BMW sold more than 100,000 cars with plugs last year, adding together its battery-electric and plug-in hybrid models.

That's roughly on a par with Tesla, and ahead of both General Motors and Nissan, two other pioneers in modern electric cars.

The company has put far more plug-in cars on the road to date than its German counterparts, both Daimler and the massive Volkswagen Group, and it has aggressive plans for 25 electric models by 2025—split between 12 all-electric and 13 plug-in hybrid models.

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BMW sold just over 2 million vehicles globally under its own brand in 2017, but plans for much higher volumes of electric cars won't kick in until 2020.

That's the word from BMW CEO Harald Krueger, speaking to analysts on Thursday in Munich, as reported by Reuters.

What's required, he said, is one more generation of lithium-ion battery cells, which won't arrive in volume until the year after next.

Harald Krüger

Harald Krüger

The 2019 BMW i8 Roadster that launches this spring will use fourth-generation cells, Krueger said, but it's the fifth generation that will be significantly less expensive for BMW.

He's likely talking about the long-discussed "low-profile" and high-energy Samsung cells expected to go into production within the next year to 18 months.

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Those fifth-generation cells, Krueger told the analysts at his presentation, are cheaper by "a two-digit number" in percentage terms.

Cost reductions of that magnitude will permit the company to offer electric cars with ranges rated at 200 miles or more for prices that make them competitive not only with other EVs but also with their counterparts with combustion engines.

2018 BMW i3s

2018 BMW i3s

In January, Stefan Juraschek, the head of BMW's Electric Powertrain group, confirmed to Green Car Reports that BMW believes its two vehicle "architectures" can serve both cars with powerful engines and those with large battery packs and more compact electric drive motors.

One of those two architectures—in the form of "modular kits" of components—is the FAAR front-wheel-drive platform that underpins today's Mini Cooper range and BMW X1 small crossover.

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The other is the CLAR architecture first used for the latest 7-Series and 5-Series large sedans, which has been redesigned to accommodate electric-drive components as well as powerful engines.

Meanwhile, Krueger told analysts the company has chosen Contemporary Amperex Technology Co Ltd (CATL) as its battery provider in China, where automakers must use cell suppliers on a list approved by the national government.

Hat tip: Ye Wang