BMW Plots Course to Make Electric Vehicles Integral to its Brand

By · May 31, 2018

BMW i Vision Dynamics Concept

BMW i Vision Dynamics Concept

With more than 250,000 BMW plug-in electric vehicles already on global roads, the makers of the ultimate driving machine are now planning to make EV technology an integral part of its brand and production process. BMW is emboldened by seeing sales of its plug-in cars increase by nearly 50 percent this year. “We are preparing our car architectures and our factories to flexibly integrate this technology,” said Oliver Zipse, BMW’s chief of production. “For us, creating that flexibility is the most efficient way to profitably offer electric cars.”

The move represents a shift in thinking for BMW. In 2011, the company had created a separate i sub-brand to design and manufacture electric vehicles. BMW-produced electric cars and plug-in hybrids will instead be made and sold under its main brand, as Mini cars, or as i cars.

The company says it will launch 13 pure electric cars by 2025, starting with a new all-electric version of the Mini—to arrive in US dealerships in late 2019. The Mini Electric will become BMW's second pure EV. The company currently offers the small i3 electric car, which is produced on a standalone assembly line in Leipzig, Germany. The Mini Electric will be manufactured in Oxford England, with separate production in China (for the Chinese market) in a joint venture with Great Wall Motors. Few details are known about the Mini E, although BMW unveiled the Mini Electric Concept, a design study, at the 2017 Frankfurt auto show.

Mini Electric Concept

Mini Electric Concept

BMW continues to garner headlines for new EV technology, this week announcing that it will offer wireless charging for its 530e plug-in hybrid by the end of 2018. The system will allow owners to install a ground pad that connects to the wall—and another pad mounted on the underside of the car—so the 530e can recharge without inserting a plug. The driver will use guidelines on a dashboard screen to properly align the car over the pad.

The wireless 3.2-kW charging rate will be nearly as fast as the conventional charging method. Initially, the wireless system will only work with the 530e—perhaps later becoming available for plug-in hybrid versions of BMW’s 3-Series and 5-series vehicles. With those three plug-in hybrids, plus plug-in versions of the BMW X5 SUV and the Mini Cooper Countryman, the company already offers the industry’s biggest selection of plug-in hybrid variants.

In April 2018, EVs and plug-in hybrids accounted for 5 percent of BMW’s global sales—and more than 7 percent of its US sales. BMW is the biggest seller of plug-in hybrids in Europe.

Meanwhile, in early May, the company unveiled the pure electric BMW iX3 at the Beijing Motor Show. That model is a prototype of the company’s first all-electric SUV. The iX3, which is expected to provide 250 miles of driving range via a 70-kWh battery, will go on sale in 2020. That will be a busy year for BMW EVs because the BMW i4 sedan—a 3-Series-sized sedan providing around 350 miles of range—is also slated to go into production in 2020. It was unveiled last year in concept form as the BMW i Vision Dynamics Concept.

With these announcements and more to come, we can begin to see how BMW plans to achieve its stated goal of making EVs grow from 5 percent of current sales today—to between 15 and 25 percent of new vehicles sales by 2025. It will continue to expand the number of EVs it offers while putting electric models on the same platforms as its internal-combustion vehicles.

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