The first car to be built on the revolutionary Neue Klasse platform is a saloon equipped with new motors, long-range batteries and sustainable materials.
BMW will launch the third phase in its electrification strategy with an all new executive saloon. This will be the vanguard of a new line-up that is based on a brand-new EV architecture.
It will include Munich’s sixth generation electric powertrain, long range battery technology, rapid charging capability, lightweight construction and a digital operating system that can be fully customized.
The new model will be sold alongside other new, battery-electric and combustion engined saloons. It is known internally as NK1. This new car, which is the first to be built on the Neue Klasse EV platform. This opens the door for a new generation of EVs including an expanded range of SUVs.
The NK1 will likely be positioned initially as an electric option to the next-generation 3 Series in a relationship similar to that between Porsche’s upcoming Macan EV (similar but not related) and today’s petrol Macan.
BMW’s FIZ research center in Munich is currently developing the modular Neue Klasse platform. It will be the basis of all BMW-badged electric vehicles starting in 2025. This includes front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, and four-wheel drives. There are also a variety of modular battery packs, track widths, wheelbases, and track widths. Also, there is the possibility to have different ride heights and wheel sizes, ranging from 18in up to 22in.
Frank Weber, research and development chief at BMW, stated that the Neue Klasse is the beginning of a new phase in BMW’s operations. It’s scaled up to enable us to build electric vehicles from a saloon-sized 2 Series to an SUV-sized X7.
Its name refers to the iconic saloon cars BMW introduced in the 1960s and 70s. This gives an indication of BMW’s desire to reinvent and redefine cars.
The new BMW electric models will be built on the same foundation as the existing BMW model. This structure is made of aluminium and high strength steel and can support plug-in hybrid powertrains that combine a front-mounted engine with an electrified rear wheel.
Weber said that the company could also be able to support a hydrogen fuel-cell powertrain, if required by the regulatory framework in place in different markets, including China.
The Neue Klasse platform will eventually replace the FAAR and CLAR structures. This will allow for greater manufacturing flexibility and economies of scale. This would allow factories to run both ICE and electric models down the same lines across BMW’s worldwide production network, in a move similar to that undertaken with the CLAR-based new 4 Series Gran Coupe and soon-to-be-introduced electric i4.
Weber claimed the one-platform-fits-all approach will greatly enhance BMW’s manufacturing efficiency by maximising synergies right across its line-up.
“We won’t be building separate buildings. The Neue Klasse will experience a significant increase in its volume potential. “We’ve learned a lot about scaling over the past two generation of platform development,” he stated, referring to the Life module architecture of i3 and the electrified CLAR structure iX and i4.
BMW intends to launch four electric saloons by 2025, including the NK1, which is earmarked for the Neue Klasse architecture. It will be the next CLAR-based i4, CLAR-based I5 and i7, with either rear-wheel or four-wheel drive.
The i4, i5 & i7 are all heavily influenced by ICE models. However, the NK1 will be given an “electric-centric” design with new proportions. These elements will influence the next generation BMW models.
The new platform has many architectural innovations, including a flat-floor structure that eliminates the CLAR platform’s centre tunnel. It also features a longer wheelbase that allows the A-pillars and other components to be pulled forward. This creates more space and better interior packaging.
People expect different aesthetics. Weber explained that we have a new style direction for electric models.
The construction of the NK1 saloon is planned to draw heavily on that of the seven-year-old i3 and recently introduced iX with an aluminium and steel platform base; a carbonfibre ‘cage’ body structure that uses carbonfibre-reinforced plastic in areas such as the sills; and a combination of aluminium, steel and composite-plastic body panels.
The new BMW sixth-generation powertrain with synchronous electric motors will provide the power for the NK1.
BMW is quick to develop and produce electric motors in-house, as opposed to other car manufacturers that depend on suppliers.
Weber claims this allows the company to respond quickly. Weber stated that electric motors are being developed to be more efficient and more powerful than the ones we currently use.
He also said that they will not be limited to the standard version but could also be used in a hot M version of the NK1.
The Neue Klasse will also introduce new electric motors. It will include 800V battery technology and 350kW charging capability. Article continues below.
Weber would not give any details about the new battery, but acknowledged that BMW is currently testing different chemical processes and cell types in order to use them in future Neue Klasse models.
He said, “We’re still working on the recipe.” We know solid-state batteries will not be available until the end of this decade. We will however increase the energy density to provide a wider range.
The iX’s latest generation of nickel manganese and cobalt (NMC), battery cells has a 105.2kWh capacity, which provides a range of up 390 miles. BMW is aiming to achieve a 20% improvement in efficiency with sixth-generation electric motors and a new power electrics system. This suggests a range of over 435 miles for NK1 saloon.
Many materials will be sourced inside, in accordance with the ‘circular economic’ strategy that was showcased at the Munich motor show last month by the i Vision Circular concept.
Weber mentioned upholstery made of recycled plastic as a way to meet the new sustainability targets for BMW’s next generation electric vehicles. Details are not available.
BMW claims that the unveiling in 2013 of the i3 was the beginning of the first phase of its electric strategy. The second phase began with the introduction of the iX. The arrival of the NK1 saloon will mark the beginning of the third phase.
BMW anticipates that electric models built on the Neue Klasse platform will account for at minimum 50% of its global sales by 2030. By then, it will have at least one electric model in each line of its 15 existing model lines.
WHAT NEUE KALASSE MEANS THE THIRD TIME AROUND
BMW’s decision not to use the Neue Klasse name in its next generation of cars may seem retro-minded, but it serves to highlight its radical intent.
From 1962 to 1977, the original Neue Klasse models set many design trends that BMW continues to follow today, such as Hofmeister kinks and the three-box shape. The real success of the Neue Klasse period was its ability to reposition BMW through a new design direction and engineering. BMW models were less rigid and more dynamic. This repositioned and revived the brand and set the stage for all that followed.
BMW’s financial problems in the 1960s prompted that brand shift. But that is not an issue for 2021. BMW is responding to the major shifts in the automotive industry, which go beyond electrification. The new Neue Klasse models won’t just be focused on electrification, but also sustainability or digitisation. These are topics that will require new types of cars built using new platforms.
They will look very different from the original Neue Klasse cars – because they will be unique.
Don’t worry, the Hofmeister kink is still here.