Spider concept was first shown in 2012, previewing a convertible version of the advanced supercar.

The powertrain is almost certain to mirror that of the i8 coupé which will see a 1.5 litre three cylinder petrol engine work with a 96 kW electric motor for a zero-emission range of 22 miles, 135 MPG and emissions recorded at 49 g/km CO2. A top speed of 155mph and 0-62mph sprint completed in 4.4 seconds round out the eco-supercar credentials.

BMW's i3 is also due for a refresh with increased range thanks to a larger capacity battery. It's unclear whether this will remain available in both pure-electric and range-extender models, but it is presumed to be the case. This improved i3 will be available by the end of 2016, by which time the company's recently announced i Performance will reportedly have seven models, including the plug-in versions of the 2-Series Active Tourer, 3-Series, X5 and forthcoming 7-Series.

The press conference revealed almost no details of the iNext, apart from the fact that it is being worked on. According to BMW it will set the standards for future technologies, bringing together "a new generation of electric mobility, lightweight construction and trailblazing interior design that will set new standards for the customer's mobility experience".

Following on from the recent reveal of the Vision Next 100 at BMW's centenary celebrations, the iNext is sure to bristle with technology as it takes the company into the next decade. This is backed up by the announcement of Project i 2.0, the next step in BMW's e-mobility work.

Project i 2.0 will look at bringing automated and fully networked driving technologies to market, with a focus on high definition maps, sensor technology, cloud connectivity and artificial intelligence. The company joined with Audi and Daimler at the end of last year to buy mapping firm Here, so BMW already has access to some of the most comprehensive high definition mapping around.

There was a mention of BMW's hydrogen fuel cell technology too with current test vehicles able to cover 435 miles, and a statement that a variety of drivetrains will exist alongside each other in future. This, in the long term, is likely to see both electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles - EVs for shorter distances and HCVs for long and heavy duty journeys - though BMW hasn't written off the internal combustion engine yet. This was confirmed by the Efficient Dynamics Next programme that is continuing to develop engines to become as efficient as possible.

Finally, BMW looks set to expand into the luxury SUV market in the shape of the X7, though no statement on whether it will feature a plug-in hybrid drivetrain like the X5 was made. This would come in at the lower end of the luxury SUV scale, with BMW-owned Rolls Royce having already confirmed that it is set to put an SUV into production. Likewise, no information was forthcoming about the Mini PHEV beyond the fact that it is planned in the next few years.

Chris Lilly

Author:Chris Lilly
Date Updated:16th Mar 2016

Related news