The BMW i3 city car and BW i8 sports car are getting a stablemate.
BMW’s boss for the i product line, Henrik Wenders, spoke to Car and Driver, and while most details of the upcoming i5 are still under wraps, he was able to confirm that the car will go on sale, and he did reveal a few specifics.
The biggest news is that like the i3 REx, the i5 will have a range-extending internal combustion engine. This almost certainly means the i5 will be a range-extended electric and not a hybrid.
SEE ALSO: BMW i3 To Get 25-Percent Longer Range
“The range-extender plays an important part in the next years when range remains a limiting factor and a source of anxiety,” Wenders told Car and Driver. “Of course, once we get to a range that is more comparable with that of an internal-combustion engine it will become obsolete. So this is the reason I can say we will continue to offer the range-extender in the future as optional equipment, to address different customer needs.”
Wenders suggested to the magazine that consumers might have purchased the optional range-extender in the i3 REx as a way to have peace of mind in terms of range anxiety, only to find that they maybe they didn’t need to use it often.
“At the beginning of the i3, the [take rate of the] range-extender was much more than we expected,” Wenders said. “More than 60 percent. It’s decreasing dramatically now and what we’re seeing is that people are almost never using it and that it was purely a psychological thing; it is being regularly used in fewer than five percent of i3s.”
Wenders also said that he expects the i5 to be used a primary car by buyers.
“The i3 is mainly the second or third car in the household,” Wenders told the mag. “We are thinking of a new i model above it to attract families, and that means it must be capable of being the first car in the household. We are still working very hard on the usage concept, but this needs to be defined by the market and not by us.”
For an i5 to be a daily driver, it would likely be expected to offer a fairly long range, but Wenders wouldn’t give specifics to C/D.
“Internally, there are lots of discussions. I try to represent the customer and I am always requesting maximum range, but the engineering perspective is that you have to be very careful. We have to provide a battery with a certain longevity, and we need to provide a battery and drivetrain that—from a CO2 investment—still makes sense,” Wenders said. “We are not going to join the race about maximum range figures. Currently if you compare those figures and see what kind of energy investment is behind it, you often see the total carbon footprint of those models is higher than for a car with an internal-combustion engine. That doesn’t make any kind of sense.”
Like with the i3, BMW will likely offer small upgrades over time as battery technology continues to develop. Wenders did confirm that carbon fiber will be a big part of not just the i5, but any other future i models.
BMW knows that there’s already a built-in rivalry with Tesla, and Wenders addressed that with the magazine.
“I am highly subjective here, but I am convinced that we have the emotional connection already with our audience,” Wenders said. “But we are not keen on building a separate brand with a separate portfolio. That would be to talk about a separate company, one that you might see as an independent competitor to the Tesla brand. But that’s not our story – we are a sub-brand, part of the most successful premium carmaker in the world. We want to continue that story. We have the opportunity to be the spearhead, we can test new materials, new design languages, new body concepts. Innovation is our strength.”
He even hinted, perhaps jokingly, that the carbon-fiber architecture could support a convertible i model.