German automaker BMW Group is prepping for its next move into electric mobility, announcing that it is investing €200million into the Munich plant where it plans to produce its new i4 EV in 2021.
Development of the group’s headquarters in Munich, which employs 8,000 staff rolling 1,000 (total) ICE and hybrid 3 and 4 series as well as M4 coupés off the line per day, will begin in 2019 and will involve integration of the EV production line with its current ICE and hybrid vehicle assembly.
We are #investing up to 200 Million euros to prepare our #Munich plant for the #production of the @BMW #i4#Investment #BMWi @bmwi #BMW #BMWGroup #Innovation #electrified #next100 #fullyelectric #emobility #ElectricVehicles pic.twitter.com/qDLowLOoek
— BMW Group (@BMWGroup) December 11, 2018
Although ICE and EV production differ considerably – both drivetrain and architecture of the bodies are fundamentally different – BMW is preparing to integrate both lines not side-by-side, but in-line.
“Integrating an all-electric vehicle into an existing production system during production is a real Herculean task,” said plant chief Robert Engelhorn in a statement to the press (translated from German).
For example, the high-voltage accumulator (battery) of the BMW i4 in bodywork requires an almost completely independent floor assembly including rear triangle. The task of the planning specialists is to design the complexly linked production lines so that the more than 1,000 robots can not only produce the bodies of the BMW 3 Series, 4 Series and M4 every minute, but also the special body of the BMW i4.
“A future-proof production system has the highest degree of flexibility in order to be able to react to fluctuations in volume and market developments that are not yet foreseeable today,” says Engelhorn.
It would appear BMW is hedging its bets, despite its demonstration recently that in Europe as well as its home country of Germany, it is to date undisputably leader of the local EV market.
But transition can take time, and BMW is adamant that if it is going to do it, it is going to do it well, with the wellbeing of its factory workers in mind.
“With this, we are making this plant a genuine future project for the BMW Group,” says Engelhorn.
“Integrating the BMW i4 into our existing structures requires planning excellence, innovation and creativity.”
The i4 will be the next model in the i series, that BMW Group is promoting as its number one driver of innovation.
Specs and pricing for the i4 are thin on the ground to date, although BMW chief Harald Krüger confirmed at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show that it would be based on the concept iVision Dynamics that was unveiled at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show.
Robert Irlinger, the head of BMW’s i division, hinted that the production i4 would not differ greatly from the iVision Dynamics, saying, “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.
If the specs are included in that sentence, that means the i4 could have a range of up to 600km, a top speed of 193km/hr and acceleration from 0-100km/hr in around 4 seconds.
BMW is also making plans to put its cutting-edge EV concept the iNext into production in 2021 as well as start producing its new plug-in hybrid, the 330e, which will be available from mid-2019.
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.