The BMW Vision Neue Klasse X has round battery cells, four super-brains, and a 3D grille

BMW announced a new concept car, the Vision Neue Klasse X, that the automaker says will inform the direction of its future lineup of electric vehicles. The vehicle is a crossover SUV with BMW’s distinctive kidney-shaped grilled (extremely distinctive, but we’ll get to that in the second) and a bunch of innovative features, especially around its battery and electric architecture, that suggest there’s a lot of exciting stuff to come in BMW’s future.

For years, the automaker has been planning for the next stage in its EV evolution. The third phase is called the Neue Klasse, the first vehicle of which should arrive in 2025. Ahead of that, the automaker has been releasing new EV models at a steady clip, including EV versions of the 4, 5, and 7 Series, as well as iX compact SUV. 

The Vision Neue Klasse X (that’s a mouthful!) is the SUV version of the company’s Vision Neue Klasse sedan that was released last fall. The X, though, is described as an “SAV,” Sport Activity Vehicle, which BMW says will eventually become a whole family of related vehicles.

“We are underlining that the Neue Klasse is much more than just a car or a specific concept,” Oliver Zipse, chairman of the board of management of BMW AG, said in a statement. “It is redefining the BMW brand — and, at the same time, will be more BMW than ever.”

The vehicle looks, well, very BMW. The kidney grille is somehow even more in-your-face than usual, with the automaker turning its signature design into a “three-dimensional sculpture with vertically aligned and backlit corridors.” And it lights up as the driver approaches the vehicle.

Of course, the grille is completely unnecessary on an electric vehicle, which lacks an internal combustion engine in need of cooling. It’s been interesting to watch BMW’s evolving approach to the grille, especially as EV motors replace engines. This latest iteration will no doubt spark a lot of spicy takes!

But the grille is just the icing on the cake. The powertrain, and most specifically the battery, is where BMW is putting forward its most interesting ideas about the future of EVs. The battery cells are rounded, which BMW argues is 20 percent more energy-dense than the prismatic cells found in most EV batteries. When combined with the vehicle’s 800-volt architecture, the battery enables charging speeds of up to 30 percent faster than typical rates, which BMW says will allow the EV to gain 300km (roughly 186 miles) in just 10 minutes.

BMWs typically overperform in range, so this new architecture suggests the company will continue to impress in that department. BMW didn’t disclose the Vision Neue Klasse X’s total range figure but did note it would deliver about 30 percent more range than previous iterations.

Other range improvements have been considered, including a 20 percent reduction in drag compared to the current model lineup. New tires and special brakes are also part of the overall package designed to boost efficiency by 25 percent, BMW says.

Any car of the future will need a powerful computer to manage its operations, and BMW is proud to announce they have four of them. Dubbed “super-brains,” the four computers will “take the driving experience… to a new dimension.” Not literally, but the four distinct “high-performance computers working smartly together on what, up until now, was processed separately,” Frank Weber, member of the board of management of BMW AG responsible for development, said in a statement.

The first super-brain, designed totally in-house, integrates the driving dynamics with the powertrain with “10 times more the computing power.” BMW says the next super-brain will spearhead the company’s future push into automated driving.

The interior is packed with sustainable materials, such as a plant-based, mineral-based and petroleum-free surface material called “Verdana,” as well as maritime plastics and recovered fishing nets. And the vehicle itself will be manufactured later this year at a factory that the company says is designed to run on fossil fuel-free energy.

A longer-than-usual wheelbase and short overhangs allow for a roomier interior, and boy, it sure looks swank. The materials look extremely nice, and the big windows with slim pillars make for a very illuminated greenhouse. The centrally mounted touchscreen offsets a massive heads-up display that stretches the entire width of the windshield.

Previous reports indicate the Vision Neue Klasse X will be similarly sized to the BMW X3 — and could eventually replace the SUV as the iX3 model, which it currently sells in several overseas markets.

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