BMW has outlined plans for the next phase of its evolution, as it works toward modular architectures across the range, allowing internal combustion and full-electric variants of all its models. The move is a crucial part of preparing for the uncertain future facing the automotive world.

The company wants to have 25 electrified models on sale by 2025, 12 of which will be pure-electric. In spite of this, BMW also expects electrified vehicles to make up, at best, a quarter of its overall global sales, meaning investment in the internal combustion engine is set to continue for the foreseeable future.

Speaking to media at a special event in Munich, outgoing member of the BMW board of management, Dr. Ian Robertson, admitted “the trend toward e-mobility is irreversible”, but said differing market conditions and legislation has made progress challenging.

“The market penetration [for electric vehicles] will happen in different ways – and especially at different places – around the world,” Dr. Robertson said.

“Global markets and customers will continue to demand very different forms of drivetrains for a long time to come. The increasing challenge for the automotive industry in this scenario is to meet these demands with globally uniform technologies and still comply with the different legislative requirements.”

Significant differences in the landscape are clear when you consider the three different approaches to dealing with future mobility from the USA, China and Europe.

In Europe, for example, a fleet CO2 target of 95g/km is set to arrive in 2020, while some countries have their own policies on top. The Chinese market is gearing towards massive adoption of electric cars, driven through national legislation, while the American market sees its electric future as “primarily a thing of the West and East Coast”, according to Robertson.

Australia is another unique market, and remains one of a few in the world without real government incentives for electric mobility. The majority of power required for recharging EVs is generated by non-renewable sources, too.

BWM’s approach will be to design each of its vehicles, starting with the iNext, X3 and Mini EV, to support electric powertrains, while also maintaining the ability to run an internal-combustion engine.

These modular platforms will be divided between classic passenger vehicles (such as sedans, hatches and wagons) and the growing range of X-badged SUVs. This will see BMW produce battery systems with differing heights (80mm and 140mm respectively) to suit each type of vehicle.

The battery will be located between the axles, but both internal-combustion and electric variants of the same car will roll down the same production line. BMW says it will develop four electric motor units, with 100kW, 190kW, 250kW and 300+kW on offer. That should allow it to serve a variety of models across the entry-level, luxury and performance spectrum.

To power the electric motors, which can be mounted on the front, rear or both axles, the company will develop three battery packs. The line-up will include a 60kWh unit with 450km of range, a 99kWh battery with 660km of range and a top-spec 120kWh setup with more than 700km of range.

Electric models will be badged ‘30e’, ‘40e’ and ‘50e’ – for example, a 3 Series running the medium battery pack will be badged a 340e.

BMW says the 100kW motor is expected to deliver performance credentials of around 6.0 seconds for the 0-100km/h run, with the higher spec motors driving both front and rear axles to bring that figure down to around 3.0 seconds.

According to Robertson, modular architectures allow the brand to respond to market demand and, as the global situation changes, sell its line-up with whatever drivetrain is required.

“We will have flexible vehicle architectures on the one hand and modular systems for drivetrains on the other. This setup gives us an unparalleled level of flexibility in a global context.”

The first vehicles to benefit from the new system will be available by 2021.

“The now fifth-generation of our e-drives will launch in 2021, with the BMW iNext. We are talking about a scalable modular system here, which means that the technology can also be fitted in models that will have been launched by then. In other words, at this point, we will be able to semi- or fully electrify any model, depending on market demand.”

BMW says it will electrify all of its brands including 'M', Mini and Rolls Royce, with Robertson stating that “electro-mobility is the new normal”.