Last year, reports said that the BMW i3, which is doing strong volumes despite over 7 years old, will continue in the market for a few more years. According to a new report from Autocar.co.uk, when the all-electric hatchback goes out of production, the BMW 3 Series will likely borrow its name for the upcoming all-electric variant.
Two possibilities exist at this time for the future of the BMW i3 nameplate. The first-ever BMW 3 Series Electric based on the current generation (fashioned like the BMW iX3) inherits the name when it comes out in 2022. The second possibility is that the pure electric version of the next-gen BMW 3 Series, markedly differentiated from the ICE variant, arrives as the new BMW i3. The lifecycle of the next-gen BMW 3 Series would start around 2024, and the long delay would let the Tesla Model 3 extend its lead in the segment.
While the media continues speculating the nomenclature for the BMW 3 Series Electric, BMW testers are conducting road trials in Europe. In June, Autocar UK released spy images showing an almost identical design to the current 3 Series. The prototype didn’t have an ‘electric test vehicle’ sticker, but the lack of an exhaust tip and softly revised front and rear fascias strongly hinted that it was an early test mule of the zero-emissions 3 Series.
BMW is yet to confirm plans for a 3 Series Electric, but the Chinese media are aware of the future Bimmer for a while. What BMW has announced (above is a slide from an investor presentation from May 2020) is that 25 electrified models would launch by 2023, 13 of them pure-electrics. Following the iX3 this year, Munich has confirmed the iNext SUV and the i4 sedan for 2021, and the 7 Series electric, but is keeping detailed model plans for 2022 and 2023 under a veil. The Electric BMW X1, 3 Series and 5 Series supposedly are the models to follow.
Autocar.co.uk speculates that a variation of the BMW iX3’s electrical parts will serve the BMW 3 Series electric. The iX3 is powered by a 74 kWh battery driving a 210 kW/400 Nm motor presenting it a range of 440 km in the WLTP cycle. By 2022, the eDrive will further develop, and it could be that higher configurations of the 3 Series EV feature a dual motor (four-wheel drive) to compete with the performance of a Tesla Model 3.
BMW 3 Series Electric to see Chinese production
BMW Brilliance, the joint venture between the BMW Group and Brilliance China Automotive Holdings Ltd, started the construction of a new plant in Tiexi, a district of Shenyang in the Liaoning Province, on April 1. An extension of the existing plant, it will ramp up the production to satiate the demand for luxury cars in the world’s largest auto market.
The new Tiexi plant will be built on an overall area of 2.9 sq. km. and will have a new press shop, body shop, paint shop, assembly shop and external infrastructure, apart from additional space for production expansion if required. The new plant will be ready for serial production in 2022 and will utilize BMW’s flexible manufacturing to make fully-electric and plug-in hybrid models, including the electric variants of BMW 3 Series and BMW 5 Series, as per Chinese news reports.
At the event, Dr. Johann Wieland, President & CEO, BMW Brilliance Automotive Ltd said that the new plant offers further proof that BMW Brilliance is fully committed to China and the company is very confident in China’s economy in the long-term and is ready to move forward. Talking about the new plant, Dr. Franz Decker, BMW Brilliance Senior Vice President of Technology & Manufacturing said that that this will be one of the most digitally effective automotive plants in the world, equipped with the latest technologies.
The upcoming plant in Tiexi will be the largest project undertaken by BMW Brilliance and is located bordering the Hun River, with factors such as environmental and resource conservation taken into due consideration since the company started preparing the land for construction. Working with the district government, BMW Brilliance’s construction team has come up with an environmental governance plan to enhance the overall natural environment of the Hun river. The new production centre blends BMW’s Industry 4.0 and intelligent manufacturing of China to boost the local economy and auto industry development.
In view of the COVID-19 outbreak, BMW Brilliance has put in place multiple measures to ensure employees’ health and safety before they resume work. The company rolled out its 3 millionth car from the production line after it resumed production.
BMW & Mini going all-out to build a full line of electric cars
BMW has started offering plug-in hybrid options for smaller vehicles including the BMW X1, X2 (launch impending), X3 (launched late last year) as the first serious step to electrify its complete portfolio. BMW then announced the iX3 (the pure electric version of the BMW X3) that is built in China and exported to Europe. Next year it plans to launch the BMW i4, the BMW iNext SUV followed by the BMW 7 Series electric (expected as the BMW i7) in the global markets and that will provide necessary momentum for Bavaria’s electric carlines leading up to the launch of the 3 Series & 5 Series electric.
In 2023, a pure-electric BMW X1 is reported to launch (BMW iX1), as BMW’s entry crossover shifts to the third generation. The group brand Mini has partnered with China’s Great Wall Motor for the joint development of pure electric vehicles under Spotlight. The battery-powered MINI electric cars are expected to come out in 2022 from the new plant in the Jiangsu Province. Great Wall Motor is also expected to get electric cars from this platform as part of the Sino-German business deal.