BMW is set to expand its environmentally focused 'i' range moving beyond 2020, but is yet to decide what segment the future model will stem from.
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According to a report from industry journal Automotive News Europe, BMW's research and development head says the model expansion project is still very much in the 'brainstorming' phase.

Starting with a white sheet of paper, Klaus Froehlich told the publication, "They [R&D teams] talk with customers, hold workshops, then present their ideas and we decide.”

BMW i8 - Driving

Currently comprising the BMW i3 city car and i8 supercar (pictured above), Froehlich made it clear that the car maker's goal for the ‘i’ sub brand is not to re-package existing models and badge them ‘i’, but rather change the perception of how low-emissions cars should look and perform.

At odds with rumours of i5 and i7 sedans or an ‘i’-badged hybrid X5 variant, Froehlich backed his comments further by saying the sub brand is intended as a starting point for cutting-edge innovation that should eventually make its way into ‘regular’ model lines.

This notion is already being seen in vehicles such as the upcoming 3 Series plug-in hybrid and the recently revealed X5 xDrive40e (pictured below).

BMW X5 xDrive40e

Froehlich is also promising future technology gains including a minimum 20 per cent battery density improvement every three years.

“Thus over the i3 (pictured below) and i8’s life cycle, we will offer more performance, more range or a combination of the two,” Froehlich said.

With ‘i’-car batteries bonded to vehicles’ chassis, Froehlich said as technology improves, new or updated models would be made available rather than offering any retrofitting alternative.

BMW i3 - Driving

“We could then offer models with a longer range or with the same range but at a lower price,” the R&D chief said.

Regardless, BMW production boss Harald Krueger told Reuters back in January 2014, that the manufacturer would not expand its ‘i’ range until it is sure there is demand for a third model line.

“We need to see how demand for the cars develops,” Krueger said.

In December 2010, BMW applied to trademark the nameplates i1 to i9, covering it for any future expansions.

Based on 'i'-specific modular architecture – consisting of aluminium and carbonfibre – the BMW i3 and i8 deliver outputs of 125kW/250Nm and 266kW/570Nm, respectively. And while the rear-wheel-drive electric i3 starts at $63,990, the futuristic looking all-wheel-drive hybrid i8 commands a significantly dearer entry fee of $299,000.