Electric BMW 3 Series Has Tesla Model 3 In Its Sights

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BMW has been caught testing an electric 3 Series.

It's now official: the BMW 5 Series sedan and X1 crossover are getting the fully electric treatment as part of BMW's strategy to offer 25 electrified models by 2023. These aren't the only current models that are being converted into battery-electric models, either. The BMW iX3 is essentially an electric version of the X3 SUV, while the i4 will be based on the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe.

BMW has also confirmed the next-generation 7 Series will be offered with an electric powertrain. And now our spy photographers have spotted an electric BMW 3 Series prototype being unloaded from a truck preparing to fight the Tesla Model 3. How do we know this prototype is fully electric? Stickers on the front doors confirm this is an "electric test vehicle," and there are also no exhaust pipes visible.

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The electric BMW 3 Series is heavily camouflaged, but the styling won't deviate from its combustion-powered counterpart too much. Expect the grille to be closed-off and mimic the style of the BMW iX3's grille. Likewise, the front bumper will be restyled to accommodate the different cooling requirements, while the rear bumper will be changed as no cutouts will be required for an exhaust system.

Judging from the length of the prototype, this appears to be a long-wheelbase version of the electric BMW 3 Series. It could be sold exclusively in China where there's a huge demand for long-wheelbase sedans. Alternatively, the electric BMW 3 Series could only be sold with a longer wheelbase in all markets including the US to provide extra room to store the battery.

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Technical details are still unknown, but the electric BMW 3 Series will likely be offered with a similar setup to the iX3 and i4. Both models use a single electric motor that will produce 530 horsepower in the i4, while an 80-kWh battery will provide a total driving range of 373 miles based on the European WLTP cycle. The BMW iX3, on the other hand, has an output of 286 hp and a range of 285 miles.

Logic dictates the electric BMW 3 Series will be called the i3, but that name is already taken by the current BMW i3 electric hatchback. We're expecting the electric BMW 3 Series sedan to replace the i3 hatchback, which has been on sale since 2013. However, reports have claimed the current BMW i3 will live on and continue to be updated over the next few years, so we'll have to wait and see if the i3 moniker is applied to the electric 3 Series sedan in the future.

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