BMW has just launched iX and i4 electric vehicles and will soon add an electric version of the current 3-Series, but these will be superseded in the second half of the decade by a new generation of BMW electrics referred to as the Neue Klasse (German for “New Class”).
The Neue Klasse will be based on a highly flexible modular platform designed primarily for electric vehicles but also capable of supporting vehicles with internal-combustion engines. This platform will replace the front-wheel-drive FAAR and rear-wheel-drive CLAR platforms currently used by BMW, and is confirmed by the automaker to spawn its first vehicle in 2025.
Autocar reported on Monday that the first vehicle, code-named the NK1, will be a next-generation 3-Series. This new 3-Series will reportedly offer the choice of electric or internal-combustion power, though the two variants, while similarly styled on the outside, will be very different underneath.
According to the British publication, Neue Klasse vehicles with internal-combustion engines will primarily be plug-in hybrids, with the combustion component up front and an electric drive system at the rear. With no driveshaft required, cabins will benefit from a flat floor.
BMW i4 production and technology
We should note that with engines likely featuring transverse mounting, BMW's traditional inline-6 may be too long to fit in the Neue Klasse platform. Performance won't be an issue, though. BMW as early as 2014 showed off a concept with a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 up front and a pair of electric motors at the rear, which was rated at a combined 670 hp—and BMW's sixth-generation electric motors debuting in the Neue Klasse platform will be much more efficient and powerful than those used in the 2014 concept.
We're told the new platform will also allow engineers to stretch the wheelbase, and that the vehicles will also take on a more aerodynamic design to help maximize range. As a result proportions will differ from the past, not only for aerodynamics but also to boost interior space.
There's no detail on the batteries, though we know they will be a step up from BMW's fifth-generation batteries in the iX and i4. They will also run on an 800-volt electrical system, according to Autocar, meaning an 80% charge in around 20 minutes may be possible, something we've already seen in the Porsche Taycan and related Audi E-Tron GT, which also use an 800-volt system. To offset the weight of the batteries, BMW will increase the use of composite materials for both the internal structure and body panels, including carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic, like in the iX.
As mentioned above, BMW's current 3-Series is set to spawn an electric variant, possibly badged an i3. This variant should feature the same setup as the i4, meaning an 83.9-kilowatt-hour battery, 250-mile range, and max output of 536 hp. The upcoming electric 3-Series should form part of an updated 3-Series range expected on sale in 2022.