13 May 20

Concept to reality: The design of the BMW i4

In concept to reality, we explore the story behind the design of the latest electric vehicles to come from the ABB FIA Formula E Championship stable. Continuing the series, we delve deep into the design story of the forthcoming BMW i4. 

When BMW stormed into the all-electric car game in 2013 with the i3, the compact city car signalled a clear change in direction for the German powerhouse. For more than a century, Bayerische Motoren Werke - or BMW to you and I - had honed and perfected the design and manufacture of combustion-engined cars. Electric was, at the time, a brave new world. 

Just a year later, BMW joined the ABB FIA Formula E Championship as a founding partner, putting its weight behind the radical new all-electric street racing championship. Now, six years on, BMW i Andretti Motorsport team finds itself battling for its first teams' championship title with British driver Alex Sims and German frontman Max Guenther. But those six seasons of racing have benefited the German carmaker massively. Learning lessons on track has informed the future generation of all-electric BMW's, such as the forthcoming i4 saloon, scheduled to make its debut next year. 

"We wanted to make sportiness more welcoming and less aggressive," says Kai Langer, Head of BMWi Design. Sporting a clean-cut but prominent nose, the i4 concept plays with the trademark BMW kidney-shaped grille, adding blue accents while crisp lines lead from the front to the rear. The car's Gran Coupe proportions reference the current BMW 4-series, with its long wheelbase, fastback roofline and short overhangs. 

That, combined with established 'i' design language, such as the blue accents, sleek wing mirrors, aluminium blades on the wheels to aid aerodynamics and a motorsport-inspired rear diffuser set the i4 apart from its current combustion-engined counterpart. 

"We wanted to show how the progressiveness of ‘i’ and electric mobility could fit with our 100 years of heritage," claims Langer. "It’s why we chose a 4-door coupe – it’s old school perfectly matched with new school." 

With no need for engine cooling, the kidney-shaped grille serves as a window to house the car's sensors, which feed information to the i4's driving assistance technology. "It contains all the sensors you need for modern driving. It translates the feature into the digital world," adds Langer. 

With a whole host of electric cars in the pipeline, including what looks to be an all-electric M car in the making - if the Vision M Next is anything to go by - BMW's i4 is the marque's latest EV, which sets the scene for the coming years. With a strong start to the 2019/20 Formula E season, it seems the marque's efforts in Formula E will continue to benefit and shape the performance and design of its future fleet.