BMW has historically remained a top sedan seller in the global automobile industry. Over the past few years, however, the car manufacturer has faced stiff competition from the likes of the Model 3 launched by Tesla in 2017. With the German carmaker's unveiling of its new i4, a battery-powered car, is it poised to compete directly with Tesla's offering?
Exodus to the EV World
Tesla’s Model 3 entered the European market in 2019 and, according to data reported by LMC Automotive, ranked at number 5 among the best selling sedan vehicles in the region, ranking below BMW 3 Series and the Audi A4.
Joining the bandwagon, the i4 is expected to launch in 2021, along with another EV offering by BMW called the iNEXT. The car offers a unique aerodynamic design that allows it to reach the maximum electric range with a style that resembles most top-end sports vehicle.
Meanwhile, carmakers around the world have amped investments in the development and production of electric vehicles, with many manufacturers aiming to meet the increasingly stringent emission standards, especially in Europe.
BMW's initial plan was to have a grand unveiling of the i4 at the Geneva Motor Show. They had to shift to a live-streamed online presentation, however, with the event's cancellation due to coronavirus concerns.
About the BMW i4
According to an interview, the CEO of BMW Oliver Zipse stated that the i4 is a unique vehicle that should not be viewed as a direct competitor to any car that has been developed by other brands. Instead, Zipse finds it more appropriate to compare the vehicle with other vehicles that are already part of the BMW lineup.
The i4 is a four-door Gran Coupe that has an EPA range of approximately 599 km (372 miles), according to reported specifications. It will be capable of delivering 395 kW (530 hp), which is higher compared to the mighty ICE-powered M3 (the performance version of the 3 Series). It will have a long wheelbase and a fastback roofline. A closed-off grille could also be seen in the presentation, and BMW has stated that this grille would carry multiple sensors to enhance the car's functionality.
Most noticeably, the i4 has a glass roof which promises to provide an immersive driving experience. Also, the digital display installed inside has a curved design, offering better visuals to the driver.
The vehicle will likely undergo various modifications prior to the production phase, and experts believe the car will rely mostly on touch-enabled input devices throughout the interior.
The i4 models will also build upon the 5th generation eDrive platform by BMW that has an entirely new fully-electric motor and electronically-operated car parts, in addition to other BMW performance parts. The battery module installed in the i4 is flat and expected to hold 80 kW of power while weighing approximately 500 kg, slightly heavier than the 480 kg battery pack installed in the Model 3 by Tesla. The charging capacity on the i4 is expected to be 150 kW, which will charge up to 80% of the battery in only 35 minutes.
According to BMW, the car will go from 0-97 km/h in 4 seconds, which is slightly slower when compared with the acceleration time delivered by the Tesla Model 3 of 3.5 seconds. Production of the i4 will include both RWD and 4WD versions, varying slightly in sprint times.
The price tag is at an estimated $50,000, although BMW has not officially announced it yet. The car will likely enter production in 2021 and reach customers later in the same year.
BMW had announced back in December that the car manufacturer would step up its involvement in the EV industry. Approximately 11.07 billion USD were committed to the procurement of battery cells developed by a Chinese car parts manufacturing company, a contract that will reportedly remain valid until 2031.
Competitors Are Pushing into the EV Market
So far, European manufacturers like Audi, BMW, and Mercedes, have all failed to give Tesla's Model 3 a good fight, allowing the electric vehicle manufacturer to capture a significant portion of the luxury sedan category. Model 3 is affordable for the features it offers, and Tesla's global rollout strategy has worked well to drive up sales, especially in Europe, primarily due to its affordability.
However, Mercedes is now increasing its focus on the EV range and reportedly plans to launch its EQA vehicle this year. This compact SUV would be a welcome addition to the company’s line of hybrid and all-electric vehicle lineup and will contribute to the company’s mission to drive up sales by as much as four times.
Volkswagen has also hinted that the company would be aggressively pushing into the EV cars market moving forward, having unveiled a prototype model of an SUV that is powered with batteries.
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By Muhammad A. Lashari