Among the three German luxury brands, BMW was first out of the gate to build and sell a battery-electric car in volume.
Its unusual and technically advanced i3 small hatchback, offered with an optional two-cylinder range-extending engine, makes up the bulk of its "i" sub-brand sales, joined by the sexy and expensive i8 plug-in hybrid sport coupe.
Now we have a bit more information about the next model in the range, thought to be named the i5.
In an interview with Henrik Wenders, product chief for the "i" range, enthusiast magazine Car and Driver confirmed that the i5's body will use the same carbon-fiber reinforced plastic technology as the previous cars.
He also said the i5 will offer a range-extending engine, meaning it'll operate primarily as a battery-electric car rather than a plug-in hybrid whose engine kicks in whenever maximum power is needed.
While the i3 is often the second or third car in a household, Wenders said, the goal for the new vehicle is that "it must be capable of being the first car in the household."
2014 BMW i3 REx, scenic New Jersey, Apr 2015 [photo by owner Tom Moloughney]
The market will define what that type of vehicle will be, he said, although Green Car Reports sources suggest that it will be closer to a crossover utility vehicle than a more conventional passenger car.
Wenders suggested that range extenders may be a temporary phenomenon, saying that when technology and cost permit batteries large enough to equal the range of a gasoline car, they might not be needed.
He noted that i3 owners rarely take advantage of the optional engine. It is used "regularly," he said, in only about 5 percent of the cars on the road, though he didn't define what would constitute regular use.
According to the magazine, Wenders "refused to be drawn into specifics of what he would regard as a minimum" electric range—although, he said, "We are not going to join the race about maximum range figures."
He suggested that the total carbon footprint of an electric car with the longest-range battery "often" was higher than that of a gasoline car.
That statement isn't generally true for North American power grids, though we're not aware that BMW has released a full wells-to-wheels carbon-footprint analysis for the i3 and its energy-intensive CFRP shell.
2016 BMW i3
After Motor Authority wrote about the Car and Driver article, product and technology spokesperson Rebecca Kuehne of BMW North America contacted the site to deny that Wenders had confirmed any details of the forthcoming product.
The model confirmation of a supposed BMW i5 is incorrect. The interview between Car and Driver and Hendrik Wenders does not confirm the model or any related product specs.
We are currently working with Car and Driver to get the information properly reflected and the story corrected. We’d appreciate it if you could amend your story to accurately display this information.
As of this morning, however, it does not appear that the magazine's story has been changed.
We'll keep you updated as we continue to seek details on the upcoming BMW i5 (or whatever it ends up being called).