BMW has commenced manufacturing of its new i4 electric coupé in Munich as it works towards electrification at the plant and takes a step towards what it no doubt hopes will rival electric pioneer Tesla’s Model 3.
Using existing production equipment with special additions for high-voltage assembly, the i4 – which is due in Australia in early 2022 – is being made alongside the BMW 3 Series and 4 Series gran coupés.
Priced from $99,900 before on-roads in Australia, the long-range premium electric sedan forms one bookend, along with the upcoming iX, to a range of 13 electric vehicles planned by the German carmaker that it will launch by 2023. In Australia, it will at first be available in the “entry-level” eDrive40 as well as the M50 priced from $124,990 before on-roads.
According to BMW, it has calculated that owning an i4 will cost 30% than owning a combustion engine equivalent and expects these savings will entice BMW drivers to make the switch.
The vehicle is the first electric vehicle to be built using the carmaker’s Neue Klasse platform, leading a new generation of vehicles based on a completely new architecture is being “uncompromisingly geared towards electric drives,” according to the BMW management.
In making the BMW i4 in Munich, it also becomes the poster child for BMW’s sustainability initiatives: not only has BMW Group been using green electricity worldwide since last year, it wants to make its Munich logistics and transport completely emissions-free.
For the production of the BMW i4, among other things, the BMW Group has signed direct purchase agreements with regional hydropower plants, as it did for the iX at the Dingolfing plant, while the company is aiming to increase the number of cars leaving the plant by train and replacing its 750-strong truck fleet with electric trucks.
The company says it has also reduced resource consumption and emissions associated with the manufacture of its vehicles: resources have been cut by half between 2006 and 2020, while CO2 emissions have fallen 78 per cent. By 2030, the company aims to further reduce emissions by another 80%.
The company has invested 200 million Euros ($A309 million) in integrating the BMW i4 into the existing assembly lines. In the body shop of the plant, around 90 percent of the existing production facilities can also be used for the BMW i4.
Additional systems are only occasionally required for the manufacture of the floor assembly – where the battery resides – and the rear end.
Making BMW’s Munich factory electric-focussed will not mean halting production of internal combustion engines; instead, a new vehicle assembly and a new body shop will be built and engine construction will be relocated to other locations in the carmaker’s production network by 2024, such as that for the four-cylinder units in Hams Hall in Great Britain and Steyr in Austria.
The i4 four-door electric coupé is fitted with a 80.7kWh battery (gross 83.9kWh)which offers up to 590 kilometres (WLTP) driving range for the eDrive40, using 16 to 20kWh every 100 kilometres. By comparison, the M50 has a range of 510 kilometres (also WLTP) and uses 19 to 24 kWh of energy.
The powerful M50 will smoke most combustion engine vehicles at the lights, accelerating from 0 to 100 km/h in under 3.9 seconds. It will also engage “sport boost” mode, which delivers a maximum torque of 795Nm if high power is required for more than 10 seconds. The eDrive40, which is less powerful, can sprint to 100 km/hr in 5.7 seconds.
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.