German car maker BMW has launched the new iX3 electric car, and for the first time has brought electric to within its core brand, boasting a bigger battery and a bigger driving range to go with it.
The iX3 – unveiled in a global webinar event on Tuesday evening (Australian time) is expected to be the first of five new pure electric options to be unveiled by BMW, including the BMW i4 and the BMW iNEXT, both of which will come in 2021.
The iX3 is due to arrive in Australia in mid 2021, and pricing and equipment levels won’t be released until closer to the local launch date.
The biggest difference between BMW’s first electric offering – the i3 and its successor, the i3s – and the newly launched iX3 is that the latest pure electric actually looks like a BMW car. In fact, it is the electric version of the X3.
The i3, first launched in 2013, had the BMW finish, and the BMW grille, but it always appeared to be more of a gesture towards electric cars rather than an embrace.
That has now changed. It has had to.
Tesla has taken off with its own range of pure electric cars, and its share price, and legacy car makers find themselves forced to catch up. In Europe, the pressure is also on to conform to tight new emissions regulations, and billions are being invested to develop their own electric drive trains.
BMW has already launched the electric Mini, and now it is focusing on its main brand. The new IX3 features the fifth-generation BMW eDrive technology. It has more powerful high-voltage batteries and a 460km range, the company says (WLTP test cycle).
BMW says the launch of the iX3 also represents a significant leap forward in what it calls its ‘Power of Choice’ strategy, meaning that it will offer combustion, hybrid and fully-electric power-train options for the first time in the BMW X3 Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV).
The company says the car integrates key components including electric engine, power electronics and transmission in a central housing. This progressive solution reduces installation space and mass of the drive technology relative to output while adding flexibility for fitting the powertrain to other variants.
The power density of the electric motor in the BMW iX3 is 30 per cent greater than that of existing fully electric vehicles from the BMW Group and exhibits efficiency of up to 93 per cent. This is in stark contrast to efficiency figures of just under 40 per cent for combustion engines.
BMW says the new drive system unit generates maximum output of 210kW and peak torque of 400Nm which, unlike with many other electric motors, is sustained at high revs.
It will get from 0 to 100km/h in 6.8 seconds, which puts it on equal footing with the conventionally powered BMW X3 xDrive30i. Top speed is electronically limited to 180km/h.
When using AC terminals, it can do single-phase and three-phase charging at up to 11kW, and can charge at a rate of up to 150kW in a DC fast-charging station.
A Smart Wallbox will be made available through various partners depending on the market. It can be integrated into an existing home power management system, enabling record-keeping of energy expenditure for home charging.
The extra weight and the position of the battery means the centre of gravity is around 7.5 centimetres lower compared with its conventionally powered BMW X3 siblings. BMW says this results in noticeably enhanced lateral dynamics.
BMW says its new strategy will see the company embrace electric, source all its external power from renewale energy, cut emissions in its supply chain – particularly with cell suppliers to its car batteries (they also have to use renewables) – and it says it will beat the EU vehicle emissions targets because of this.
Still, BMW sees this as an evolution rather than an evolution. It expects 25 per cent of its models to have electric option next year, 33 per cent by 2025, and 50 per cent by 2050. That’s way outside some of the more bullish scenarios for the transition to electric mobility.