While brands like Tesla, Volkswagen, General Motors, and Ford have all developed or are developing their own bespoke electric platforms, BMW's been sitting on the sidelines with its flexible platforms, built for both internal combustion and electrification. Cars like the BMW i4, iX3, and recently announced iX1 are all built on this flexible platform, called "CLAR" in BMW-speak. However, the Bavarians finally realized that a devoted and modular EV architecture is the way of the future.
BMW will finally have its own dedicated EV platform, called the Neue Klasse platform, according to Automotive News Europe. The Neue Klasse name, meaning "New Class," is a nod to the old Neue Klasse of cars from the 1960s, including the famous BMW 2002. However, this new Neue Klasse seems like it will underpin most of BMW's upcoming models past 2025, starting with the next-gen 3 Series.
During a recent earnings call with investors, BMW CEO Oliver Zipse stated that the Neue Klasse platform will begin production in 2025 at the brand's new Hungary plant. "When it hits the market, it will be concentrated on the 3 Series segment and at that point in time the market will have developed into a size where it is reasonable to have only one drivetrain in that architecture," Zipse said. He also said that, at first, the platform will be "mainly focused on the middle car (midsize) segment. It does not cover from the lower segments all the way to the luxury segments."
A BMW spokesperson expanded on that, saying that while this new EV platform will start with the 3 Series, it will expand from there. "The Neue Klasse starts with models from the middle car segment, but of course, there is more to come," the person told Automotive News Europe. They also said that the Neue Klasse would range from high-volume cars all the way to high-performance models, hinting at future all-electric BMW M cars.
This is the most BMW's discussed the Neue Klasse platform yet, with most of its details being shrouded in mystery over the past year or so. It will also be the first all-electric platform from BMW to be used on multiple vehicles. The BMW i3 and iX use bespoke EV architectures, but they're one-offs and won't be used for any other cars. They also happen to be BMW's best EVs to date.
Thankfully, Neue Klasse should be a big step up for BMW's electric future, with Zipse claiming that “It represents a quantum leap in technology." BMW develops its electric powertrains entirely in-house. Much like Lucid, BMW's current Gen5 EV powertrain—used in the iX and i4—consists of the electric motor, transmission, and all requisite electronics in one unit. However, BMW is said to have an even better powertrain planned for Neue Klasse cars “with more output, new cell chemistry and new cell formats,” Zipse said.
Zipse didn't clarify what sort of improvements might be made to the Gen5 powertrain, but I'd suspect efficiency would be the main target. While BMW's current EV powertrain is mostly impressive—capable of sports car-rivaling performance in cars like the i4 M50—it lacks the efficiency of powertrains from Tesla and Lucid. Still, it's encouraging to see more brands like BMW switch to pure and modular EV platforms, as they support better electric vehicles than flexible platforms. They're often lighter, offer far superior packaging and interior space, and allow for far more design freedom, leading to better-looking cars.
Also, someone needs to give the Tesla Model 3 a run for its money. An all-electric 3 Series might just be that car.
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