What Should The i5 Be?

BMW i | May 14th, 2015 by 7

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.

test drive bmw x5 edrive hybrid 04 750x530

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.

7 responses to “What Should The i5 Be?”

  1. mckillio says:

    I think currently and certainly by the time that the i5 will come out that there’s no reason for the i brand to have engines at all, that’s what the BMW PHEVs are for. With BMW’s construction, they can easily beat Tesla’s range with fewer batteries and around the same price. I have no problem with the i8 and i3 having a engine for power and generator but for the next generation they should be 100% electric or at most have a generator like the i3.

  2. Crux says:

    I would go with a plugin hybrid mated with a powerful quad turbo engine.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I think they actually need two new models:

    1. i5 should be a practical PHEV sedan around the 3-series size with 80 mi EV range. It needs to be priced at fully loaded 3-series to base level 5-series. The target demographic would not be Model S but conquest of Volt people wanting more luxury or luxury car people that are hesitant to go full EV due to range anxiety. Over the next several years I think that is the largest customer base, convincing ICE people to dip their toes into the EV world.

    2. i7 should be full BEV and directly compete with Model S with according battery size and of course price.

    • Max says:

      Mmh I think this will not happen, because they have the 330e so why they should build another car in this segment?! Maybe later..
      I think the i5 will/should be more like the Tesla size and of course better material quality and more luxurious than the Tesla is, which is easy by the way ;). The range should not be a big problem because they have this great technology with use of carbon and aluminum so they easy get the same range with much less weight! It is also possible to make 2 versions of it, one plug in hybrid and one EV, why not?

  4. Blake Arrendell says:

    I think that i0-3 should be SUVs i4-6 are sedans and i7-9 are sports cars

  5. Ask says:

    I thought all BMW i’s are born electric

  6. Raphael Sturm says:

    This would be a cool Model 3 competitor! If it is the size of a 3 series with about 400hp and todays Model S range, in 2018 it hardly will be comparable to the S. If they go with the pure electric option, they should start to think about fast charging now, these 50kw ccs chargers will have to be upgraded, to at least 100kw if not 150 or even 200, to match Teslas future, or at least todays, charging speeds. If its done properly, the i brand could become a big moneymaker for BMW.

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