BMW will introduce its most advanced electric powertrain technology yet to the road in 2020 when a new version of the X3 is launched. Set to be called the iX3, it’ll arrive as part of the fourth-generation X3 range and be the first car to get all-new zero-emission underpinnings that are being developed for use in all of BMW’s next generation of electric vehicles.
An iX3 test mule has been spotted in Scandinavia – where the range of its battery pack is being evaluated in conditions that dip below -10deg Celsius, on a regular basis.
The electric powertrain of this mule – based on the third-generation X3 – is evident from the lack of water vapour from tail-pipes, as it drives away. In these sub zero conditions, combustion engine tail-pipes almost always produce vapour.
The sighting of an EV X3 so early into the future car's development cycle indicates that the platform of the future line-up is being engineered to adopt an electric powertrain from the get-go. This is essential for effective packaging to ensure cabin space is not compromised by the placement of batteries in the car’s floor.
The iX3's structure will be a development of BMW’s CLAR structure, which underpins the X3, as well as the latest 5-series and 7-series models and will be used in the 2019 BMW 3-series.
Although the iX3 will probably feature a grille-free nose to reduce drag, its overall design is unlikely to differ drastically from that of its combustion engine sibling. The BMW Group’s latest stance on EV design is to be more discreet; Mini brand boss Sebastian Mackensen told Autocar recently that the marque “doesn’t need to make a big statement” about EVs.
The electric architecture beneath the iX3 will be the most advanced put into production by BMW. The iX3 will use two electric motors – one mounted up front, driving the front wheels and a second at the rear, within the axle assembly to drive the rear wheels. This setup will enable torque vectoring to enhance traction.
The electric layout will come as part of BMW's fifth-generation EV platform and will be used in 11 more electric BMWs, due to arrive by 2025. Not all of those cars will adapt the twin-motor setup employed by the iX3, however. Models less concerned with all-wheel-drive traction could adopt a simpler layout, which uses a front-mounted electric motor in combination with a fixed-ratio gearbox and so-called electric propeller shaft to channel drive to the rear wheels.
Each of BMW's new electric models will gain an 'i' at the start of its name to signify its status. BMW recently patented a list of nine names spanning from iX1 to iX9, although not all will necessarily be used because most will be aligned with current models in the line-up. The largest confirmed model for BMW’s future range is the X7.
The brand will also produce an electric version of the future 4-series GT, called the i4, in 2020 and an i5, which was previewed by the i Vision Dynamics concept and is due in 2021. The company patented the i1 to i9 names back in 2010, before the i3 and i8 arrived.