Additional Electric Car Models Expected from BMW

By · December 02, 2013

BMW i3 interior

A new BMW plug-in model might be created by adding four inches of leg room to the i3's rear cabin.

Any serious electric car program from a car company requires more than just one plug-in model. Yet, three years after the Nissan LEAF and Chevy Volt hit the market, the major automotive companies offering plug-in models only offer a single vehicle—that is, when considering cars that sell more than about 100 units a month. As BMW prepares to introduce two plug-in cars next year, the German automaker is already considering expanding its EV lineup for wider market acceptance.

“We’re coming out with two vehicles, the i3 and the i8,” said Oliver Walter, project manager BMW i, in an interview with at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show. “The spread between the two vehicles is very far. You can’t get further than a city car and a super sports car. That gives a lot of room in between.”

Walter described the BMW i3 electric, which goes on sale next spring, as covering a wide range of market territory. “It’s about the exterior size of a BMW 1-series, but has the interior roominess of a 3-series, and the quality of materials and luxury features of a 5-series,” he said.

In terms of the competition, Nissan has the LEAF; GM has the Volt; Tesla sells the Model S; and Toyota offers a plug-in version of the Prius hybrid. Those are the single plug-in cars from the big players—with Ford selling two plug-in hybrids, the C-Max Energi and Fusion Energi, albeit in smaller numbers than the others. It could be at least a couple years before any of these car companies branch out to additional models that sell in equal numbers to current offerings.

Imagining a 5-Series EV

Meanwhile, UK’s Autocar reported last week that the i3 platform will be stretched to slightly more family-sized proportions. That means another four inches of legroom in the back, which could make a big difference. The website said the longer version of the i3 could be called the i5—although positioning a slightly longer i3 right between the current city car and the vastly different i8 seems like an odd choice. Shouldn’t BMW reserve the i5 designation for an EV or plug-in hybrid closer to the size of a 5-series Bimmer?

MINI-E electric car

Is an all-electric version of the MINI back on the drawing table at BMW?

There were also signs last week that BMW is considering a new electric version of the MINI Cooper. That was the much-loved platform for the company’s first EV test program. According to the BMW Blog, an all-new MINI-E is part of the plans coming with the launch of a third-generation Mini—with a codename “F56.” Peter Schwarzbauer, the brand’s manager, told German media that an electric version of the MINI makes sense. “It fits perfectly with the brand,” he said. “I am convinced that we will offer a suitable solution.”

Of course, it’s going to months, if not years, before BMW reveals all the details of its EV plans. First things first: the company needs to execute a successful launch the i3, and generate a ton of positive buzz from the car’s first owners.

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