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BMW Launches the i4 Sedan

BMW recently revealed the i4, a sedan that focuses on driving dynamics while still being a decent EV. Together with the release of the iX crossover, this represents a major leap toward BMW’s goal of selling 50% EVs by 2030.

CleanTechnica readers probably have the same big question I did: what took BMW so long to get here? The answer is that it didn’t feel the technology was ready in previous years to really give the experience it wanted in a BMW sedan. The company made the BMW i3 to get into electrification, but wanted to wait until it felt it could build a vehicle that handles and acts like a BMW before it went into more mainstream products.

The big thing BMW didn’t want to sacrifice was handling. It got there by making things efficient enough to reduce the pack size while not losing range, and then focused on making things as light as possible in other areas. BMW then used its suspension experience to end up with a vehicle that handles like it wanted.

Power wasn’t sacrificed to get here either. The cheaper rear-wheel-drive version has 335 horsepower, while the all-wheel-drive version of the vehicle has 536 horsepower. The front drive unit is where this extra power comes from. The rear-drive version is going to have a rated range of 300 miles, while the performance version with two motors is going to be able to go 240 miles between charges. Charging at home will be 11 kW maximum, while the DC fast charging can do up to 200 kW.

Car and Driver recently went out and tested a late prototype version of the vehicle to see what it was like.

“The i4 showed little body roll and a fair amount of compliance to the suspension’s motions in Normal and Comfort drive modes. In the more aggressive Sport and Sport+ settings, the heavy i4 danced with an agility similar to that of a 3-Series. All i4s feature front coil springs and rear self-leveling air springs, with the M50 adding adaptive dampers. The electrically assisted steering is a bit quiet on feedback but always precise in its responses, regardless of the selected driving mode.”

Car and Driver also noticed that regenerative braking was a little weak for one-pedal driving, but was still strong. However, BMW said that this would be adjustable, so drivers can choose their favorite regenerative braking strength.

Differentiation Will Be Good For EVs

Before I get into this, let’s keep in mind that flowery press releases with things like “… BMW’s fabled sporting prowess and a range that also convinces over long journeys with the elegant design, spaciousness and practicality of a four-door Gran Coupé” are easy to write, but these things harder to actually build. Until more people (including ourselves, hopefully) get some wheel time with the i4, we can’t say that they’ve achieved what they claim.

I hope they did, though. The overall automotive industry has a lot of variety. Gas cars are built to be everything, from cars that were built to be cheap, like the Mitsubishi Mirage, to large SUVs like a four-door Jeep that can go anywhere, to hypercars like the upcoming Gordon Murray T.50. There are so many different vehicles, even ones that are almost identical, because there are so many different needs, wants, and tastes out there.

To achieve mass adoption, EVs need to do the same thing. Every vehicle can’t be a Tesla clone, even if you personally feel that its vehicles are the best. Other people have different tastes and needs, and EVs need to grow in every corner of the automotive industry.

What I can see here is that BMW wants to differentiate its EV offerings from Tesla. It wants its cars to carry on the BMW flavor, or at least as much of that flavor as possible when changing over to an EV. Weight and handling are the big differentiators BMW’s looking to capitalize on, but bet that the interior and other aspects of the driving experience will be designed to differ significantly. From the development videos I’ve seen, this is all something BMW’s put a lot of time into.

If it accomplished the goal here, and created an EV that is both a good EV and departs from the Tesla design formula to preserve that BMW flavor, there’s a huge market for that. Diehard BMW fans want their first EV to be a BMW, and not a Tesla clone with a propeller blade logo up front. If BMW can deliver that, expect the whole EV industry to hit some great growth in the next few years.

 
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Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

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