BMW reveals more details about its first all-electric, made in China SUV
We’ve had news about the imminent production of the BMW iX3 for some time now, but the brand has now officially confirmed that the car will go on sale worldwide in mid-2021, and it will be the brand’s first model to be produced for export at its Shenyang manufacturing facility in China.
China will also be the first country to get the car, and sales are projected to start there before the end of 2020.
What’s so special about the iX3?
The car marks the beginning of the fifth-generation of BMW’s eDrive technology, with major progress in power density, operating range, weight, installation space and flexibility. According to BMW, the power density of the electric drive system has been increased by 30 percent over its current range of fully electric vehicles, and it will form the basis from which the BMW iNEXT and BMW i4 will be built in 2021.
As for the iX3, here are the important stats. BMW quotes a 0-100km/h sprint time of 6.8 seconds, an electronically-limited top speed of 180km/h, and a range of 460km on the WLT test cycle. The electric motor produces a maximum output of 210kW, or 286 horsepower and peak torque of 400Nm. The motor is designed around the principle of a current-excited synchronous motor, which allows engineers to completely avoid the use of rare earth materials in its construction.
Also, it’s only available in rear-wheel drive form, which is quite an unusual step as BMW has long advertised its X series cars as ‘go almost anywhere’ types of vehicles. Rather than see it as a disadvantage, BMW’s marketing literature speaks of the car delivering the classic BMW rear-wheel drive experience. Every iX3 will apparently come equipped with adaptive suspension as standard equipment as well. We think that the lack of 4WD is really down the component arrangement and packaging at the moment, and it won’t be long before a full 4WD all-electric BMW appears.
You can drive it like a regular two-pedal car with automatic transmission, but there’s also the option for one-pedal driving like in the BMW i3. Pushing the drive selector lever to ‘B’ rather than ‘D’allows for a pronounced one-pedal feel with extensive recuperation of braking and coasting energy, where releasing the accelerator pedal past a middle ‘neutral’ point slows the car while enhancing energy recuperation. The car’s adaptive recuperation actually enhances efficiency by using GPS data to detect if you’re on a highway or dashing from once cross junction to another in town.
Here’s another cool fun fact: the iX3 features an electrically generated sound composition created by Hans Zimmer and BMW sound designer Renzo Vitale while on the move. You might know Zimmer from his work, which include Gladiator and The Lion King. BMW notes that a “smoothly modulated sound” appears during energy recuperation and braking features a “ matching sound pattern”. We have no idea what it sounds like yet, so your guess is as good as ours at this point.
Outside, the iX3 is very similar to the regular X3 though the front apron and kidney grille are closed off as there is no need to feed air into the non-existent engine compartment. Like BMW’s other electrics, blue accents can be found around the outside and inside, while wheels unique to the iX3 alloys apparently help improve its efficiency too, giving the car up to 10km of extra range through reduced wind resistance.
The battery’s location low and flat under the car means there’s still plenty of storage with 510 litres seats up or 1,560 litres seats down.
The big questions
The motor, transmission and electronics in the iX3 are arranged in a single, reasonably compact housing just ahead of the rear axle. It features a single speed transmission which is typical of all-electric cars, and the designers state that the motor doesn’t run out of torque at high speed unlike some current-gen designs. BMW claims that the iX3 is 93 percent more efficient than any other electric vehicle in its current lineup.
The 74kWh battery consists of 188 prismatic cells which have a modular design. In the rare event of a failure in one of the cells, just a single cell can be replaced rather than the entire battery pack.
The iX3 is capable of taking in power at up to 150 kW at DC fast-charging stations, and recharging from 0 to 80 per cent takes just 34 minutes at this rate.
Here’s the catch for Singapore at the moment though: the SP Group’s fast charging stations in Singapore only go up to 50 kW, but take heart as there are immediate plans afoot to build more powerful charging stations.
It’s a car designed for serious long distance driving, and there are plans to roll out individual packages that offer the optimum charging solution for every customer need including a Flexible Fast Charger that allows for the use of different socket types. What this will mean for the rest of the world still remains to be seen.
But the big question is probably: Why is it made in China? BMW states that this is purely down to economics. China is currently the world’s biggest consumer of electric cars, and the rate is still accelerating. The country’s rapidly improving expertise in car manufacturing and central location made it a logical choice to build the iX3 in Shenyang, and the brand has heavily hinted that the upcoming BMW iNEXT will be manufactured there too.
The iX3 is expected to arrive in Singapore by mid-2021, giving the X3 the widest range of power options from petrol to plug-in hybrid to full electric vehicle.