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BMW i5/i7 Plug-in Hybrid Rumoured in Development to Beat Tesla Model S Electric Car. Here’s Why it Won’t Win

With its blistering 0-60 time, near 1-g of acceleration, and long range, the Tesla Model S P85D is unarguably the king of the luxury electric car market today. Being the fastest production full-size sedan of any fuel type on sale, it’s also causing some serious concerns for luxury automakers like Jaguar, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche

Even BMW, which already sells the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sports coupe and BMW i3 electric city car, is scared. Just like the other automakers above, it is rumoured to be developing its own high-end, luxury plug-in to cross-shop against the Californian upstart and steal its plug-in crown.

BMW already has the i8 and i3, but says CAR magazine, it's readying a Tesla-killing i5 or i7.

BMW already has the i8 and i3, but says CAR magazine, it’s readying a Tesla-killing i5 or i7.

The scoop, claimed by UK-based CAR magazine, says that BMW is readying a brand-new full-sized plug-in for 2018 based on a next-generation 5-series platform. It will, the publication claims via inside sources at BMW, have a total power output of around 400 kilowatts, consisting of a front-wheel drive electric motor producing 152 kilowatts married to a four-cylinder, 245 horsepower gasoline engine. At the rear, CAR claims, will be a smaller, 70 kilowatt electric motor.

The car in question, which CAR says BMW is referring to as the P18 PHEV project at present, is designed to operate primarily as an electric vehicle with a powerful range-extender for longer-distance travel. Range is slated at 80 miles in electric mode, with gasoline operation only occurring at speeds above 40 mph when required. Packaged with the unspecified battery located down the centre of the car, the engine squeezed up front next to the larger electric motor and small fuel tank under the rear seats, the vehicle certainly wouldn’t have the same free-flowing uninterrupted cabin as the Model S.

And, says CAR, it will be likely sold as either the BMW i5 or i7: a low-emission sports sedan with full adaptive drivetrain that will appeal to European, Chinese and North American markets.

As a consequence, its design and look will likely be more conventional than either the BMW i3 or i8, although we’d expect some of the same lightweight construction materials to be used in order to help it meet ever-tightening emissions standards.

BMW has do to so much more to beat Tesla than building a similarly fast car, however.

BMW has do to so much more to beat Tesla than building a similarly fast car, however.

CAR is adamant too that this car, which it says could be unveiled at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show, will be BMW’s chance at targeting Tesla.

We’re going to politely disagree.

While some sources claim BMW is going to ditch its internal combustion engine within ten years, the vehicle CAR details as being BMW’s Project P18 PHEV isn’t a car that seems to have the necessary prerequisites to cross-shop against the Tesla.

At the top of the list is range. And while 80-miles of all-electric range in a plug-in hybrid might have sounded impressive at one time, it is nowhere near the 250+ miles offered by Tesla’s Model S sedan. In order to truly cross-shop against the Model S, BMW would need to match or at least get close to the Model S’ range in order to be considered a worthy adversary.

Then there’s performance. With a 0-60 mph time of 3.1 seconds, Tesla’s flagship Model S P85D is tough to beat. With the extra weight of a gasoline engine, the so-called Project P18 would have to save some serious weight on its construction in order to achieve that in electric-only mode using its combined 220 kilowatts of electric motors. Even with a gasoline engine to boot, Tesla’s P85D performance is going to be tough to beat.

If customers aren’t buying a Tesla for the zero-emission, all-electric range, then performance is their other concern.

This is the car BMW will have to beat. Frankly, we're not sure it can.

This is the car BMW will have to beat. Frankly, we’re not sure it can.

Next, we come to operating costs. With its Supercharging-for-life promise added to the cost of the Model S, day to day running costs of the Tesla Model S are stupidly cheap, even for those covering large distances every day. Adding gasoline to the mix, even at a price of between $2 and $3 a gallon, dramatically increases the operating costs of a future i5 or i7 model.

Further down our list comes practicality. Given the rendering produced by CAR, the secret Tesla-beating i5 or i7 will have far less interior space available for luggage or cargo than the Model S. Even the P85D, with its twin electric motors, retains the majority of its front luggage space along with a positively cavernous rear load space. In order to match that kind of practicality, a future plug-in BMW model truly worthy of cross-shopping against the Model S would need to carry at least enough luggage for a weekend away with the family.

Which brings us down to the final point. The Tesla Model S manages to combine the performance and fun of a sleek luxury Sedan with the practicality and versatility of an SUV or Wagon. It does so while offering rapid recharging capabilities, a fully interconnected, evolving telematics system, and in the future, autonomous drive capabilities.

In order to truly beat Tesla, BMW’s P18 PHEV project will need to exceed what CAR has outlined in its scoop, and match the Model S far more closely in terms of specification, capabilities and price. And while BMW is rumoured to be pricing the new car between $60,000 and $125,000, it will need to do far more than that to halt the roaring success of the Model S thus far.

