BMW’s plans for an electric-powered version of the current 3 Series have been laid bare in a registry filing made public by the Chinese Ministry for Information and Industry Technology (MIIT) on Thursday.
The latest in a growing number of zero-emission BMW models will be marketed under the name i3 eDrive35L, according to information obtained by Autocar, with sales set to be reserved exclusively for the Chinese market. The new EV is set to enter production in the second half of 2022 alongside the iX3 at a joint-venture factory operated by BMW and Brilliance Automotive in Dadong in the province of Shenyang.
The new electric saloon is based on an upcoming facelifted version of the Chinese-market long-wheelbase 3 Series – a model not currently sold outside of China – which is 163mm longer than the existing European-market standard-wheelbase 3 Series, at 4872mm. Its wheelbase is also 115mm longer than the standard 3 Series', at 2966mm.
Among the stylistic changes distinguishing the i3 eDrive35L from China's current long-wheelbase 3 Series is a new-look front end that features a uniquely styled bumper, newly shaped headlights and a blanked-off kidney grille.
At the rear, it receives a redesigned valance panel in the lower part of the bumper, which features blue highlights similar to those offered as part of a styling package on the iX3. The wheels – 18in as standard and 19in as an option – feature a new aerodynamically optimised design. They are planned to be fitted with 225/50 and 225/45 tyres respectively.
The rear-wheel-drive i3 eDrive35L shares a large part of its driveline architecture and suspension with the recently unveiled i4, including its front-mounted electric motor. The synchronous unit is claimed to deliver up to 340bhp and 317lb ft of torque.
In line with Chinese automotive production regulations, the new model is set to receive a Chinese-produced battery. As with the unit used by the iX3, the lithium-manganese-cobalt unit is set to feature cells supplied by Chinese battery specialist CATL.
Performance figures have yet to be revealed, although information contained in the MIIT registry filing suggests the 2029kg i3 eDrive35L will be limited to a top speed of 112mph.
To cope with the added weight of packaging the battery within the floorpan of the 3 Series’ CLAR platform, the Chinese-market model will also get standard-fit air suspension with similar geometry to that of the i4.
Although UK sales of the i3 eDrive35L have been ruled out, Autocar understands BMW is developing a more advanced electric mid-sized saloon model based on its new Neue Klasse electric vehicle platform. Set for launch in 2025, it will form an integral part of the eighth-generation 3 Series line-up.
BMW’s decision to use the i3 name for the new electric-powered version of the long-wheelbase 3 Series comes after officials suggested the existing i3 hatchback will cease production in 2022.
Unveiled in 2013, the eight-year-old model pioneered the German car maker’s entry into the electric car ranks.