German carmaker BMW has unveiled its next step in electrification with a glimpse of the i4 concept, foreshadowing the release of a production version in 2021.
In line with other premium automakers, 2020 promises to be a pivotal year in BMW’s electrification strategy, which includes a target of 15-25% of sales to be either battery electric or plug-in hybrid by 2025.
The unveiling of the i4 was originally intended for the 2020 Geneva Motor Show, which has now been cancelled to help arrest spread of the coronavirus.
The show’s cancellation has driven carmakers to take instead to digital releases, with BMW one of the first to do so.
The German carmaker first revealed specifications in November of what will become a core model in BMW’s move to electrification, claiming a driving range of more than 600km/hr (WLTP) from its 80kWh battery.
With a combined output of 390kW from its two electric motors (a similar output to the company’s V8 engines), its top speed is limited to 200 km/hr.
Now, further details are revealed about the i4, which falls between a Series 3 and a Series 5 in terms of size and forms BMW’s first real challenge to the supremacy of the Tesla Model 3.
Its style refers to the original iVision Dynamics concept presented in 2017, and is a sign of things to come for BMW’s future electrified models, a clear divergence from the carmaker’s first electric car, the i3.
“The BMW Concept i4 brings electrification to the core of the BMW brand,” said Adrian van Hooydonk, senior VP for BMW Group Design in a statement.
“The design is dynamic, clean and elegant. In short: a perfect BMW that happens to be zero emission.”
With its tapered lines and fastback profile echoing the 4 Series coupe revealed at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show, the gran coupé silhouette seeps dynamic style.
The double “kidney bean” grille, as on BMW’s autonomous Vision iNext concept unveiled in 2018, attracts (or repels, it depends) the eye, with angular shapes and massive proportions giving a nod to pre-war BMW models, albeit with a modern design.
“The design of the BMW Concept i4 shows fantastic proportions, a powerfully expressive character and, of course, a lot of attention to detail,” said Domagoj Dukec, head of BMW Desig in a statement.
Naturally, the grille’s purpose is not to cool the engine, but to be, according to the brand, a “smart panel” which brings together the many sensors allowing this BMW to offer the driver numerous driving assist functions.
Inside, drivers are presented with a wide screen curved display that is more digital device than automotive nobs and dials.
“With the BMW Curved Display, we have redefined BMW’s signature driver focus in an extremely elegant way. At the same time, the BMW Concept i4 transports a feeling of sustainable driving pleasure,” says Dukec.
The display offers “visualisations” of driving experience modes (“Core”, “Sport” and “Efficient”) which differ in display format with various configurations of widgets such as maps and other specific functions.
The BMW i4 is slated for a launch in the first half of 2021, and will share its fifth generation eDrive technology with the iX3, which will enter production by the end of this year in Shenyang, China.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.