Since the BMW i3 was released in 2013, it is clear that BMW has had their sights squarely set on the EV market. Now, 10 years later, BMW is making another major leap toward an electrified future.
While a new BMW EV platform has been rumored for a while, much of the speculation was solidified with the unveiling of the BMW iVision Dee Concept early this year. It was a controversial launch due to the concept’s exterior styling, but it gave us an idea of where BMW’s head is at in terms of the future of their electric product line.
Following the release of the Dee Concept, BMW announced the platform for their new generation of electric vehicles, the Vision Neue Klasse platform. It will underpin all of BMW’s electric vehicles for the next decade. It will also replace the ICE-focused CLAR platform currently used by BMW EVs like the i4, i5, and i7. The Neue Klasse name carries weight, too. In 1962, BMW released the revolutionary Neue Klasse models which saved the company from bankruptcy and paved the way for some of the most important BMW models to come.
The new platform is set to be officially unveiled on September 2nd at the IAA Motor Show, which should clear up any unanswered questions. While there are still some mysteries surrounding the Neue Klasse platform, there’s also a lot that we already know.
The iVision Dee Concept Was a Glimpse of Things to Come
If you’ve been paying attention to BMW news, you might have seen the color-shifting iVision Dee Concept which BMW unveiled at CES 2023 early this year. It was a launch with a lukewarm reception, mainly due to the iVision Dee’s sharp detour from even BMW’s most recent styling language. With that being said, the iVision Dee introduced some interesting and exciting technical innovations that haven’t been seen in any previous BMW models. It was also our first glimpse of the Vision Neue Klasse platform that is expected to hit the road by 2025.
The most jarring and innovative feature revolves around the iVision Dee’s exterior. The concept is shrouded in 240 individual E-Ink panels, which allow for color-shifting abilities. As a result, you can choose between a wide array of 32 colors and an endless number of patterns presumably by fiddling with an app.
While the color-changing feature is surface-level neat, some more important, wide-reaching innovations were shown off via the iVision Dee’s interior. The most notable new inclusion was Dee’s full digital display windshield. In an effort to keep more eyes on the road, there are no screens in the Dee, replacing infotainment screens and gauge clusters with an augmented reality full windshield heads-up display. Dee also emphasizes voice-activated controls, which is a hit-or-miss feature for many people.
BMW states that Dee is an acronym for Digital Emotional Experience, which is their mantra moving forward with their new generation of electric vehicles. BMW’s goal with the iVision Dee, and upcoming Neue Klasse platform is to make the driving experience as personal as possible by deepening the interaction between car and driver.
The BMW Vision Neue Klasse is a Platform, Not a Car
While the iVision Dee might have acted as a poster child for the Vision Neue Klass platform, it is only one part of a bigger plan. Similar to BMW’s CLAR cluster architecture platform which supported the majority of BMW models for the last 8 years, the Vision Neue Klass platform will be the underpinnings for BMW’s next generation of electric vehicles.
BMW has already announced that there are 6 vehicles in the works that will utilize the Neue Klasse platform, with additional models slated for the future.
‘How do we put a battery efficiently into the car, where do you put the drivetrain? On the rear: excellent! But it must also be all-wheel drive, you must also be able to put [a motor] on the front axle. If it’s a pure battery electric vehicle (BEV), that system set-up must be 100 percent correct.’BMW CEO Oliver Zipse
Initially, BMW plans on rolling out two models including a 3-Series-sized sedan and an X3-esque light SUV. It appears that a similar vehicle to the iVision Dee will act as the electric sedan, with an official unveiling of a near-production-ready model set for September 2nd at the IAA Motor Show in Munich. It is also widely speculated that a vehicle similar to the i3-reminiscent iVision Circular, which was teased in September of 2021, will be another addition to the “NE” fleet.
In terms of the NE architecture itself, it is clear that it has been well thought out and meticulously planned. 30-year BMW engineer-turned-CEO Oliver Zipse outlined the difficulties with designing an EV platform. ‘How do we put a battery efficiently into the car, where do you put the drivetrain? On the rear: excellent! But it must also be all-wheel drive, you must also be able to put [a motor] on the front axle. If it’s a pure battery electric vehicle (BEV), that system set-up must be 100 percent correct.’
The BMW Vision Neue Klasse Platform Will Utilize New Battery Tech
Battery technology has been one area where BMW has been truly outclassed by other manufacturers like Tesla and Lucid. BMW’s furthest-range i7 EV can travel 318 miles on a single charge, which is a far cry from the 412 miles that can be traveled with the Model S long range. However, BMW has a plan for that with the Neue Klasse, which will not only offer more range but also be more sustainable.
Currently, BMW offers their Generation 5 batteries in their electric and hybrid vehicles. While they have proven to be solid performers, BMW 6th Generation batteries are guaranteed to provide better range, charging capabilities, and improved environmental sustainability.
BMW claims that their 6th Generation batteries will get 30 miles per minute of charge time from a BMW charging station or a 0-95% charge in as little as 12 minutes. At the Neue Klasse’s release, BMW will still be using cylindrical liquid electrolyte batteries. However, they have been improved to decrease production costs by 50% and reduce carbon emissions by 60%.
While the early NK batteries will still rely on liquid electrolyte batteries, BMW has innovative plans to begin utilizing solid-state batteries. Compared to liquid batteries, solid-state batteries have higher energy density and durability and would be a massive step forward.
When Will the BMW Vision Neue Klass Be Put to Use?
At this point, the exact release of the first Vision Neue Klasse vehicles is still to be determined. With the unveiling of the “NE” platform slated for September 2nd, it is likely that we’ll get some additional specifics and details then. With that being said, we do know that the first Neue Klasse production models are expected to hit the road in 2025.
While we don’t have a specific release date for the NE Platform, BMW has released quite a bit of information about production and manufacturing. In the early stages of the Neue Klasse’s production, most of the vehicles will be manufactured at the new state-of-the-art Debrecen plant located in Hungary.
Following a year of production in Hungary, NE-platform vehicles will begin to be manufactured in both Munich and Shanghai plants. Finally, production will also take place in San Luis Potosi in Mexico and at the Spartanburg plant in North Carolina. While the NE platform will be built in North America, an exact production timeline hasn’t been released yet.
BMW’s Electric Future
While BMW has been taking the electric vehicle market seriously since the 2013 release of the BMW i3, it is clear that BMW’s electric future has been truly solidified with the Vision Neue Klasse. The new EV-focused architecture will provide the foundation for all of BMW’s electrified offerings for the next 10-15 years.
While the NE platform is designed with electric offerings in mind, BMW has also made concessions to allow for it to also accommodate internal combustion engines as well. Many skeptics have pointed out that a non-electric exclusive platform might not be the best decision moving forward due to the fact that BMW will likely be competing with other manufacturers who are designing new platforms completely focused on electric power.
With that being said, the Vision Neue Klasse platform does bring some important advancements to the table that will make BMW’s new electric vehicles serious competitors in the EV space. One of the most important innovations is unquestionably the inclusion of new 6th Generation batteries. BMW has been out-ranged and out-powered for a while now, so new battery technology has the potential to level the playing field a bit.
While some of the features demonstrated by the BMW iVision Dee seem somewhat gimmicky, including the chameleon body panels and emphasis on voice controls, others seem to be a solid step forward in driver/car engagement.
While we do have some solid information on the Neue Klasse now, many details should be worked out during the official unveiling on September 2nd. The BMW Vision Neue Klasse marks a very significant change in form for BMW and only time will tell if the NE platform will be as successful as many of the other BMW platforms of the past.