One of the early pioneers in electrification with products like the i3 city car and i8 plug-in sports car, BMW has fallen behind key rivals lately – but the Bavarian automaker plans to catch up quickly with an assortment of long-range battery-electric vehicles such as the flagship iX model making its debut today.
Based on the iNext concept, the BMW iX will serve as a design and technology showcase, though the look is sure to generate some controversy thanks to the massive take on the automaker’s familiar double-kidney grille.
“The BMW iX shows how we can give new technologies a very modern and emotional design,” Adrian van Hooydonk, senior design vice president at BMW said in a statement. “The car is technologically complex, but it feels very clear and uncomplicated. The BMW iX offers a mobile living space in which people will feel at ease, where the car’s intelligence is only there when you need it.”
The iX comes at a time when BMW’s battery-car program is undergoing a major shift in direction. Early on, the automaker planned to develop unique architectures for its electric vehicles, including the underlying, skateboard-like platform used for the iX. More recently, it shifted gears to a one-size-fit-all approach. The i4, another new BMW BEV, rides on a platform that can handle everything from pure battery power to gas, diesel or anything in between. But, in another about face, BMW CEO Oliver Zipse last week announced the carmaker will go back to BEV-only platforms.
There are a number of reasons why, as the iX demonstrates. The design is optimized specifically for electric drive which means the battery pack and motors are mounted below the load floor, and some of the space normally devoted to an engine compartment can be reclaimed for use by passengers and cargo.
The iX is “comparable with the BMW X5 in length and width and is almost the same height as the BMW X6,” the automaker noted, with a 118-inch wheelbase and wide track. The cabin, if anything, offers even more interior space than those two, more conventional models.
And few will likely confuse the BEV with any existing BMW product. The front end does feature the familiar double-kidney design but, as with other battery-electric vehicles, there is very little need for cooling air under the hood so this is more
of a visual signature than functional, BMW using the grille to conceal the various sensors used for the iX driver assistance technologies. Otherwise, aero function largely defines the form of the crossover, front and back. That includes the pop-out door handles.
As a technological showcase, BMW pushed things everywhere. The headlamps, for example, use the automaker’s laserlight system that lights up the road much further than conventional bulbs, even LEDs, but can shield oncoming traffic to prevent blinding glare.
The roominess of the cabin is another feature iX buyers likely will note. Sliding into the front seat, a driver will immediately discover a new, hexagonally shaped steering wheel which, according to BMW, “improves ease of access and gives the driver a better view of the Information display.”
The display itself uses a curved layout that covers much of the instrument panel and eliminates most conventional controls. While there are two separate screens – a 12.3-inch gauge cluster, and a 14.9 infotainment screen – they flow together to look like a single dislay.
There is glass everywhere and even the huge panoramic roof – the largest piece of glass ever found in a BMW – relies on smart technology. The system requires no mechanical shade but relies on electrochromic shading to block out light, as occupants desire.
As for the drivetrain, this isn’t BMW’s first all-electric model. But it will deliver the longest range, an estimated 300 miles per charge based on the EPA test cycle. And it will be the most powerful, the two motors – one on each axle – producing “around 500 hp” and capable of launching the BMW iX from 0 to 100 kmh, or 62 mph, in “under 5 seconds,” the company said.
The fifth-generation drive system used here is paired with a 100 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack that will be able to use some of the latest public charging equipment at power levels up to 200 kilowatts,
The pack, says BMW, “can be charged from 10 to 80% capacity in under 40 minutes. In just ten minutes, enough energy can be fed into the battery to increase the car’s range by around 75 miles. It takes less than 11 hours to charge the high-voltage battery from 0 to 100% at 11 kW Level 2 charging station.”
BMW also notes it designed the battery pack to allow for a “high recycling rate,” CEO ZIpse adding that, “We are in no doubt: mobility has to be sustainable if it is to represent a truly outstanding solution. For the BMW Group, premium mobility is not possible without responsibility.”
The automaker partnered with charging company EVgo to simplify the process when needing a public charging station. It has not said whether it will offer any free energy as part of the purchase price, as have a number of its competitors.
The BMW iX will go into production during the second half of 2021 at the automaker’s big plant in Dingolfing, Germany, with sales set to begin late in the year. No pricing has been announced.