What Should The i5 Be?

BMW i | May 14th, 2015 by 7
bmw i5 rendering 750x500

BMW’s next rumored car for its new division is the i5. The i5 is supposed to be a mid-sized plug-in hybrid, or fully electric vehicle

BMW’s i division could be one of the more intriguing corners of the automotive market. With just two vehicles, the i division is able to deliver both an urban EV hatchback, the i3, and a mid-engined, plug-in hybrid supercar, the i8. That’s quite impressive and exciting for what the future may hold for the i division. BMW’s next rumored car for its new division is the i5. The i5 is supposed to be a mid-sized plug-in hybrid, or fully electric vehicle, to compete with the Tesla Model S.

With Tesla’s meteoric rise to stardom recently, it makes sense that BMW would want a piece of Tesla’s pie. And while the i3 is a very good EV in its own right, it isn’t as big, comfortable or luxurious as the Model S. It also doesn’t have anywhere near the range that the Model S has, though to be fair, nothing does. So it only makes sense that BMW should make a car to compete and the logical move would be to create an i5. However, the real question is, what will the i5 be?

bmw i5 rendering 750x500

The i3 is a pure EV, with the only fuel being burnt by a two-cylinder range extender engine, and only has a range of about 80 miles on pure electric power, with another 70 miles added by the range extender. However, the i8 is a plug-in hybrid with a turbocharged, three-cylinder engine mated to two electric motors and a battery, giving it a total maximum range of around 273 miles. The Tesla Model S bottoms out at 240 miles of pure electric range in 70D trim but maxes out at 270 in 85D trim. So it’s no secret that Tesla has the market beat in terms of pure EV range and it would currently take a plug-in hybrid setup for BMW to match Tesla.

So what is BMW to do for its potentially upcoming i5? Well, it’s possible that BMW could be able to create a pure EV capable of similar range to the Model S line, as BMW is currently working on updating battery technology. The biggest feather in BMW’s cap, however, is weight savings. It takes massive battery packs to give the extremely heavy Tesla Model S its range. So with BMW’s use, and continued knowledge, of the Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic, currently used on the i3 and i8, it could get to a similar range without nearly as much battery power. Because while Tesla dominates the road is max range, it takes a very light foot to coax the Model S into getting even close to that range, as its heft causes the batteries to work overtime when driving quickly. Whereas the i3’s light weight allows the electric motor and battery to get up to speed quite a bit easier.

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But would it be better to make the i5 an eDrive plug-hybrid? Plug-in hybrids offer far greater range than a pure EV can. The simple reason behind this is, is that the plug-in can just stop and refuel in five minutes, whereas an EV, like the Model S, must charge for almost an hour. The i8 has a plug-in hybrid setup and, because of this, is more versatile on long journeys. So while plug-in hybrid setups may not be the most economical, as they still use gasoline, they offer a much simpler answer to range anxiety. They also are more beneficial in power and performance. The Tesla Model S is very fast, and in P85D trim, faster than the i8. However, its range significantly reduces when using the performance it’s capable of. When hammering the BMW i8, the gasoline engine actually puts power back into the batteries to add electric range, all the while being able to create mega performance.

BMW i8 By Tomirri Photography

If it were a vote, mine would go towards a plug-in hybrid setup. The added versatility, easier performance, far less range anxiety and overall peace of mind that I could just fill the tank when it runs out makes it a more attractive package to me. The Tesla Model S is a magnificent thing, as is the i3. But they, like all other pure EVs, are hamstrung by current range issues. Until such issues are worked out, I’d take something like the i8 over both of them. So it may make sense for the possibly upcoming i5 to use a similar setup to the i8 until range anxiety can be eliminated.