Aside from the obvious "electric test vehicle" stickers, there are other clues revealing this prototype lacked a combustion engine.

It was back in 2016 when BMW first electrified the 3 Series by introducing the plug-in hybrid 330e, and now the Bavarians are getting ready to remove the combustion engine altogether. Following last year’s rumor about a 3 Series EV that never came to fruition (we got the i Vision Dynamics concept instead), it looks like the company is now dead serious about introducing a fully electric version of its best-selling car.

At a first glance, it might look like a fairly regular prototype of the next-generation 3 Series, but the mandatory “electric test vehicle” stickers on the front doors and rear bumper reveal the car’s true identity. The fact it had a closed-off front grille is another obvious sign the test vehicle lacked an ICE that would’ve needed cooling. Yes, it does have two exhaust tips at the back, but those are there just to throw us off, much like Porsche has been trying to do with its Taycan prototypes.

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Our spies are telling us BMW was testing the 3 Series EV in the company of a Tesla Model 3, thus making it crystal clear the vehicle we’re looking at is entirely electric. Interestingly, the zero-emissions premium sedan had a camera mounted at the top of the windshield and another one affixed to the upper section of the rear glass. Also worth noting is the red label on the front door windows showing a fire extinguisher, which might be mandatory when automakers are testing electric cars.

Other than that, it looks like a normal next-gen 3 Series prototype. That being said, we’re expecting BMW to make a few subtle styling tweaks here and there to differentiate the conventionally powered models from the eco-friendly version.

No word at the moment about technical specifications, but BMW is well aware of the fact its electric 3 Series will go up against the Model 3, hence why a range of nearly 300 miles (482 kilometers) is possible to compete with the Tesla’s 310-mile range. The i Vision Dynamics concept bound to become the i4 in 2020 will have 340 to 435 miles (547 to 700 km) of range as per BMW’s CEO promise, and we won’t be too surprised if the 3 Series EV will use an adaptation of the same hardware. That being said, Harald Kruger was likely referring to a NEDC figure, so range in the real world will be significantly lower.

Rumor has it BMW will take the wraps off the next-generation 3 Series as early as October at the Paris Motor Show. The one without a combustion engine is probably slated to arrive later in the life cycle.

Photos: CarPix

Gallery: BMW 3 Series Electric spy photos