The BMW i3 electric car will get a longer range next year, and it will soon be followed by another "i" model, the carmaker's chief executive says.

That would expand the BMW "i" range to three models, including the i3 small hatchback, the i8 plug-in hybrid coupe, and the new and so far unnamed model,

But there's still no firm timeline for the arrival of the new model, sometimes referred to as "i5."

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Krüger did not offer any details on the range extension BMW is planning for the i3, and in fact it was merely a sentence in an article largely based on the next "i" vehicle.

The 2016 Nissan Leaf now offers a range of 107 miles, and the 200-mile Chevrolet Bolt EV will go into production before the end of 2016.

That risks BMW's highest-volume electric car being left behind at its current range of 81 miles (or 72 miles when fitted with the REx range-extending engine).

2015 BMW i3

2015 BMW i3

The third "i" model will arrive "soon," BMW CEO Harald Krüger said in an interview with German weekly Zeit (via Handelsblatt).

He did say that the new "i" model will be larger than the i3, which seems to be a tacit confirmation of previous reports that BMW was planning a larger electric car to be called the i5.

As far back as 2012--before the launch of the production i3 and i8--there were reports that BMW was considering an electric "four-door coupe," or possibly even an MPV.

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Earlier this year, it was reported that the i5 could in fact be a plug-in hybrid, using the Power eDrive powertrain previously demonstrated in a 5 Series GT test mule.

This powertrain essentially flips the concept of a plug-in hybrid on its head, using electric motors as the main source of power, supplemented by an internal-combustion engine.

But since this vehicle will reportedly use the structure of the long-wheelbase 5 Series sold in China, it may not in fact be the next "i" model.

2015 BMW i3 REx - Driven, Portland OR, April 2015

2015 BMW i3 REx - Driven, Portland OR, April 2015

It would not use the carbon fiber-reinforced plastic body shell and aluminum chassis of the i3 and i8.

BMW R&D chief previously said that the next "i" model will not be based on an existing vehicle.

MORE: BMW Targets Twice As Many Electric-Car Sales This Year

In the first nine months of this year, BMW says it has sold about 16,600 i3 electric cars and nearly 4,000 i8 plug-in hybrids globally.

That includes 7,893 i3 and 1,342 i8 sales in the U.S. during the same period.


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