BMW's i division has switched its focus from electric drivetrains to autonomous technology
Autonomous technology developed by BMW's i division for its first driverless car will start to trickle out into the brand's wider model range from 2021, BMW senior vice president Hildegard Wortmann has told Autocar.
Speaking ahead of January’s WhatCar? Awards, Wortmann said this trickle technique was used to integrate electric technology from the i3 and i8 into almost every model in BMW's line-up. “BMW has the largest number of plug-in hybrids on the road," she said. "You can have a plug-in hybrid from the [2 Series] Active Tourer to the 7 Series, so in every segment we have an offer out on the street today."
Wortmann explained that the passing of EV technology to the wider range means the division isn’t tied to electric powertrains anymore. She said that the i brand's core focus was now on developing autonomous systems.
“With BMW i, the i is not electric – otherwise it would have been an e – the i is for innovation and incubator function,” she said. “We always said the first generation for BMW i would be focused on the incubator function for electro mobility, but BMW i will move on and you will see that in our 2021 car.
Wortmann said that beyond 2021, this pattern would continue with the next phase of technology. “[The i brand] will always stand for the latest, very specific stuff,” she continued. “It gives us a great chance to come up with cool stuff without having to go to the wider range immediately.
“When we launched the i brand the focus was on EVs. Now it’s on autonomous technology, but after that, the focus will move on.”