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What We Know About the Electric BMW i4

BMW i8 and i3

A prospective BMW i4 could blend characteristics from the expensive i8 plug-in hybrid and the small all-electric i3.

BMW’s i line of electric vehicles will extend beyond the confirmed i3 all-electric car and the i8 plug-in supercar. We’ve known that at least since May 2011, when contributor Tom Moloughney reported on the various sizes of electric cars that BMW was considering.

The idea that BMW could produce a plug-in car with slightly more room than the i3—and one that possibly uses a gas engine to extend range—makes good sense. In the past year, small EVs have been outsold by plug-in hybrids. The dramatic BMW i8 plug-in hybrid has received a lot of attention, but with a price tag likely to exceed $100,000, it’s an ultra-niche vehicle. Both of those vehicles are slated for production late next year.

So, if BMW is serious about electric cars, we can believe rumors that the company will unveil an i4—a car that could split the difference between the i3 and i8—at the upcoming 2012 Los Angeles auto show.

Few details are known at this time. Tom’s report suggested that a larger-than-LEAF car—what he, at the time, called an “Urban Commuter Vehicle”—would not go into production until 2017, although media sources speculate that an i4 could go on sale as early as 2015. It’s common in the auto industry for a vehicle to travel from concept to production in about four or five years.


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