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BMW confirms its first all-electric M car

By Scott Newman, 24 Sep 2020 News

BMW i4 electric car.

i4-based M Performance model will be BMW's first fast EV

It’s a bold new era for the BMW M Division with the go-fast brand’s first all-electric model to appear next year in the form of the 2022 BMW i4 M Performance.

Speaking to Australian media, M boss Markus Flasch confirmed the hot i4 will make its debut in 2021 while also providing more detail around how the brand will incorporate electrification into its future.

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“It’s not a big secret that next year we will launch the first battery electric M car in the performance segment based on an i4,” said Flasch, “And then we’re working on hybrid, electric [and] electrified performance and high performance cars [but] it’s too early to disclose which models are going to be.”

BMW i4 Gran Coupe electric car concept.

BMW has revealed the i4 will use an 80kWh battery producing a maximum of 390kW, sufficient for a range of around 600km and a 0-100km/h time of four seconds, however it’s currently unclear if the i4 M Performance will build on its power or simply enhance its dynamics and styling.

“There is no secret about what our philosophy is,” commented Flasch. “We are not here to electrify anything by every means. We know that we have customers in different segments and in different markets and different use cases and we are sure that there will be a parallel path of conventional technology, hybrid technology and battery electric vehicles for quite some time.”

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BMW M has yet to dip its toe into the hybridisation waters with even a 48-volt system, Flasch explaining that such a system was considered for the new M3 and M4 but the desire to retain a manual transmission was one of the reasons that prevented it.

“At BMW M we will pick the appropriate technology for a segment of the market,” he said. “The question for us is: when can we combine the power of the electric systems that we develop in the company and bring it into an M package? Steering wise, lateral dynamics wise? It’s not just about power output and longitudinal performance. And sounds, of course, is another one.

BMW i4 prototype drifting in the snow.

“The technology we’re looking at on the high performance side will take some more years to come. You can imagine that weight will play a significant role. Driving dynamically, there are opportunities within electrified powertrains in the control systems and this is something that needs further development.

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“If you think about that you can use an electric motor for both directions and what you can do with multiple motors and you probably know where we’re going to, but the biggest question to answer is how to handle weight of battery electric car and still offer specific M-style dynamics.”

The push to electrification is required for M Division to offset the emissions of its high-performance internal-combustion engines and help BMW achieve the EU’s mandated 95g/km average fleet emissions.

BMW i4 Concept profile.Flasch revealed that M would adopt a strategy of zero emissions offset rather than attempting to bring down the emissions of every vehicle: “We have to contribute to the CO2 emissions of BMW and this is why we look into electrification, but there will also be room in certain models in certain markets for purely combustion-driven M cars.

“We’ve talked about customer racing (GT3 and GT4 cars), we know that this will for quite some time still need combustion engines, then there is M3 and M3 and M4 demand. We need to find a mix that suits the requirements of BMW and we will electrify or hybrid-electrify other segments, the mix is what counts, we don’t bring down the average of every single model.”