Do you agree? Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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  • D. Harrower

    Well said, Nikki.nnIt takes more to compete with Tesla than just putting a plug on your car.

  • vdiv

    Would like to think that BMW can make great all electric cars and hope that they at least try. It is probably bugging them a lot that Tesla has set the bar, something that BMW is used to doing for the past 20+ years. The barrage of i3 “Hey Allison” commercials on US TV may be a sign that the i3 is not quite what people want.

  • CDspeed

    I have call out Tom Moloughney on this one again, he said if you buy an i3 REx, that will tell BMW you want more range, and their next i car will be electric but have more range. I never for one moment considered purchasing my i3 with the little petrol engine, but I replied back to Tom, that I thought higher REx sales would lead to more plug-in hybrids not electric cars. Well, once again here is a story about future BMWi cars with gasoline engines. And if this holds true I’d like to ask BMW, “what happened to BMWi, born electric”? I will say this, even though I own, and love my i3, BMWi was heralded as being the biggest thing in electric cars aside from Tesla, and now it sounds like it will fall short leaving Tesla unchallenged.


    When it comes to electric cars, Tesla has a 5 year jump on the auto industry. With the insane amount of money they’re investing in R&D, that lead will ALWAYS be at least 5 years. By 2018, Tesla will no doubt have a new version of the S sedan, with even greater range and performance. Tesla is a rapidly moving target that other auto makers will NEVER hit !

  • GMan

    Every comment I’ve read here so far makes very valid points. I agree with most. One thing I would like to point out is that Tesle has released their patents for public use. This effectively allows every car manufacturer to benefit from Elon’s R&D. nnI love my Leaf and will by a Model S next, but that’s about five years away for me. If BMW can use the tech that’s been proven by Tesla and use their supercharger network which continues to expand, there could be some real competition for Tesla. nnTesla wants this. I want this. I hope we all want this. I would love an automotive landscape where there are many 0-60mph in 3.1sec all electric vehicles of all types. I hope BMW, VW, Ford etc. use what Tesla is putting out there for free to make a real challenger for Tesla. nnWill they?

  • Ken Luskin

    Nikki, What you have missed is Price and cost to build. Please read: nSELL Tesla: “u201cWe can Build Entire Vehicle in 20 Hours vs. 40 hours for conventional vehicle,u201d a BMW executive saysn will be able to produce EVs that are AFFORDABLE to upper class people (not just a fraction of the top 1%) which is why they have been so successful over the last couple decades. nnTesla will be losing money for years, because the cost per vehicle is too high to compete with the most powerful auto companies.nTesla will eventually be forced out of business, or to become a Ferrari type company, with a very limited production, and a very high price.

    • Ken. Valid point there, but if BMW is building and selling a car that is going to be the same price as a Tesla Model S — with only 80 miles of range — it’s not a cross-shopper. nnTo be a cross-shopper, it needs to match in performance, specification and running costs. 🙂

      • Ken Luskin

        Nikki, Once again, BMW understands how to compete in the auto market… but it appears that you FAIL to understand that.nBMW i3 is half the price of Tesla model SnWhatever other EVs they bring out will be priced to SELL.nTesla will be stuck in a very,very high end tier, because theirnCOST to build is just too high.nThe concept of a range extender ICE is not a bad one.nMost people do not drive more than 40 miles in day, so with an 80 mile range, the range extender is only needed on long trips.

        • Ken, nnnThe article we’re citing claims a price point for the ‘Tesla beater’ which is comparable — rather than cheaper than — the Tesla Model S. nnThe argument here isn’t about which car company is better suited to building a car. The argument is that you can’t compare a plug-in hybrid with 80 miles of range to an all-electric car with a 200+ mile electric range, even if the majority of customers only need 80 miles per day. nnThe Model S is a different segment, since it answers to a different audience. nnThat’s why they can’t cross shop. And that’s why they won’t compete. They may well complement each other, but not cross shop…

          • Ken Luskin

            The article your sighting is retarded! n BMW knows how to compete.nnnThey have a track record of selling millions of cars a year, by providing value in a mid to high end car. Not only do they sell millions of cars a year, they have profit margins in the mid teens!nnnAn article is just another in hundreds of thousands that are written by somebody who needs to publish something.nnnI will put my faith in the FACT that BMW knows how to PROFITABLY compete.nnnWhile you can sight retarded articles all day long…..

          • Ken, if you’re going to keep it civil, we welcome the discussion. However, if you resort to defamatory language then we’ll have to ask you take your discussion elsewhere.

          • Joseph Dubeau

            “BMW knows how to compete.” i3 Profitable? nUntil they figure out to how to lower their battery cost, a hybrid is all they will be offering.

