BMW's All-Electric Sport Sedan: the i5
The all-new BMW i5, an all-electric version of the company’s 5 Series sport sedan, hasn’t yet made its global debut. But, the company has given us a behind-the-scenes look at its winter testing regime, where the all-electric drivetrain is being put to the test to ensure it delivers the performance and range that BMW drivers expect when the car is introduced later this year. This included a whole year of grueling testing on ice and snow, from the initial test runs to the final stages of fine-tuning.
Driving on country roads, highways, and on specially-prepared tracks carved into the ice, BMW’s engineers have been focused on ensuring the new i5 can endure low temperatures, and offer drivers the stability and confidence they want even in low-grip situations. Thanks to innovative new powertrain and chassis control systems – themselves enabled by the all-electric power – the new i5 should have exceptional traction and driving stability. Electric motors allow minute and instantaneous adjustment of the power being delivered to the wheels, making it easy to drive on snow, icy mountain roads, and on frozen lakes.
Road Trip from Munich to Northern Sweden
The testing regime began in the biting cold of the BMW Group’s winter test center at Arjeplog in northern Sweden. A team of engineers actually drove north from BMW’s headquarters in Munich, Germany, to the northern test site in prototype i5 models, camouflaged from prying eyes by a special wrap as well as attachment on the bumpers, grilles, and headlights that disguise their final shape. All in all, the drive from Munich to Denmark took five days, with the final leg taking the engineers to the arctic circle in Sweden.
Over 1,850 miles were completed in the first leg of testing, providing an early opportunity for the engineers to test the motors, power electronics, high-voltage battery as well as the cabin’s integrated heating and cooling systems. The i5 will feature the fifth generation of BMW’s eDrive technology, which has been upgraded even further to offer longer range, faster charging times, and excellent performance even in sub-zero ambient temperatures.
BMW’s winter test center gives the team of development and test engineers the ideal venue for the next phase of endurance testing. The snow-covered roads and frozen lakes of northern Sweden, with their vast expanses of ice, are a challenging setting, and allow the engineers to find out how the chassis components, steering and braking systems, and stability control systems interact with one another in extreme conditions.
Exploring Winter Conditions in the Alps
Throughout 2022 and into 2023, the test team travelled to other BMW test facilities throughout Europe, and also logged hundreds of thousands of miles in everyday driving conditions around Munich, as well as in the vicinity of Dingolfing, where the new all-electric i5 will be produced. The task here was to refine the car’s new chassis technology, and ensure it was as quiet and as refined as possible in a wide variety of conditions. The engineers also honed the new fifth-generation electric motors’ power delivery.
In the foothills of the Alps, extensive development work was carried out during the colder months on icy roads. Prototype i5 models, now with less camouflage and production-spec headlights, were regularly sent out for testing to ensure their motors and chassis control systems worked in all road and weather conditions.
The BMW engineers involved in the i5 project were able to spend many weeks testing around the Alps, as well as in BMW’s native Bavaria, before it was time to once again return to endurance testing near the Arctic Circle in February 2023.
Returning to Sweden for Fine Tuning
The second round of testing in Sweden was designed to fine-tune all of the i5’s powertrain and chassis control systems. Thanks to their low-grip surfaces, the test areas on frozen lakes around Arjeplog were particularly well-suited for sliding around and delicately adjusting the drive torque control system in the i5 under easy-to-repeat conditions.
In the new i5, the DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) system, the traction control function, and the drive torque control system are all electronically connected so they can interact and work together instantaneously in any driving situation. As a result, engineers say that the all-electric sedan performs at least as proficiently as any conventionally powered model on ice and snow – and in most cases can react much faster. Indeed, the more challenging the conditions, the better the electric version performs, showing a greater speed and precision advantage.
Like the BMW i7 and i4 share their basic architecture and body with the gasoline-powered 7 Series sedan and 4 Series Gran Coupe, the all-new electric i5 will be sold alongside the new gasoline-powered 5 Series. Both models will be shown later this year, with the first examples arriving in dealership showrooms a few months later. Final specs and pricing will be announced closer to the on-sale date.