It’s increasingly evident that BMW will offer all-electric versions of existing models, departing from its previous strategy of building dedicated plug-in models under the “i” sub-brand.
The carmaker has said it would add all-electric versions of the next-generation X3 crossover, as well as an unspecified Mini model.
The move comes as BMW seeks to add more electric cars to its lineup in short order, in efforts to compete with both its traditional German luxury rivals and Tesla Motors.
After multiple reports indicating it would introduce electric versions of existing models, BMW confirmed plans for the electric Mini and electric X3 to Reuters at the end of last month.
The news follows a report from the German newspaper Handelsblatt that had named the Mini Cooper as the specific Mini model slated for an electric powertrain, and claimed BMW would electrify not the X3 but instead its X4 crossover.
The X4 is essentially the same vehicle as the X3, but with somewhat different styling defined by a sloping, coupe-like roof line.
BMW said the electric Mini would debut in about three years.This model would follow in the tire tracks of the Mini E, an all-electric version of the second-generation BMW-designed Mini Cooper.
A small fleet of Mini Es loaned to customers around the world helped in early development of the BMW i3 electric car.
The electric Minis were followed by a similarly converted fleet of the BMW 1-Series coupe, which was known as the BMW ActiveE.
An electric X3 crossover utility would likely appear sometime after the launch of the next-generation gasoline and diesel versions, which are expected to go on sale next year as 2018 models.
BMW already offers a plug-in hybrid version of the popular sport sedan, known as the 330e i Performance, but an all-electric version could compete directly with future smaller Tesla vehicles.
The 3-Series is close in size to the Tesla Model 3, the 215-mile, $35,000 electric sedan the Silicon Valley carmaker plans to put into production at the end of next year.
That model, whenever it appears, is to be followed by the Model Y, an all-electric crossover built on the same underpinnings.
Thus an all-electric BMW 3-Series would counter the Tesla Model 3, and an electric BMW X3 crossover would compete directly against the Tesla Model Y.
BMW is also expected to expand the “i” sub-brand with an extended-range electric crossover called the i5. Further down the road is a large flagship sedan, codenamed “iNext.”
The i5 in particular is important because it would fill the significant price and range gap between the current i3 and i8, but it likely won’t arrive until 2018.