BMW: Next i-Branded Car to Arrive After 2020, But Improvements on Way for i3, i8

BMW might be enjoying the combined success of its i3 electric city car and i8 plug-in hybrid sports car, but it isn’t about to expand its i-brand lineup with a third plug-in model any time soon.

Instead, it plans on spending the next five years working on the third i-brand model while providing incremental improvements to its existing i3 and i8 models.

BMW says it won't be launching any further i-branded vehicles until after 2020.

BMW says it won’t be launching any further i-branded vehicles until after 2020.

That’s the official word from BMW Group head of research and development Klaus Froehlich, who told Automotive News Europe (via Autobloggreen) last week that BMW is just starting the process of researching and ‘brainstorming’ model ideas for the next car to wear the ‘i’ badge, with the aim of bringing said model to market some time after 2020.

Disputing claims from many different media outlets that BMW has already chosen a crossover-variant for its next i-branded plug-in, Froehlich said that the luxury automaker is far from committing to any one model or style at the moment.

“We’re still in the strategic research phase where we brainstorm,” he said. “Teams that start with a white sheet of paper. They talk with customers, hold workshops, then present their ideas and we decide.”

The vehicle, he indicated, would be designed in a similar fashion to the BMW i3 and i8: built from the ground-up as a brand-new model, with no repackaging or tie-over to existing BMW Group models. Like both of the existing i-branded models on sale, Froehlich said a third i-branded vehicle would be similarly cutting-edge, adding that for BMW, the i-brand is a place where it can introduce new and innovative technologies which eventually make their way into mainstream BMW models.

BMW would spend the interim time planning a third i-model from the ground up, while simultaneously improving its i3 and i8 models with a series of incremental updates.

BMW would spend the interim time planning a third i-model from the ground up, while simultaneously improving its i3 and i8 models with a series of incremental updates.

An example of this is the plug-in hybrid drivetrain developed for the BMW i8 sports car, which BMW will introduce to its mainstream brand next month with the official launch of the production-ready 2016 X5 xDrive 40e plug-in hybrid SUV at the Shanghai Auto Show.

Other high-volume models, such as the BMW 3-Series, will also get a BMW i8-derived plug-in hybrid drivetrain soon, offering BMW’s larger fanbase the opportunity to benefit from a plug-in hybrid drivetrain without transitioning to a quirky i-brand vehicle.

Despite confirming it won’t be expanding its i-brand range for at least five or six years however, Froehlich was eager to note that BMW won’t be allowing its i3 and i8 models to stagnate technologically in the interim.

Buoyed by larger-than expected first-year sales, the German automaker’s roadmap for both i3 and i8 models includes improving battery energy density by a minimum of 20 percent every three years. While a retrofit for existing owners is unlikely, Froehlich said that BMW would likely produce a range of models to suit all needs, focusing on more performance, more range, or a combination of the two.

One such improvement could be a longer-range battery pack for both BMW i3 and i8 models.

One such improvement could be a longer-range battery pack for both BMW i3 and i8 models.

“I don’t think a retrofit makes sense,” he said. “When better batteries are available, we could then offer [additional] models with a longer range or with the same range but a lower price.”

We also note that a pause in development of a third i-brand vehicle would also allow BMW to perfect some of the other technologies it has been working on for electric vehicles, including wireless charging technology and integrated multi-modal transportation solutions.

Do you think BMW is making the correct choice? Should it work on producing more i-branded vehicles in the short term, or is it better to work hard on improving the models it currently has?

And if you were offered a BMW i3 or i8 model with a larger battery pack, would you buy one?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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  • Michael Thwaite

    It makes a lot of sense to refine and finish off the current i-brand cars. The range of the i3, for example falls short of other EVs available today, and without a fast-charge network, it’s a difficult sell – a premium short range EV?

    • JohnCBriggs

      You have to wonder if a 20% improvement in three years, which amounts to an i3 with a 97 mile range, is going to be competitive in the marketplace at that point.

      • vdiv

        Or even at this point considering the Soul EV or the now defunct (again) Rav4 EV.

  • Surya

    u201cI donu2019t think a retrofit makes sense,u201dnNo, except for owners of the current model of course.

  • EVrider

    Klaus Froehlich probably is not directly involved with the i team and if he were, he would be well aware of current market developments with regards to EV range. BMW is supposed to mean the ultimate driving machine.

  • CDspeed

    I actually get the sense that BMW launched BMWi, and then lost all interest in building more EVs. The i3 is only electric if you don’t opt for the REx, and you don’t have a choice with the i8. It’s almost like the i3 is actually a compliance car, they put one ZEV on the market and……..stopped.

    • vdiv

      Well, they haven’t stopped, they made two steps forward with the i3 and are now making one step backward (arguably) with electrifying their existing core models, the 3, 5 and 7 series, the X5, etc. That is still important, but we know that they can and that they should move in a bit more determined pace.

