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BMW’s electric future: Munich re-tools for i4 EV production

John Law

BMW’s Munich plant will be closed for a period over the summer while it is retooled in preparation for an electrified future. The Bavarian brand has also confirmed that production of the beaver-toothed i4 will begin at the Munich plant in early 2021.

Not unlike the production of the Mini Cooper SE, BMW is touting the Munich plant’s adaptability. The same assembly line that produces the current 3 Series with both petrol and PHEV powertrains will be able to take care of the all-electric i4 early next year. Neat.

To accelerate training of plant staff, BMW has implemented VR technology to allow workers to familiarise themselves with updated locations, tooling, and processes to ensure their safety and smooth production of electric vehicles.

2021 BMW i4 Munich Plant
An aerial view of the iconic Munich plant.

According to BMW, the existing 90% of the production line is suitable, but some new tools are necessary to deal with the high voltage of the i4’s batteries during assembly.

That’s due to the 80kWh lithium-ion battery that installed in the coming i4 production car’s undercarriage, says BMW. When the i4 arrives, the long-range variants will be good for 600km of range.

The futuristic i4 – although just a concept at the moment – is slated to have some serious firepower, with BMW claiming outputs up to 390kW, equal to current turbocharged V8s found in vehicles like the X6 M50i, and M550i xDrive.

2020 BMW M550i - 3
The electric i4 will produce up to 390kW, equal to the brand’s turbocharged V8!

Here’s hoping the i4’s promised power remains intact, that sexy low-slung body may be just what EV doubters need. That is if BMW can combine the prodigious power with a capable and engaging chassis.

This change in production method marks quite a shift for BMW. Although early to the EV game with the quirky i3 and retro-futuristic i8, those vehicles ended up being costly as they were both produced in smaller numbers at the brand’s Leipzig plant.

Unsurprisingly, the complex carbon construction of those vehicles meant they needed their own production line with expensive tooling. However, Munich won’t be the first BMW plant to merge electric with combustion production.

2020 BMW i3 EV - 6
BMW’s i3 was produced in Leipzig with the i8 sports car.

The Bavarian brand’s latest production EV has taken the familiar silhouette of an X3 SUV, though the iX3 is, in fact, produced in China. As a side note, that is one of the reasons the EQC competitor won’t make it to the US, where we would expect the electric SUV to have strong sales.

Production of the iX3 will take place at BMW’s Dadong plant which also produces other Series BMWs, including the 530e PHEV for the Chinese market, and uses similar production strategies as the updated Munich plant will.

While it seems possible that BMW would be able to produce the electric iX3 in the Munich plant, the brand has not confirmed any intentions of this, keeping the new vehicle out of the US for the time being.

BMW iX3 electric SUV in driveway
While the i4 will be produced in Munich, the iX3 is currently made in China.

While the i4 will be the first traditional ‘car’ EV to be released by BMW, we’re sure it will join an expanding electrified lineup from the Bavarians as they invest more into the technology.