Tesla is finally ramping up production of the Model 3, but it’s about to face some serious competition, not least from the model that’s the benchmark in the premium compact sedan class.
According to our spy photographers, who recently snapped the upcoming 3-Series EV, BMW’s crew was testing it alongside a Model 3; and there’s no mistaking the Bimmer for anything else, as it sports an “Electric Test Vehicle” sticker on the front door.
There isn’t much else to suggest this prototype is electrically powered, but the production model will feature a host of minor changes.
First and foremost, the dual exhaust system will be jettisoned as it isn’t needed on an electric vehicle. The rear bumper with also be unique to the model and the grille will be for styling purposes only since there’s no internal combustion engine to cool.
The interior should largely carryover from the standard 3-Series, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the electric-only variant has a revised instrument cluster and EV-specific displays for the infotainment system. There could also be a handful of other special touches, but nothing too drastic.
BMW has been tight-lipped about the car, but has previously revealed an e-mobility roadmap that suggests the model won’t arrive until after the iNext is unveiled in 2021. That seems like a long wait, but it could be worth it as the model would be a Gen 5 vehicle, unlike the upcoming MINI EV and iX3 which are Gen 4 models.
The difference might not seem that important, but Gen 5 EVs are slated to use lighter and more compact components. In particular, BMW has already confirmed these models will have a lightweight aluminum casing that houses an electric motor, a single-speed transmission and an assortment of different electronics.
Gen 5 EVs will also have modular batteries that come in three different sizes, with capacities ranging from 60 kWh to 120 kWh. The 3-Series EV would likely be offered with the two smallest batteries, which means the model could have 30e and 40e variants with ranges of 450 km (278 miles) and 550 km (341 miles), respectively.
Performance specifications are less clear. Nevertheless, BMW has said “high volume” EVs based on rear-wheel drive platforms will have an electric motor that produces more than 268 hp (200 kW / 272 PS). The models are also slated to be offered with an optional all-wheel drive system.