BMW’s M division have commenced work on a high-performance version of the all-electric i4, said M division chief Markus Flasch according to Car Advice. This will be the first fully electric model to be worked on by the M division, and there appears to be distinct ‘performance’ and ‘high-performance’ segments not too unlike cars such as the M340i and M850i, which bridge the mainstream range and the full-fledged M cars.

“Next year we will launch the first battery-electric M car in the performance segment, based on the i4, as something to confirm. Then we’re working on hybrid electrified performance and high-performance cars, but it is too early to tell which ones it is going to be,” said Flasch.

Powered by BMW’s fifth-generation electric drive systems, the i4 four-door coupe appears to be on par with the just-launched M3 and M4, with the electric cars’ 530 PS and 0-100 km/h time of four seconds very close to the 3.9-second 0-100 km/h time attained by the Competition variants of the M3 and M4.

Steering and lateral dynamics make up a crucial part of an M-badged model’s identity, even for future electric ones

The raw numbers only tell part of the story, however, as current battery technology for handling the rigours of high performance exertion don’t yet match the expectations of the M division. “On the high-performance battery electric technology, there is still some time that we need until technology is ready, and can take it on with an existing high-performance car like the M3 or M4, but we’re working on that,” said Flasch.

There’s more to an M car than just outputs and performance figures when it comes to developing electric models, too. “It’s not just about power output and longitudinal performance. (The) question for us is, when can we combine the power of the systems that we develop in the company, and bring it into an M package? (In terms of) steering and lateral dynamics, this is the big question, and sound is another one,” he said.

The work of creating the feeling specific to M division cars is something the firm has ‘science going on’, though the first and biggest challenge to surmount is the handling of an electric vehicle’s weight, and still offer ‘M-specific, or M-style dynamics,’ the division chief explained.

Will the forthcoming M version of the i4 overstep into the territory of the latest M3 and M4? Not so, according to Flasch, who reconfirmed that the first M-badged EV will be a performance, rather than a high-performance model, and therefore a step below the full-fledged M cars. Therefore, it appears that the model progression for the i4 will mimic that of its internal combustion siblings – as above, think M440i before M4.

GALLERY: BMW i4 prototype teaser

GALLERY: BMW i4 spyshots