That eDrive electronic drive unit (EDU) is being positioned very much at the core of the BMW i4's performance and range achievements. It has been in testing for some time now and has spawned various test-bed vehicles including a mad 5 Series with 7375lb-ft of torque. Even Jaguar Land Rover has bought in to the project.
Whilst the fifth-generation eDrive will first be seen on the forthcoming iX3 and iNEXT in 2020, it will be central to the BMW i4's success because apart from anything, the all-in-one motor and drive system is light and pretty flipping powerful. In all-electric Gran Coupé form it will make a not-so-subtle 523bhp which should put it on a par with the turbocharged straight-six powered M4 version which will hit the road in 2020. We can imagine it will have enormous torque reserves, too.
Performance-wise, the i4 will hit 62mph in four seconds flat and go on to a top speed of more than 124mph – which it will probably reach very quickly indeed. But BMW isn't just boasting about the power reserves it has achieved with the fifth-gen eDrive i4; through a combination of battery tech development and slippery aero the car is energy-efficient as well.
Providing power to the eDrive is a high-voltage battery featuring the latest in battery cell technology. It has been developed specifically for the i4 and is very flat – which has enabled BMW to keep the car's profile low. This is a point of differentiation to many of the battery packs hitting the roads, which are taller and have been a driving force in the switch to SUVs in the EV market – such as Ford has done with its Mustang Mach-E.
The BMW i4's battery weighs in at 550kg and stores 80kWh so it isn't remarkable in its lightness, but a range of around 375 miles is very good going for its capacity. It also benefits from modularity and flexibility so that future BMWs will be able to use it in different configurations. Charging, again, isn't some uber-capacity affair for which the infrastructure doesn't yet exist; instead it's designed for 150kW input allowing the i4 to be charged to 80 per cent in around 35 minutes. An EV splash-and-dash of six minutes buys you 62 miles.
As mentioned, aerodynamic efficiency is a secondary benefit of the battery's shape with the designers able to make the i4 low and sleek. This means that the i4 keeps its characteristic BMW proportions and outward features, albeit wrapped up in a body that still identifies it as an EV at-a-glance. Similarly, BMW is being very vocal about the fact that it has been uncompromising in keeping its renowned dynamic prowess firmly in place.
For us as brand fans, and quite possibly a good proportion of the buying public, this is very good news as whilst we certainly don't have a downer on the glut of electric SUVs on the market, we and many people still prefer standard car proportions. We're certainly looking forward to BMW releasing more news and details of the i4 in the coming months.