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Electric cars: BMW confirms i5 plugin

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Robert Galbraith/Reuters/File

(Read caption) A BMW i3 electric car and charger is shown at the Electric Power Research Institute's Plug-In 2014 conference in San Jose, Calif. BMW has confirmed an i5, which will be a larger, more practical version of the i3.

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There’s been speculation brewing for years that the next model spawned from BMW’s i division for eco-focused cars will be a more practical offering, most likely badged an i5. A top BMW executive has finally confirmed that such a vehicle is coming and has provided a few details.

Speaking with Car and Driver, BMW i product chief Henrik Wenders said the i5 will be an electric car like the smaller i3, and just like the i3 the i5 will offer an internal combustion range-extender as an option. This is in contrast to a powerful plug-in hybrid system like the one found in the i8 sports car, which had been rumored at one point.

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Wenders explained that a range-extender will still be required for the next several years as battery capacity and charging infrastructure is not at a level to quell range anxiety. He went on to explain that a shorter range is tolerable for a car like the i3, where most owners use it as a second or third car, mostly for short city trips. The i5, on the other hand, will be for families looking for a primary car, so range comparable with gasoline cars is a must.

Wenders didn’t say when we will see the i5, nor did he say what form the i5 will take. We’ve heard everything from a minivan to a sedan to an SUV. It’s currently thought that the i5 will resemble a larger version of the i3 and mix elements of all three rumored bodystyles. What we do know is that it will stick with BMW i's practice of using carbon fiber-reinforced plastic for the body and aluminum for the chassis.