A major realignment of BMW’s strategy is set to result in electric versions of up to three models in its current line-up — including a secret zero-emissions variant of the upcoming 4-series GT — alongside new and updated versions of its dedicated electric ‘i’ brand models within the next three years.
While the new 4-series GT is set to be launched internationally in petrol, electric and plug-in hybrid variants in 2019, the battery-powered variant is tentatively scheduled to go on sale in international markets in 2020. It is one of a raft of models to be based on the newly developed underpinnings of the eighth-generation 3-series, according to highly placed insiders at the German carmaker.
Intended to compete with the Tesla Model 3, the electric 4-series GT has been conceived to offer performance on par with the fastest of today’s 3-series GT models – the 321hp 335d GT – together with an overall range of up to 500km.
BMW is weighing up two electric driveline options for its new Model 3 rival, with a decision expected by the end of this year prior to the construction of road-going prototypes early next year.
The first driveline uses a front-mounted electric motor in combination with a fixed-ratio gearbox and so-called electric propeller shaft to channel drive to the rear wheels. This layout would provide the new model with traditional BMW traits and, according to at least one of our sister publication Autocar UK’s sources, the best possible weight distribution.
The second, more complex and costly, solution proposes the use of two electric motors – one mounted up front, driving the front wheels and a second at the rear within the axle assembly to drive the rear wheels. Similar to the system that is set to appear on the electric-powered X3, it offers the choice between front- and four-wheel drive, depending on the drive mode selected.
BMW’s first battery-powered version of an existing standard model will be a zero-emission Mini hatchback, due to launch internationally next year. That will be followed by an electric variant of the upcoming third-generation X3 in 2019.
Although the carmaker is banking on the Mini Cooper E and X3 Electric to extend its electric car sales in the short term, it is the new 4-series GT Electric that BMW chairman, Harald Krüger, considers key to the firm’s long-term plans.