One of the first European automakers to make a serious commitment to battery power, BMW plans to sharply increase production of electrified vehicles, its CEO told a German newspaper.
By 2023, said Chief Executive Officer Oliver Zipse, BMW aims to have about 20% of its sales come from vehicles either fully powered by electric motors or using some form of electric assist. That would be a roughly 250% increase from today.
“We are significantly increasing the number of electric vehicles. Between 2021 and 2023, we will build a quarter of a million more electric cars than originally planned,” Zipse said in an interview with the Augsburger Allgemeine published today.
In the interview, the Zipse also stressed that there is a “long way” to go before the necessary public charging infrastructure is in place, something that EV proponents say will be critical to win mainstream support for plug-based vehicles.
BMW was the first European automaker to set up a unique, electrified sub-brand, BMW i, which launched with two models: the all-electric i3 city car and the plug-in i8 sports car. It has just begun rolling out a wave of new, all-electric models, including the iX model based on the iNext concept, as well as the i4.
Both models come at a time 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 and was working on a sort of one-size-fit-all approach. The i4, for example, 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’s CEO last month announced the carmaker will go back to BEV-only platforms. “We will realign our vehicle architecture from the middle of the decade,” said Zipse, adding that, “Our new cluster architecture is geared towards electric drives” exclusively.”
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.
While BMW plans to sharply increase the number of all-electric models it will bring to market over the course of the coming decade, it also plans to maintain hybrids, including plug-ins, as a key part of its electrification strategy, Currently, it offers a variety of PHEVs in the U.S. market, including the X4 xDrive45e, the 330e xDrive, the 530e xDrive, and the 745e xDrive. Depending upon the model, they can deliver as much as 30 miles in all-electric mode.
The plan is to make BMW’s new electrification strategy a high priority, an all-new product development operation reporting directly to Zipse. But it will be able to reach out to all other areas within the company, from engineering to sales and marketing which “gives us more control and makes us much faster,” he explained in early November.
In the interview with the Augsburger Allgemeine, Zipse said, BMW aimed to have electric motors in roughly 20% of the vehicles it sells worldwide by 2023. Currently, only about 8% of its vehicles are electrified.
The CEO’s comments come at a critical time for the industry. Regulators in China – BMW’s largest global market — recently set a goal of having plug-based “New Energy Vehicles” account for 20% of national car sales by 2025. The United Kingdom has now set a target of ending sales of vehicles solely powered by gas or diesel by 2030, while Japan last week set a similar target to go into effect in 2035. California, another major BMW market, also plans to end sales of gas and diesel models.