Unveiled within the fuselage of a cargo plane at New York’s JFK airport, BMW’s newest electric car concept, the Vision iNEXT, has set the scene for how the German automaker would like to describe the future: an intelligent, autonomous, electric SUV.
It’s no secret that SUVs are increasingly gaining market share, while carmakers are investing more and more resources on electric vehicle technologies – and this concept from BMW encapsulates both these aspects.
BMW AG board member and Head of Development Klaus Fröhlich, says the focus is on the possibilities offered by the integration of these technologies.
“With this in mind, we have designed the BMW Vision iNEXT fully electric as a mobile environment that enhances the quality of life in which we can relax. Indeed, all BMW’s efforts will continue to focus on people in the future,” he said in a statement.
It’s definitely a step up from BMW’s current electric offerings, the BMW i3 and BMW i8, and in more than just the futuristic exterior modelling.
BMW’s design focus is on showcasing the iconic features of the German luxury car brand – the signature ‘four eyes’ and prominent grille, which instead of serving a purpose of cooling a combustion engine, instead houses under it’s 3D printed design an “intelligence panel” housing various sensors.
These sensors allow two driving modes: where drivers can either drive themselves in “Boost” mode, or be driven in “Ease” mode.
While in Boost mode, the driver can enjoy the silent driving experience that comes with an electric powertrain, while in Ease mode, the driver becomes passenger and gets to enjoy the interior space which has been designed with a range of activities in mind.
Which mode is chosen defines the content of the large interior screens, and if the autonomous Ease mode is active, the steering wheel retracts.
As a signpost for BMW’s electric future, the Vision iNEXT expands upon earlier announcements this year, including the intention to release an all-electric MINI Countryman in late 2019.
BMW’s next step, it says, is to bring to market the iX3 concept which was first unveiled at the Auto China 2018 show in Beijing in earlier this year.
The iX3 will be produced in China, and will boast a vastly improved range of 400km and a 200kW battery. BMW says this model will be ready for production as early as 2020.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.