        • Joseph Dubeau

          Nissan Leaf replacement battery costs $5,500 (24 kWh)nTesla list price of a replacement 85-kWh battery pack is a $44,000.nnNissan $229 per kWhnTesla $518 per kWh (value added)nnI think Tesla knows how make a profit.

      • Joseph Dubeau

        Nikki, these two guys Ken and Mark are hedge fund trolls.

  • Ken Luskin

    Nikki, BMW is one of the very best managed auto companies in the world. Just look at their long term track record. nThey know exactly how to compete, at every price point. So does Audi/VW/porsche. So does Toyota. nThe current i3 is an 80 mile EV.n2 to 3 years from now, they and all the other top auto companies will have 200 or more mile EVs.nGM’s Chevy will have a 200 mile EV in 2017… so believe me all the majors will have something similar, at every major price point.nBMW understands how to turn a profit at every price point… Tesla does NOT!nBMW, VW, GM, Ford, Toyota, Nissan, will eat Tesla’s lunch.nTesla can exist as a specialty car maker, similar to Ferrari, etc…. that is all!

  • Mark B. Spiegel

    “At the top of the list is range. And while 80-miles of all-electric range in a plug-in hybrid might have sounded impressive at one time, it is nowhere near the 250+ miles offered by Teslau2019s Model S sedan”nnThis BMW will (presumably) offer 400 or so miles of TOTAL range and be 100% refuel-able in five minutes at any busy intersection in the world. What percentage of the world’s car market do you think are “100% electric car purists/hobbyists” (as you guys are) vs. wanting the most worry-free and hassle free transport possible along with being able to enjoy electric driving 90% of the time?nn>>With the extra weight of a gasoline engine, the so-called Project P18 would have to save some serious weight on its construction in order to achieve that in electric-only mode using its combined 220 kilowatts of electric motors.<<nnAgain, do you think the average buyer cares whether or not the ultimate performance is achieved only in "electric-only" mode? I'd guess this BMW battery pack will weigh 800 fewer pounds than that of the P85D and not more than 400 pounds of that will be offset by the small conventional motor and accompanying accessories. Furthermore, I'd guess that its carbon fiber construction will save an additional 400 pounds vs. the P85D, meaning that instead of weighing 4900 pounds like the Tesla this car will weigh more like 4100 pounds. Do you realize how much more nimble and better-handling a car gets when it's 800 pounds lighter? The vast majority of consumers (and car enthusiasts) will take that in a second over having the Tesla's additional pure electric range.nnnI'm happen to be short TSLA stock because I think the company has an awful business model and the vast majority of consumers will make the choice as I've outlined it above once that kind of alternative is available. However, for those purists such as yourselves, there will be plenty of competing pure-electric alternatives available in a few years too, so it will be a win-win for everyone (except Tesla, in my opinion).

  • Ben P

    PHEVs and EREVs are compliance cars. They are not the future. nnIn my lifetime we’ve had the internet and the smartphone revolution. Both were weird and unusual until one day they were just the norm. BEV adoption will be no different. Tesla had already started building the Gigafactory. They’ve already won. The entrenched companies can only catch up and compete. Those that don’t are dead. My completely unsolicited stock tip, Toyota will be on life support by 2025.nnDon’t forget autonomous driving either. BEVs + autonomous driving tech will get adopted together. Gasoline will be of niche use in the not too distant future. What happens to U.S. gas companies when demand falls 10%?

  • I just bought an i8 because I think it’s the sexiest sports coupe with 4 seats (If I were a bachelor, a 2 seater would have been an option). When my wife will let me, I’ll trade in our Cayenne for a Tesla Model X. I’m the target consumer for BMW and Tesla, and this is my opinion: I would not buy the i7/i5. Why should I? If it’s going to use gas, I’d rather buy a loaded M or 7 series or a Panamera. Don’t waste my money by buying a hybrid when one engine will do. I know this sounds hypocritical because I have an i8, but my reason for buying the i8 was purely for its looks, not at all for its practicality. Getting in/out is a joke, but worse is adding windshield wiper fluid; performance would have been far better as an ICE at the same cost–but that’s what sports cars are: style before function, and I LOVE the i8. nnnBut sedans are not sports cars. Sedans need to be practical, functional, and be a good value. The best sedan on the market from $65k to $120k price point IMO is the Model S without question. I couldn’t care less that it’s electric. My only complaints about the P85D are: no better luxury option for its interiors compared to the base model. When I get in the car, I don’t feel like I’m sitting in a $100k+ luxury sedan. 2nd complaint: The body looks the same as the base model on the outside minus some minor differences in the coloring and wheels. But those complaints are not nearly enough to drive me to buy a hybrid sedan.

  • john

    For it to beat tesla it has to be in the shop a lot less than my i3!

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