BMW will underpin all vehicles sold by the automaker's namesake brand with a new electric-focused architecture to be introduced in 2025.
The New Class (Neue Klasse in German) platform is designed to be fully electric but will also underpin cars with gasoline and diesel internal combustion engines, including plug-in hybrids.
The architecture will offer rear-wheel drive as standard, with the option to add front-wheel drive for all-wheel drive.
Over time, the New Class will replace BMW's current two architectures:
- The UKL small platform used for BMW compact cars and by Mini. It can accommodate fwd and awd cars. UKL was launched in 2014 on the Mini hatchback.
- The CLAR larger platform, featuring rwd and awd, used for the rest of the BMW range. It was launched in 2015 with the 7-Series sedan.
The UKL and CLAR architectures were originally developed for combustion engines, including plug-in hybrid cars. They were given a substantial overhaul with a new central floor to house battery-electric cars and long-range plug-in hybrids.
For CLAR, the upgrade came last year with the introduction of the iX3 midsize full-electric SUV. The coming i4 midsize electric sedan and iX flagship electric SUV, both due this year, will use this platform. Full-electric versions of the 5 Series and 7 Series will follow in the next few years.
This upgraded CLAR also allows plug-in hybrid models to have larger batteries, enabling the cars to travel for longer distances on electric power only.
The New Class architecture will be the central pillar in BMW's plan to have full-electric models account for at least 50 percent of its global deliveries by 2030, with all its model series offering a battery power-only option.
Even before the introduction of the New Class architecture in 2025, BMW said its current architectures will allow the company to sell at least one full-electric model in 90 percent of its current market segments by 2023.
BMW has learned a lot about how to scale an architecture since the launch of the first generation of the 3 Series Compact architecture, introduced in 2004 on shortened 3 Series sedan underpinnings, technology chief Frank Weber told reporters during a media round table on Wednesday.
"We are able to scale it size-wise from the 2-Series coupe up to X7 with the existing one (CLAR)," he said.
BMW is using the same building principles with the New Class architecture, which will serve "the entire BMW product portfolio," Weber said.
The architecture will have an aerodynamic design aimed at electric vehicles with different proportions than in the past, including a more spacious interior, BMW said. It will also have a new high-voltage battery concept with an improved cell design. An electric drivetrain based on the hydrogen fuel cell is also an option.
Digital first approach
The platform will also have "technology stacks" that can be adapted for different regions, allowing the vehicle's operating system to be customized to suit the varying requirements and digital ecosystems in each of the world's major markets. The stacks will also allow continuous upgrades to ensure that the operating system stay up to date.
The digital first approach integrated in the architecture will enable customers to book and configure features throughout their vehicle's lifecycle. This will generate a significant share of the company's revenues in the future, BMW said.
BMW has not disclosed what the smallest car underpinned by New Class will be. It's possible that the next 1-Series could switch to this new rwd/awd architecture. The current generation does not have rwd.
The 1 Series is based on the longer UKL-2 architecture that also underpins 2 Series models except the Coupe and Grand Coupe. UK-2 also underpins the X1 and X2 compact SUVs, and the Mini Clubman and Countryman.
Mini's China route
Weber said that future Minis will use an architecture designed with electromobility as its focal point and co-developed with Chinese joint-venture partner Great Wall Motor.