BMW showrooms may soon be graced with a very different-looking i3.
Instead of being used on a second generation of upright electric city car, the i3 nameplate could be applied to an electric version of the 3 Series.
Our photographers captured this camouflaged 3 Series wearing Electric Test Vehicle stickers, a dead giveaway this is no ordinary petrol or diesel 3 Series.
It also appears to use the 110mm-longer wheelbase of the Chinese-market 3 Series. That could mean this is a Chinese-market exclusive, leaving other markets with the related i4, effectively an electric version of the next 4 Series Gran Coupe.
Alternatively, BMW could be taking advantage of the extra space for batteries the Chinese model’s longer wheelbase affords for a global model.
Regardless of what nameplate the electric 3 Series wears, BMW appears to be following a similar formula to the recently revealed iX3 and upcoming i4: swap out an internal combustion engine for a battery pack and an electric motor and make some minor exterior tweaks.
The heavy masking around the grille suggests one of those exterior tweaks is a closed-off grille, à la the iX3.
There’s also camouflage on the rear bumper, which indicates it’s been redesigned, too. After all, there’s no longer a need for exhaust outlets.
BMW has already said it’s “bringing electrification more to the mainstream”, with electric Bimmers hewing much more closely to their internal combustion engine counterparts.
The company plans to have 12 battery-electric vehicles by 2023, and two of these will be electric versions of the X1 and 5 Series. We’ve also seen spy photographs of what appears to be an electric 7 Series.
While the BMW i range is expanding, the company has said there are no specific plans for a direct successor to the quirky i3 city car, leaving it to ride out the rest of its lifecycle.
The i3’s extensive use of carbon-fibre and its unique chassis, shared only with the low-volume, discontinued i8, stands in sharp contrast to BMW’s new strategy for electric cars.
The current i3 also occupies a unique position within the BMW range, being 320mm shorter than a 1 Series hatchback but featuring a higher base price here than the 2 Series, 3 Series, X1, X2 and X3.