BMW’s i models have sold in fewer numbers than anticipated, but the fully electric i3 and the i8 plug-in hybrid have at least paved the way for a new generation of electrics from BMW, and they have served as technology trials for a number of mainstream models. Using those metrics, the i brand has been deemed a success for BMW, and the company is committed to move it forward with a new generation of fully electric vehicles.
Right now, BMW is working on three new models: replacements for the i3 and the i8 and a four-door sedan slotted between them. That car has been confirmed by BMW as the iNext.
Fun to drive is high on the agenda for the iNext. It will feature a fully electric powertrain that could make a lot of power. Besides the battery-electric model, which is confirmed, there is the strong likelihood of a hydrogen-fueled version with a fuel cell. What’s also decided is that there won’t be a plug-in-hybrid version of the iNext. “By the time it launches, range won’t be a problem,” we were told.
The iNext sedan will be a stand-alone model with a unique design, but it won’t be as far removed from BMW’s other models as are the i3 and the i8. The brand is looking to achieve significant economies of scale by sharing technology with BMW’s conventionally powered sedans.
The iNext also will be available with cutting-edge autonomous-driving technology—a key point of development for the division moving forward. BMW is committed to offering a comprehensive package of self-driving features; how much of that will be possible to use depends on the legal environment. The car will come to market by 2021 or 2022, and subsequent years will see the i3 and the i8 replaced. Details on those remain scarce largely because many of the key decisions have yet to be made.
For the next i3, though, BMW may decide not to use an expensive carbon-fiber structure as in the current model; the car likely also will look sportier and less ungainly. Power may increase to around 200 horsepower, and the range-extender option is sure to be dropped.
Meanwhile, the i8—currently a plug-in hybrid that BMW misleadingly touts as an “electric” on its website—is likely to lose its hybrid powertrain and become a fully electron-fueled machine. With power ratings that should exceed 500 horsepower, it is poised to take a leading role in the segment of fully electric supercars. And with that much power, it might actually morph into a credible successor to the famous M1 supercar.
This article originally appear on Car and Driver.