BMW is working on its next-generation electric vehicle platform, code-named Neue Klasse, German for “New Class,” and an upcoming concept will likely preview the first of them.
BMW will use the 2023 Munich auto show in September to present the Vision Neue Klasse, a concept that BMW CEO Oliver Zipse in an earnings call last week said is a close representation of a production model that will be on the roads soon, Automotive News (subscription required) has reported.
The Munich auto show starts Sept. 4 but BMW will preview the Vision Neue Klasse concept two days prior, according to Automotive News.
Zipse didn’t identify the vehicle but last summer he said the first Neue Klasse vehicle will be a sedan sitting in the 3-Series segment, followed by a sporty SUV.
The Neue Klasse platform is being developed from the onset for electric powertrains. Originally, BMW planned for it to replace the current UKL and CLAR platforms by also supporting internal-combustion engines in various hybrid configurations, but that plan has been abandoned. The platform will be capable of supporting a hydrogen fuel cell, however.
The platform will allow engineers to vary the wheelbase length to fit a variety of body styles, and vehicles based on the platform will take on a more aerodynamic design to help maximize range. As a result, proportions will differ from the past, not only for aerodynamics but also to boost interior space.
The platform will also use BMW’s sixth-generation electric motor and battery technology, which promises improved power and efficiency. The battery will feature a new cylindrical cell design (instead of the current prismatic cell design), and together with other improvements should result in a range improvement of 30% over BMW’s current batteries.
The first Neue Klasse vehicle will be built at a plant under construction in Debrecen, Hungary, starting in 2025. Neue Klasse vehicles will also be built at existing BMW plants in Munich, Germany, and Shenyang, China, starting in 2026, and in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, starting in 2027.
BMW i Vision Circular and i Vision Dee concepts
Earlier concepts like 2021’s i Vision Circular and this year’s i Vision Dee previewed some of the sustainability measures and technology destined for the Neue Klasse vehicles but aren’t thought to directly preview any specific model. This will include increased use of recycled parts, head-up displays spanning the windshield, and automated driver-assist features ranging up to Level 3 on the SAE scale of self-driving capability. Level 3 means a vehicle that enables hands-off, eyes-off operation in specific conditions, but requires the driver to be ready to take back control at a moment’s notice.
The Neue Klasse designation was first used for the coupes and sedans introduced in the 1960s, which helped the automaker rise up from the depths of massive financial challenges and established the reputation for sporty and stylish executive cars that BMW still relies on today. The new Neue Klasse generation is expected to mark a similar significant shift for the company.