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The BMW Concept i4 gets us closer to what's coming in 2021

Kirsten Korosec

BMW unveiled Tuesday a concept version of its upcoming i4, an all-electric four-door Gran Coupe with an estimated EPA range of 270 miles and the ability to produce 530 horsepower, pushing it past its high-performance M3 combustion vehicle.

The i4 concept vehicle, which was unveiled online because the Geneva International Motor Show was cancelled due to the coronavirus, is slated to enter production in 2021. BMW has been talking about and teasing what would follow its i3 electric vehicle for awhile now. BMW released some specs on the upcoming i4 at the LA Auto Show back in November. This latest unveiling shows off more of what we can expect the i4 to look like, plus a bit more information on the interior and expected range.

The concept has a long wheelbase, fastback roofline and short overhangs, suggesting that the production version will have a similar profile — a far cry from the wedge-shaped i3.

The front end shows a closed-off grille. BMW says it has given the grille of the concept a purpose beyond just a reminder of its combustion engine past. The grille will be used to house various sensors, according to BMW.

Perhaps the most noticeable features, besides the mammoth kidney-shaped grille, is the glass roof and a curved digital display in the interior.

bmw i14 inside

While it is not clear if the production version will integrate these same features, we can expect that the interior will be more touch-based and have fewer buttons and knobs. It will be interesting to see if BMW sticks to the single-screen design. In the photo below, you'll notice at least one knob located in the console area.

bmw i4 inside screen

Close followers of BMW's EV plans might remember that the i4 was going to have a range of 600 kilometers, or about 400 miles. But it wasn't clear if that figure, which would push it ahead of the competition, was based on the EPA or European WLTP.  EPA estimates tend to be more conservative. BMW is now clarifying the range and has said the EPA estimate will be 270 miles.

The i4 will have the fifth-generation BMW eDrive, a platform that features a brand new electric motor, power electronics, charging unit and high-voltage battery. This fifth-gen platform will also show up in the iNEXT SUV and the iX3, which is headed for the Chinese market. The 80-kilowatt battery pack in the i4 is flat, according to BMW, and weighs 550 kilograms. For comparison, the battery pack in the Tesla Model 3 weighs 480 kg.

The unveiling of the i4 concept builds upon earlier announcements from BMW to push deeper into electrification. In November, BMW announced it would spend more than €10 billion euros ($11.07 billion) on battery cells from Chinese battery cell manufacturer Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. and Samsung SDI. BMW’s original deal with CATL, which was announced in mid-2018, was for €4 billion worth of battery cells. This new contract is from 2020 to 2031, the German automaker said at the time.

BMW Group will be the first customer of CATL’s battery cell factory that is under construction in Erfurt, Germany. BMW played an active part in establishing CATL in Germany, according to Andreas Wendt, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG responsible for purchasing and supplier network.