Originally posted on CleanTechnica

Unlike many of its rivals, BMW decided to do its plug-in cars properly by developing standalone platforms for the i3 and i8. The result was the creation of two excellent plug-in cars, the i3 and i8, which have left positive impressions with consumers at opposite ends of the luxury car spectrum. The BMW i5 is slotted to fill the gap between the i3 and i8, and rumor has it that Bimmer’s Model S fighter could make its debut as early as 2018, rather than 2020 as earlier rumors suggested.

BMWBlog reports on a rumor from Germany’s AutoBild magazine puts the reveal date of the BMW i5 at sometime in 2018, underpinned by the extended-wheelbase version of the Chinese-market 5 Series sedan. Internet speculation has suggested that the i5 could get any of a number of different alt-fuel drivetrains, including a hydrogen fuel cell stack from technology partner Toyota. The two automakers are also working on a joint sports car project.

AutoBild’s information says the BMW i5 will be a plug-in hybrid using Bimmer’s new eDrive technology, combining a 218 horsepower gas engine with two electric motors. The motor at the front will make around 150 horsepower with a second motor at the rear good for 272 horsepower. When all three motors work together, total output is an exceptional 640 ponies, just 51 horsepower less than the mighty Tesla P85D.

But where the P85D can still travel over 250 miles on electricity alone, the BMW i5 will be limited to about 125 km/78 miles of EV range per charge. Even that’s likely a generous estimate at this early stage, as German automakers routinely game the fuel economy tests that result in optimistic ratings all but unreplicatable in the real world. BMW is targeting annual sales of about 30,000 units with a cost of about €100,000/$106,000, right around where the P85D is priced in America.

There’s also no doubt that Tesla will be updating the Model S in meaningful ways over the next three years, so by the time the i5 hits the market, who knows what Elon Musk might have already unveiled? Some of you might say “A plug-in hybrid isn’t an electric car rival!” but you’re looking at it the wrong way.

Instead, think about it like this. Tesla builds luxury cars that happen to be electric. BMW builds luxury cars across a much wider range of models and drivetrains. They’re still competing for the same buyers, the ones simply looking for an exciting-enough driving experience to drop a hundred-large on. Yes, there are buyers who ONLY want an all-electric car, but there are even more who still want the crutch of gasoline’s convenience.

Will the BMW i5 be the Tesla fighter many are hoping for? Or is BMW still a few generations behind Musk and Tesla Motors? Mark 2018 as they year we find out.

Image: AutoBild