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BMW doubles down on 2022 i4 and iX sustainability promise in similar move to Polestar, but admits it will ultimately add to the price for EV buyers

BMW sheds light on the balancing act of EV drivetrains and why it's sticking to 400v for the time being.

At the full reveal of its i4 electric GT car last week, BMW outlined how its future electric cars will work to lower their environmental footprint, even if it means the cars will ultimately cost more.

The i4 grand tourer and iX tech flagship SUV will follow their i3 hatch and i8 coupe predecessors in extensive use of recycled cabin materials, but like its Swedish rival, Polestar, the German brand is also promising a cleaner production line and a life cycle analysis report for its electrified range.

BMW claims that since 2020, all its production locations have been supplied exclusively with renewable energy, and that the CO2 emissions required for production have been cut by “more than 70 per cent” from 2006 to 2019.

Also like its Polestar rival, BMW is concerned about the ethical sourcing of materials in its cars, with its lithium coming from Australian mines (void of labour concerns) and taking the reins on controversial materials like cobalt. The rare earth metal, which is often sourced from mines with dubious human rights records, is procured by the BMW Group itself, and is then handed on to the battery suppliers to ensure it is ethically sourced.

The brand said it is working with suppliers on the future of its battery cells, promising future batteries will raise energy density. It also said it is investigating developments of solid state, but warns this technology is still over the horizon for production vehicles.

When asked if these sustainable approaches increase costs to the end user the head of the BMW iX program, Johann Kistler, said: “Our target is to offer the greenest car not just in materials, but also in production. We work with our suppliers to ensure that our production is sustainable.”

Like other European heavyweights, BMW is investing heavily in carbon neutral manufacturing. Like other European heavyweights, BMW is investing heavily in carbon neutral manufacturing.

“The battery is sourced from different suppliers, but we are [working with them] to ensure these parts are built close together. Our plants also use green energy and rely on hydro power, for example. We need to consider everything, raw materials, supply chains, and the production system,” he said.

“Yes, production costs are higher, not only because we’re gaining more experience [with electric cars], but also because we have to do this in a green way.”

Mr Kistler also noted how concerned BMW is with the second life of the battery cells, which are not only expensive but contain rare earth metals.

“On the one side, we have the re-use of batteries” he said, “and on the other, we have recycling. It’s necessary for these materials,” he said.

BMW has previously stated that batteries used in its earlier electric efforts like the i3 hatch can go on to live a second life in a power wall installation, as the potential drop in voltage is less important for such products.

When it comes to the cost of the i4 and iX though, the brand has had to balance priorities. While Hyundai is dropping an 800-volt electrical architecture in its upcoming Ioniq 5, BMW says it is sticking to its 400v system as it helps it balance the brand’s priorities for customers at a price.

“In our mind, [400v] is really good for now. It’s not just a game of having the best numbers, we want to offer the customer the best opportunity to have a big battery, powerful motor, and fast charging system. We are sure this is the best compromise,” Mr Kistler explained.

BMW says the 400v architecture in the i4 and iX allows it to provide customers with better range and performance. BMW says the 400v architecture in the i4 and iX allows it to provide customers with better range and performance.

The BMW iX is set to arrive in Australia before the end of 2021 in three variants with a starting price of $135,900 before on-road costs. Base variants have a huge 77kWh battery offering ranges of up to 425km, while the top-spec 112kWh xDrive50 Sport offers a range of 630km according to the WLTP standards.

Meanwhile the i4 is set to arrive on our shores in Q1 of 2022 with two variants, the entry-level rear-drive eDrive40 with a 80.7kWh battery pack good for a claimed 590km range, and the first electric BMW to wear an M badge, the M50, which has an all-wheel drive system and a claimed 510km of range.

Stay tuned for pricing and specs as we get closer to the i4’s Australian launch.