Hybrids & Electrics

Here’s BMW’s Tesla Fighter: Will It Really Be?

What has been leaked today are images of BMW’s Concept i4. It was supposed to be revealed tomorrow at an internet release because the Geneva Motor Show where it would have debuted was canceled due to the coronavirus. Things are a bit wacky right now so at any rate, this is what you were supposed to see tomorrow. BMW’s chief technical officer Klaus Fröhlich said recently the i4 would be BMW’s main weapon to fight Tesla. 

We’ve been warned of the impending giant BMW nostrils coming to a production sedan soon. Since this looks production-ready that day is upon us. The nostrils pulled forward with all of the front end elements visually attached to it gives an aggressive look that’s not bad. There will be detail changes and a bit more gingerbread hung onto the sedan, like windshield wipers and smaller wheels but this is pretty close.

Inside and outside the BMW i4 looks like it can compete with Tesla

2021 BMW i4 EV | BMW-
2021 BMW i4 EV | BMW

The fastback-sedan profile and deep, beveled cut notched out of the rear look good, especially from a rear-¾ view. Inside the lack of wood trim is commendable. The body-colored trim bits are more honest and interesting than glossy wood. The interior generally has a simplified look possibly inspired by Tesla. 

There is one panel extending across the instrument panel housing both the gauges and then the infotainment screen. Controls are housed in the console. Sculptured rear seats are more show car-like; expect more conventional seats to accommodate three.

There are three things BMW has to do with the i4 to seriously compete with Tesla

2021 BMW i4 EV | BMW-
2021 BMW i4 EV | BMW

BMW has a strong following and a reputation for German quality with a sporting feel. Because of this BMW can compete with Tesla if it can match a couple of things. First, performance has to be similar which should not be a problem for an electric drivetrain. Secondly, it has to match the range or come in awfully close to Tesla’s excellent numbers. Finally, the price has to be within Tesla’s range. Varying from any of these points will hinder BMW’s hope for cutting into Tesla’s incredible head start. 

The i4 will be built on BMW’s CLAR platform with slim batteries nesting on the floor. That has been one beef about BMW’s plan for electrification. The CLAR platform is not an exclusive EV architecture but more of a modular platform that can accommodate ICE, plug-in hybrid, or fully electric drivetrains.

While the platform accommodates many different BMW products it is versatile for EV powertrain locations

2021 BMW i4 EV | BMW-
2021 BMW i4 EV | BMW

One thing the platform allows is locating the electronics housing to be mounted in front, or back, or both locations. The batteries are speculated to be around 1,200 lbs., but on the plus side, they help stiffen the chassis. This also helps in the case of an accident according to BMW. 

Back in November CNET’s Roadshow scooped that when it debuts in 2021 the i4 will have 530 hp with a range of 373 miles. The range is based on the European WLTP cycle which as we’ve seen with the Porsche Taycan can be a bit optimistic. Let’s say the range should be between 300 and 350 miles.

BMW says an 85% charge will take only 35 minutes

2021 BMW i4 EV | BMW-
2021 BMW i4 EV | BMW

The 0-60 time was hitting four seconds. With BMW’s fifth-generation batteries it says 85% charge takes 35 minutes. Based on this Roadshow thinks two 40 kWh batteries will power the i4. These are physically a lot smaller than earlier BMW batteries. 

With a release date not until 2021, it’s a long way off while Tesla plods along increasing its market share, reputation, and presence in the EV world. We hope for BMW’s sake that a 2021 release date is realistic and not optimistic as with VW.