BMW has a new all-electric model coming in 2020—the iX3
On Wednesday at the Auto China 2018 show in Beijing, BMW gave the world a preview of its newest electric vehicle. It's called the iX3, and it will be the first long-range battery EV from the German automaker. Based on the current X3 crossover, the iX3 will ditch that car's internal combustion engines for a 200kW (270hp) electric motor-generator unit (MGU), coupled to a 70kWh lithium-ion battery. That should be sufficient for a range of 250 miles (400km) according to BMW, although that's according to the WLTP cycle; the EPA testing cycle is closer to real-world performance and is therefore more conservative. Additionally, it will be able to charge at 150kW.
There are a number of notable things about the iX3. First, it will use the fifth-generation of BMW's eDrive powertrain, which now groups the MGU, the transmission, and the control electronics into a single unit. What's more, BMW says that the MGU does not use any rare Earth elements in its production, presumably indicating it's an induction and not brushless design. The availability of these minerals is of increasing concern to automakers given China's control of these resources, and in the past couple of years we've seen both Honda and Toyota develop MGUs with a reduced need for some rare Earth elements. Tesla has also been using rare Earth-free AC-induction MGUs in the Model S and Model X EVs, but that company has switched to a brushless design for the Model 3.
Second, the iX3 looks remarkably conventional! Unlike the i3—BMW's current production BEV—the iX3 looks pretty much the same as the company's other SUVs or crossovers (though technically BMW calls them Sports Activity Vehicles). Given that the iX3 is based on the production X3, perhaps that shouldn't be too surprising.
Finally, there's the fact that when the iX3 goes into production, it will be built in China. Earlier this year, Stefan Juraschek, head of electric powertrain development at BMW, told me that having BEVs for China was a high priority for the company. In Europe, he expects plug-in hybrid EVs (PHEVs) will remain more popular for some time yet. China has been the leading market for EV sales for several years now, and that will only increase as the Chinese government increases the requirement for OEMs to increase the percentage of EVs they sell there. Eventually, the country will have a total ban on all new internal combustion engined vehicles (some time in the next decade or two).
The iX3 will be built at the BMW Brilliance Automotive joint venture factory in Shenyang. Technically BMW could go it alone, as China recently relaxed the law imposing a 25-percent import tariff on vehicles not produced under a joint ventures with a domestic manufacturer. But BMW and Brilliance have been partners since 2003, which suggests the German firm is happy with the existing relationship. While we know for sure that the iX3 will go on sale in China in 2020, it's been reported by other outlets that the new BEV will be exported to the US and Europe, although Ars is waiting on BMW for confirmation of that fact.
Even if the iX3 doesn't go on sale here or in Europe, those markets will get vehicles with the new eDrive powertrain the following year. At this year's New York auto show, Juraschek told us about the company's next vehicle architecture, which will give it the flexibility to build any new model with either an internal combustion engine, PHEV, or BEV powertrain, as well as either front-, rear-, or all-wheel drive. (Check out the final picture in the gallery above to see 3D models that illustrate how that will work.)
Listing image by BMW