BMW reveals EV concept sedan
Dubbed BMW’s answer to the Tesla Model 3, the Concept i4 is essentially a pre-cursor to the production i4 EV that is set to enter production in 2021.
The premium midsize concept car, which made its bow in Geneva, features a striking grille—like some of the recent production models from the German OEM—that, because there is no need for air cooling, now takes a new role. It is designed to be what BMW called an “intelligence panel,” housing a number of sensors that are used for the car’s advanced driving assistance system (ADAS).
Looking more broadly at the car’s overall design, the Concept i4 “brings electrification to the core of the BMW brand,” according to Adrian van Hooydonk, Senior Vice President, BMW Group design.
“The design of the BMW Concept i4 shows fantastic proportions, a powerfully expressive character, and, of course, a lot of attention to detail,” added Domagoj Dukec, head of BMW Design. “With the curved display, we have redefined BMW’s signature driver focus in an extremely elegant way. At the same time, the BMW Concept i4 transports a feeling of sustainable driving pleasure.” He confirmed that the Concept i4’s design shows several exterior and interior elements that will appear on both the i4 and also other BMW EVs in the future.
The curved display that Dukec alluded to is a new approach to the interior controls of the four-door Gran Coupé. It is one example of the elements that Dukec mentioned that will be adopted in forthcoming battery-powered BMWs, specifically the iNext and i4. The information display and control display have been merged into a single unit that is angled towards the driver. It provides a clearer presentation of the vehicle and infotainment information and also enables a more intuitive touchscreen operation. The use of non-reflective glass eliminates the need for any kind of shield around the display to stop any kind of light interference, meaning a more simplistic cockpit look.
Almost all of the vehicle controls can be found in the curved display, with the majority being operated by touching the screen as opposed to using buttons or switches.
The user experience is a big focus in the concept—leading to those comparisons with Tesla and its Model 3—and three different “experience modes” are offered within the infotainment function: core, sport, and efficient.
The core mode introduces the driver’s area to an updated interpretation of the four functions that are familiar from the display concept of existing models. In place of the traditional location of the central display, there is a map, with the functions lined up alongside each other.
In sport mode, the functions come closer together and create a focused view. Sideways movements behind the zones are used to show how tight upcoming corners are, enabling drivers to better anticipate the conditions ahead. The right-hand area of the display shows specific functions in a similar way to BMW M’s lap timer app.
At the other end of the spectrum, efficient mode sees the debut of an “assisted driving view,” which highlights to the driver what the car’s sensors are detecting. The idea is to give a better insight into how the technology is operating and how the car is communicating with its environment. The right-hand area of the display shows additional vehicle information, such as the charge level and range.
The Concept i4 previews the fifth generation of BMW’s eDrive, which will make its production debut on the iX3, which launches later in 2020. It will then follow when iNext and i4 are introduced in 2021.
The latest version of eDrive has upgrades to the electric motor, power electronics, charging unit, and high-voltage battery, enabling BMW Group to further move forward with its electrified drive systems. The electric motor in the i4 puts out up to 390 kW—on a par with a current BMW V8 combustion engine.
The battery also has a new design and has slimmed down to 550 kg (), with an energy content of around 80 kWh, enabling a driving range of up to 600 km (373 mi) in the WLTP cycle.
When the i4 enters production in Munich, it will be run down the same line as the company’s combustion-engine vehicles, plug-in hybrids, and all-electric vehicles. The i4 body concept differs somewhat from the vehicle models currently produced at plant, but about 90% of the existing production equipment in the body shop can be incorporated into the process. The remaining 10%—such as the machinery involved in building the rear structure—will need to be newly built.
To overcome this challenge, a separate piece of equipment will be fitted in the assembly halls for installation of the high-voltage battery, as the battery needs to be fitted in the car from below. A particular challenge in the conversion/installation process are the crowded structures of the assembly halls, where old machinery will be removed and the new components brought on stream within a six-week period.
These changes are part of a total investment of €200 million in Plant Munich to bring series production of the BMW i4 to fruition.