      • CDspeed

        I agree, that they need to move at a more determined pace, announcing that they aren’t going to do anything until 2020 seems like they only intended to enter the electric car market (with the i3 and i8) then stop and wait.

        • vdiv

          They could behave like Coyota and not have a single plugin in store, so relatively speaking BMW is doing OK. Also the i3/i8 models will continue to evolve as BMW does worry about their image.

          • CDspeed

            I’m sure they’ll evolve the i3 and i8, I was thinking in terms of new i models being developed.

    • GodMk2

      Er, the REX is still an electric car. A generator on board just means you don’t need to find a plug and have the emissions produced elsewhere. Some of us can’t drive limited range EVs as we have far away jobs to get to and can’t afford Telsas. A REX is still totally electric drive. I’d not have not have bought it other wise and waited for an 150mile leaf or Gen3 Tesla and done 30,000 miles in a pure ICE 4×4 in the meantime!

      • CDspeed

        Electric cars, don’t burn gas, need oil changes, or have a tailpipe. The engine may not drive the wheels but you still have two onboard fuels, and a plug, plug-in hybrid. And “emissions produced elsewhere”, your going to have to take up that issue with the power company if you don’t like it. Coal emissions from power plants were being produced long before the current generation of electric car existed. This comment and possibly yours are technically coal produced. The electric car address emissions from cars, emissions from power plants are an issue that needs to be addressed too but we can’t pin that on the electric car. I can understand it if you needed the REx, I was actually shocked when the i3 was announced with equal or less range then the ActiveE. I knew when I heard the range figures that the REx would sell better, the i3 BEV that I have should have at least beat the current generation Leaf. How far is your work commute? No details just miles.

        • GodMk2

          When i ordered the i3 i was doing 150 miles in each direction, but only Mon & Fri. New job means now doing 110-120 daily depending on which route I take. With a bit of opportunity charging I’m still getting an average of 67% Electric use. With a new change to my routine to mix in some train travel ( as 120 miles a day was killing me) I’ve managed so far 650 miles on the first gallon i.e. half a tank. 3 weeks since the last fill. That’s the bit that most people don’t get with the rex. Is there if you need it, but you try your best to avoid it as the humming is a constant reminder you’ve gone from 2 pence to 10p a mile. I think they chose the range to cover most sensible people’s daily range (those without silly commutes) and for everyone else there’s the REX. Personally I’d have preferred an extra 22kWh of batteries in Lieu of the REX 😉

          • CDspeed

            Wow that is one heck of a commute, I found that I do 70 to 80 miles at most per day so my i3 is the BEV variant. The charging infrastructure in my area also seems to be in very convenient spots around town so I’m good in that aspect too. But I find that I rarely need a public charge, to the BEV’s advantage it weighs less, and it has the heat pump for climate control, I’ve done 70 to 80 miles and I still get home with 15 to almost 20 miles remaining, that’s on a single charge.

  • QKodiak

    After 2020? What on earth BMW?!! What happened to making an i9 to challenge the Tesla Model S or i5 to undercut it? Wimps…

    • D. Harrower

      Indeed. I could have sworn I saw an article published a month or so back where they were bragging about how they were going to bring some “Tesla Killer” 5-series variant to market.nnI guess that fell through.

  • 2020 might sound far, but before you know it, we are there. In the mean time and between time, let’s enjoy the BMW i3 and i8…..

  • GodMk2

    The car BMW need is an i5. Something with 5 seats, decent luggage space better aero dynamics, a bigger tank than the i3 for holidays and business reps, and slightly more powerful REX option and battery – 30 kWh/850cc bike engine, not too heavy but good for say 100 EV miles real world and 400 including a 30 litre fuel tank. I think they can get that done with a base figure around u00a340k under cutting a Telsa 60 by a far margin and giving you ultra rapid liquid recharging at BP/Shell for the few times a year you need it. Think more updated ampera than i3. This will sell like hot cakes to people who wouldn’t normally accept an electric car as an only car, but do spend u00a335k+ on a decent specced 5 series. I’d have my name on the waiting list before it was release!

  • Jack Brear

    Considering Elon Musk’s target of competing with the 3 series/C Class/A4, BMW really need to think hard and fast about how to create an electric car which would counter such competition. They may want to build from the ground up but having a fully electric car with good range and performance is going to be necessary to ensure they keep their foot in the electric market. Tesla’s Model III is due to be released in 2017 and will allegedly be competition for BMW’s 3 series on price, performance and design/build quality.

    • Jack Brear

      I love BMW and will stay with them if they counter compete, but if Tesla’s Model III has good range like it’s model S, I might trade in my diesel BMW 3 series for the EV.