BMW could build a larger stablemate to the new i3 electric car, but the firm is having intense internal discussions on what form the new model should take and how it should be powered.
The German manufacturer is launching its eco-focused i sub-brand with two models: the Fiesta-sized i3 – which is available as a fully electric car or as a range-extender – and the i8 supercar, which uses a plug-in hybrid powertrain.
However, a senior BMW source has told What Car? that the critical success being enjoyed by the Tesla Model S, particularly in the United States, has already convinced many within the i project that there is potential for a model larger than the i3. He also revealed that the company is still deciding whether the new car – likely to be called i5 – would be some sort of crossover with a raised seating position or a conventional saloon.
'We are having these discussions right now,' said the insider, 'and no decision has been taken. In fact, there's still not an absolute decision that the car, if it is called i5, should even happen. Many, including myself, believe that there is potential. Then if we decide the car should happen, we need to decide if it is a regular sedan or something where the passengers are sitting slightly higher up.
'Then after that we need to decide whether a car of this size can be a fully electric edition, like the i3, or whether it needs to be a range-extender – or perhaps even a plug-in hybrid. That could ultimately be the best solution for that model; we don't know yet.'
The i3 is focused on 'mega cities' such as London, and even if the i5 has a longer range to allow more out-of-town motoring, it's still likely to be aimed at suburban buyers. That makes some sort of crossover (perhaps something similar to the forthcoming X4 instead of a regular SUV) the most likely choice, since that car could offer the raised driving position favoured by many town users.
Regardless of how it is powered, the new car will stick to the BMW i brand values - so it will be rear-wheel drive and make extensive use of carbonfibre and CFRP (carbonfibre-reinforced plastic) in its construction. 'I think those things are pretty much guaranteed,' said our source.