As we’ve often discussed before, the Chevy Bolt EV is often presented at the first real competitor to the Tesla Model 3 simply because they have a similar range – over 200 miles – and similar sticker prices – starting at $37,500 for the Bolt and $35,000 for the Model 3, but it’s really not that simple.
While priced like one, the Bolt EV is not a mid-sized luxury vehicle. If it wasn’t electric, it would be similar to Chevrolet’s Sonic, which is priced $15,000 cheaper. On the other hand, Tesla’s Model 3 is being marketed as a mid-sized sport/luxury vehicle and certainly looks more like one than the Bolt – which is more of a utility hatchback. Prior to its unveiling, Tesla CEO Elon Musk often talked about the BMW 3 Series as a reference for competition to the Model 3. That recently switched to the Audi A3.
Now it looks like the Model 3 will actually have to compete with an all-electric version of the BMW 3 Series. The vehicle could be introduced with the next generation 2018 models, but the all-electric version is expected later.
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The news comes from the UK-based publication Auto Express, which cites inside sources about the next generation BMW 3 Series due in 2018. We learn that the German automaker is working on an important platform update to introduce a large battery pack in the 3 Series.
Auto Express reports:
“The next-generation 3 Series, codenamed G20, gets a switch of chassis technology as the car leaves its existing platform and moves to an all-new architecture called CLAR, for Cluster Architecture. CLAR brought in carbon-fibre construction techniques to the 7 Series when it was introduced on that car earlier this year, and elements will be retained on the limousine’s smaller brother.”
The publication is claiming that engineers are planning for an unlikly 90 kWh battery pack to fit on the CLAR platform, which would bring the vehicle to the same energy capacity as Tesla’s current top of the line Model S and X, but much higher than the base Model 3, which is expected to be introduced with a battery pack smaller than 60 kWh.
A 90 kWh battery pack in a 3 Series could potentially achieve a range significantly over 300 miles. There’s no word on the pricing for an all-electric version. The 3 Series currently start at around $34,000. Automakers often have problems selling electric vehicles built on the same platform as gas-powered vehicles since they price the EVs higher and they are often not great at explaining the fuel costs saving and other advantages.
While a plug-in hybrid version of the next gen 3 Series is reportedly planned for the launch of the 2018 models, the all-electric version could only be introduced in 2020 – 3 years after the planned launch of the Model 3 when Tesla expects to be at scale.
The development appears to be outside of BMW’s ‘i’ brand, which recently changed its focus to self-driving vehicles.
Featured Image: rendering preview of the 2018 BMW 3 series based on Auto Express’ information – via Auto Express.