This applies to both ICE and electric powertrains.
Remember the BMW New Class line of sedans and coupes? Models like the 1600 sedan, introduced in the mid-1960s, essentially paved the way for the iconic 3 Series. Fast forward to 2021, and BMW is gearing up to reintroduce the 'New Class' name, but it will mean something entirely different this time around. "Neue Klasse" in German, New Class describes a new, flexible platform that will eventually underpin the brand's entire lineup, regardless of whether the vehicle is powered by an electric motor. Last year, BMW indicated that this was its strategy moving forward, and the brand seems to have committed to it.
A new platform that is compatible with gas and diesel engines, plug-in hybrids, and fully electric models would be an amazing feat to pull off. For instance, Hyundai made a big fuss about its Electric Global Modular Platform (E-GMP), which is purpose-built and reserved for electric vehicles like the Ioniq 5 and new Kia EV6. BMW's approach obviously makes sense from a financial perspective, as it won't have to design and produce separate platforms for different power or drive configurations.
This greatly minimizes complexity along the production line. According to Automotive News, the New Class will replace both of BMW's current architectures. This includes the UKL small platform used for vehicles like the Mini Clubman, BMW 2 Series, and BMW X1, as well as the larger CLAR platform that underpins bigger BMWs like the 5 Series, 7 Series, X5, and X7.
The new platform will be rear-wheel drive by default, but front-wheel drive can be added to enable an all-wheel-drive setup, most likely through electric motors. Although BMW stated recently that it will continue developing new combustion engines, it still wants half of its lineup to be EVs by the time 2030 rolls around.
Other features of the New Class architecture include an aerodynamic design, freeing up more interior space, along with a new high-voltage battery concept. An EV using hydrogen fuel cell technology was also mentioned. Over the course of the car's life, BMW says this platform will enable easy upgrades of the car's operating system. Although transitioning the entire lineup to the New Class won't happen overnight, the benefits are clear once BMW makes the move.