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BMW unveils electric iX3 SUV, with big claims about more power, range, and space

The all-electric BMW iX3 SUV is not coming to the United States. But the company is still trumpeting the iX3 as the beginning of its major EV campaign – and the debut of a more capable EV drive system. The production of the version of the iX3 was unveiled today. If nothing else, it provides new images for the best glimpse yet of the model.

The iX3, the brand’s first all-electric SUV, debuts in China later this year and in Europe in early 2021. It will be followed by the i4 sedan and larger iNEXT crossover, which will be the first new electric Bimmers to arrive in the US since the i3 compact in 2013.

The iX3 is the first of 13 pure EVs that BMW is expected to introduce by 2023. Sales of the iX3 in America were nixed by US BMW dealers who thought the range from its 74-kWh battery pack would not be enough for buyers in the states.

BMW confirmed the specs of the iX3. The iX3’s 80-kilowatt-hour battery pack – 74 kWh of which is useable – offers a range of 460 kilometers (286 miles) using the generous WLTP testing numbers. That likely translates to around 200 miles in real-world driving.

The iX3 features a 210 kW (282 horsepower) electric motor. It can accelerate from 0 to 100 kmh (62 mph) in 6.8 seconds.

One-pedal driving is available. DC fast charging goes up to 150 kilowatts. And a standard adaptive suspension can optimize the level of sportiness or comfort.

While none of those specs and features are ground-breaking, the company claims that it has made significant gains in EV capability while reducing costly materials. According to BMW, the iX3’s NMC 811 chemistry, which uses more nickel and less cobalt than previous recipes, has an energy density roughly 20% better than previous BMW electrified models. The power density of the entire electric drive system is increased by 30% over existing BMW EVs.

There are other firsts:

  • The iX3’s battery is also free of rare-earth metals, according to the company.
  • BMW uses a “current-excited synchronous electric motor,” rather than a permanent magnet or induction motor. (However, the description sounds a lot like a variation of an induction motor.)
  • The electric motor, power electronics, and transmission are arranged in a central housing for the first time.
  • The BMW iX3 will be the brand’s first model to be produced for export at the Shenyang manufacturing facility in China.

The luxury brand continues to emphasize its flexible “power of choice” manufacturing strategy – with the X3 SUV produced as a gas or diesel engine, as a plug-in hybrid, and now a pure EV.

Electrek’s Take

Kudos to BMW for launching its first pure EV in seven years. The level of investment and engineering in its new fifth-generation eDrive system is apparently reaping benefits regarding the energy density of its cells and the drive system’s power capabilities.

But these engineering gains are only as meaningful as the EVs that BMW produces and sells – with tangible improvements in long-range, acceleration, creature comforts, charging times, and compelling prices. We can’t yet see those signs.

Nonetheless, it’s just the beginning of BMW’s new EVs. For American drivers, the proof of the claimed engineering gains will take the form of the i4 sedan and iNEXT crossover, which are due in late 2021.

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Avatar for Bradley Berman Bradley Berman

Bradley writes about electric cars, autonomous vehicles, smart homes, and other tech that’s transforming society. He contributes to The New York Times, SAE International, Via magazine, Popular Mechanics, MIT Technology Review, and others.