Currently reading: New electric BMW 3 Series spied testing
Camouflaged test mule hints at Munich's plans for executive EV sibling to the i4, set to launch by 2023
Felix Page Autocar writer
3 mins read
26 June 2020

BMW is understood to be developing an electric version of the 3 Series to sit alongside the 523bhp i4 EV by 2023 - and an early prototype has been spied testing.

A camouflaged prototype spotted by our photographers is almost identical to the current G20-generation 3 Series, although the addition of mandatory ‘electric test vehicle’ stickers and subtly reshaped front and rear ends hint that it's an early test version for a zero-emissions model. Plug-in hybrid prototypes are also required to wear stickers, but the lack of exhausts at the rear strongly suggests an electric powertrain.

The forthcoming i4 will be BMW's first electric saloon, and the firm is yet to officially confirm plans for an electric 3 Series. A BMW spokesperson declined to comment on the test pictures but in a statement said: "By 2023, the BMW Group portfolio will include 25 electrified models, and half of those will be fully electric.”

Munich will officially launch its new iX3 electric SUV later this year, with the 4 Series Gran Coupé-based i4 arriving in dealerships in mid-2021.

BMW design chief Domagoj Dukec recently told Autocar that the decision to launch an i4 rather than an electric 3 Series was because "electrification is still at the point where some people doubt if they should go for it or not, and it’s still a little more expensive. So electric cars need more emotion, and we believe an electrified i4 makes more sense than an electric 3 Series."

But with sales of electric cars rising rapidly – and costs likely to drop as manufacturers achieve greater economies of scale – it's likely there could be suffient demand for an electric 3 Series by 2023.

It’s not yet known what powertrain an electric 3 Series would use, but it’s unlikely to share the performance-oriented i4’s 523bhp, four-wheel drive set-up, given the 3 Series’ practical, executive billing. 

More likely is a variation of the as-yet unrevealed powertrain used by the iX3. Although BMW has yet to offer performance and range data for the production variant, the 2018 iX3 concept was said to offer a battery capacity of more than 70kWh, a range of around 250 miles and an electric motor rated at 270bhp.

As with the i4, however, the electric 3 Series would be a likely candidate for a dual-motor, four-wheel-drive range-topper in the vein of the Tesla Model 3 Performance

The i4 sits atop a modified version of Munich’s CLAR architecture, which underpins the standard 3 Series and new 4 Series and is designed for both combustion engine and electric powertrains, so an electric 3 Series would be much cheaper to develop than an all-new, bespoke EV saloon. 


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There’s no indication, either, as to what the new model could be called. An obvious choice would be i3, but it’s unlikely BMW would link its mainstream flagship saloon with the radically styled hatchback EV that has been on sale since 2013.

The 3 Series has been available in petrol-electric plug-in hybrid guise since 2016. The current 330e packs a combined 249bhp, offers an electric-only range of 37 miles and can now be specified with four-wheel drive. 


BMW i4 electric saloon shown in near-production form

BMW iX3 electric SUV spotted in near-production guise

Saloon showdown: Tesla Model 3 vs BMW 3 Series

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26 June 2020

Felix stop perpetuating this nonsense about "zero emissions", its "zero emissions at tailpipe" or "ultra low emissions", it ll be years and years before any car is zero emissions and writing this sort of thing just hides reality from people and makes them think electric cars are 100% clean and theyre not, theyre much, much cleaner, but theyre not 100% clean.

26 June 2020
typos1 wrote:

Felix stop perpetuating this nonsense about "zero emissions", its "zero emissions at tailpipe" or "ultra low emissions", it ll be years and years before any car is zero emissions and writing this sort of thing just hides reality from people and makes them think electric cars are 100% clean and theyre not, theyre much, much cleaner, but theyre not 100% clean.

Not everyone is stupid, most people know where the enegy comes from. Besides it doesn't emit anything so the phrase is ok.

Are you saying electric bulbs should be sold with a label stating the emissions. It's a minor point get over it.

p.s. is it ok to sell the car as zero emissions in Norway?   

26 June 2020

Now, if BMW do an electric 3 Series touring, that would be perfect. Electric cars are great, but they're exclusively SUVs hatchbacks or saloons - I can't be the only one out there that would always choose an estate given the option?

26 June 2020

Yes, I too am champing at the bit for an electric 3 series estate. It's crazy that all the EVs created so far have either been little hatchbacks (including lifted hatchback "crossovers" like the e-Niro), sedans or expensive luxury SUVs. Supposedly VW have been working on a Passat-sized electric estate but that's just been verbal talk of their plans at car shows.

26 June 2020
Thank goodness it doesn't seem to have inherited the i4 grill.
I too would like to seem an estate version but the sad reality is that the estate car is a dying breed with most buyers switching to SUVs and manufacturers following the money.

27 June 2020

A G20 3 Series EV would seem a logical move for BMW as they must be getting a little nervous of the forthcoming Berlin built Tesla Model 3 which will be substantially cheaper than the more performance orientated i4. They will need to be able to offer a full EV for those tempted out of their 320d's by zero BIK taxation and other benefits. BMW could offer a variety of different size battery packs to satisfy budgets, performance and range requirements. As commented above a Touring variant would give BMW a unique proposition. 

28 June 2020

This is a Chinese market car. Hint: the writer didn't pick up that it's a limo version of the 3 series. Look at the stretched rear door.

28 June 2020
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