We’ve been speculating, along with every other motoring publication in the world, what sort of vehicle BMW’s i Division will be making next. We’ve been speculating for a long time, as has everyone else. However, we still don’t have a real, concrete answer as to what the hell it’s going to be.
Whatever the next i Division product will be, it should be coming sometime in either 2017 or 2018, so relatively soon. But there’s no official word on there actually being any new i Division products any time soon. According to BMW board member, Ian Robertson, who recently sat down with Auto Express, “Legislation means we’ll inevitably have more zero-emission cars and we’re exploring more i models, although no firm decisions have been made yet.”
If or when BMW does develop a new i Division product, we have reason to believe that it will be a BMW i5 SUV. The reason behind this is simple: People love SUVs and people also love electric cars now. So combining the two should be a home run, right? Right. So long as it doesn’t look like the Model X.
SUVs are also the perfect platforms for electric vehicles. They’re large enough to comfortably accommodate large battery packs, are the perfect fit for all-wheel drive and can be priced high without customers outraging. It’s why Audi is going with an SUV for its first-ever all-electric production vehicle, with the upcoming Q6 e-tron.
However, according to Robertson, BMW isn’t rushing another i-branded vehicle, as the i Division isn’t only about electric power. “i is about all technologies,” said Robertson. “It’s seen as something different in countries other than the UK, where it seems to be more about the power source. But we have advanced technologies feeding into our other products, such as the carbon fibre used throughout the new 7 Series.”
We’ve already seen the trickle-down effect of these i Division technologies, with the BMW i8 powertrain making its way into other vehicles and the Carbon Core chassis tech headlining the new 7 Series chassis technology. Robertson claims that these i Division technologies will make their way into standard BMWs much like the M Division’s performance technology has done the same over the past few decades. “We’ll have i technology moving into our products from one side in the same way we have technology from our M cars moving in from the other,”
The biggest challenge for BMW’s i Division has been battery technology. Batteries simply aren’t up to par with internal combustion engines, in terms of range and longevity. But Robertson sees this technology improving quickly, with advanced being made in both lithium-ion and lithium-air batteries. Engineers are also looking into solid-state batteries, which are lighter, smaller and powerful. So this batter development has a lot to do with when BMW’s next i Division vehicle will debut and what it will be.
BMW is currently in very serious discussions about what’s next for the brand as a whole, especially its i Division. Instead of going to the Paris Motor Show, one of the largest of the year, many BMW board members will be attending a meeting to figure out the next step for electrification. So everything is still up in the air, at the moment. However, if we were to guess, based on everything we’ve heard and our sources, the next BMW i Division vehicle could be an i5 SUV.