The latest on the BMW i1 & BMW i2 EV projects [Update]

Update: ‘LFP battery’ section added.

In addition to the widely reported EVs derived from its global top-selling models like the BMW 3 Series (BMW i3 sedan), BMW X1 (BMW iX1), BMW 7 Series (BMW i7), and the BMW 5 Series (BMW i5), BMW Group has planned electric cars which it has managed to keep off the radar. Two of such unannounced, secretive EV projects are BMW i1 and BMW i2, coming from the British media.

BMW i1

According to a report from CAR magazine, a BMW i1 entry-level EV was almost given the green signal for production in 2020. Last year though, the company was at crossroads about choosing its platform. The British publication didn’t say if the i1 would be a 1 Series successor and thus a compact car, or something smaller.

Initially, the i1 could have been built on the same platform co-developed with Great Wall Motors. Now, the Neue Klasse platform presents an in-house alternative. Whether this new platform will be usable for city cars initially isn’t known. The debut Neue Klasse platform model (next-gen 3 Series/X3) will arrive in the first markets in 2025. German compatriot Daimler is developing its Smart city models on Geely’s Sustainable Experience Architecture that currently underpins the Zeekr 001.

Industrial designer Giorgi Tedoradze has rendered a BMW i1 (set as the story’s featured image), presenting it as a three-door urban car. The dimensions hint at A-segment positioning, although with a dedicated EV platform, the interior has to be bigger than that of a traditional city car. The large, vertical kidney grille makes the car brawny, and along with the sleek and sharp headlamps, it provides it an aggressive styling at the front. The low and short hood, extremely rakish windshield, short overhangs, big five-twin-spoke alloy wheels, low-profile tyres, two-tone paint scheme, and contrast colour stripes give a sporty appearance to the rendered i1.

LFP battery

The BMW i1’s battery pack will likely consist of LFP cells, which, compared to NMC cells, are less expensive and don’t consist of Cobalt, which is a rare earth mineral. Answering a question on the segments LFP cells might work, Dr. Peter Lamp suggested entry-level EVs equivalent to some of the BMW 1 Series models as an example. Dr. Lamp is the Head of Battery Cell Technology at BMW Group.

For sure, LFP will not be suitable for a 7 Series, or even a 5 Series. But it might be reasonable for, for example, a 1 Series entry model, maybe not over the whole different kind of offers within the 1 model. So, it has to be carefully checked for which individual product line and for which individual car model it makes sense or not. But for sure, it’s more on the lower side, the smaller car and within those, with maybe the entry positions.

Dr. Peter Lamp, Head of Battery Cell Technology, BMW Group (Virtual event for analysts and investors on 26 November 2021)
BMW Group LFP advantages and limitations
LFP cells don’t have a high energy density, but their cost and safety advantages make them suitable for the entry-level segment. Image Source: Dr. Peter Lamp/BMW Group

Further, Dr. Lamp clarified that the company intends to use LFP cells in battery packs of models sold not only in China but also Europe.

We believe that, the wish to have also an entry position for an electric car, like for the combustion engine we have the 116 (BMW 1 Series 116i variant), for example. This might be also relevant in Europe. So, I don’t believe that LFP will only be restricted to China.

Dr. Peter Lamp, Head of Battery Cell Technology, BMW Group (Virtual event for analysts and investors on 26 November 2021)

BMW i2 & BMW iM2

There are mixed views about the BMW i2 model, with some saying it’s nothing more than an idea, while others, confident about its conception. The believers see it as a pure electric long-wheelbase 2 Series Gran Coupe designed for China. However, if an i2 is indeed planned, a crossover shape would make more sense in terms of volumes.

One exciting speculation about the BMW i2 is that it would be a pure electric variant of the new BMW 2 Series two-door model. Reports, including a piece from Autocar, say that the two-door model will come in only a coupe version (codename: G42). However, other available evidence suggests that a Convertible would be a part of the range as an EV.

A report from CAR claims that a BMW iM2 is under development. Internally called ‘Project Katharina,’ the iM2 is a pure electric variant of the second-gen 2 Series. The iM2 would be a monstrous performance car for a compact coupe, offering 1 megawatt of system power from four electric motors. With each wheel spun by its own motor, it could be one of the most sophisticated torque-vectoring setups ever in a Bimmer.

It is said that a prototype has already lapped the Nürburgring in under seven minutes. The iM2, then, would surely be a performance enthusiasts’ dream car, if it makes it to the market. Moreover, a limited-run stripped-out configuration with a two-seat seating layout, carbon-fibre panels and roof, hollow-spoke mag wheels, and thin-walled glass is under consideration, the report said. If launched, the BMW iM2 would make a statement to the world that BMW M is ready to go all-electric without any compromise.

BMW’s CEO ‘teases’ an electric convertible

Talking about the level of flexibility BMW Group’s architectures offer in an interview with Auto Zeitung in June 2021, Oliver Zipse, Chairman of BoM, BMW Group, dropped a big hint about a pure electric BMW 2 Series Convertible. He said that the 2 Series Coupe and X7 sit on the same architecture and that technically it is possible to offer an electric convertible. “How many electric convertibles do you know in this world,” Zipse continued, indicating that the company could be studying the business case of an electric convertible, which could become the BMW i2. He mentioned that BMW Group owes it to its customers to continue selling models with strong characters and emotions, including “coupes and convertibles.”

Trademark application

In more recent updates, reports say that the BMW Group has filed new trademark applications for ‘BMW i2’ and ‘i2’ names. The company has owned rights to the names in countries for many years. While possibilities of a BMW i2 coming to showrooms are strong, we reckon the new development is a legal formality to protect the names in all the countries where it is deemed necessary.

BMW’s EV strategy

BMW Group plans to have 13 EVs in showrooms by 2023, and thereby achieve ICE-ban readiness. While some of them are MINI models like the Cooper Electric and the Countryman, most would be BMW electric cars. By the end of 2025, it aims to increase cumulative EV sales to around two million units. By 2030, no less than 50% of BMW sales would come from EVs, which warrants electric versions of almost every BMW vehicle.

Featured image: BMW i1 Isetta by Giorgi Tedoradze