BMW launched its first all-electric car, the BMW i3, simultaneous events in London, New York and Beijing. The i3 hatchback allows BMW to join Renault-Nissan in wagering that electric vehicles could gain acceptance from a wider consumer base despite their high price and limited range.
Henner Lehne, an IHS Automotive analyst, told Automotive News Europe that BMW needs to be at the “pinnacle of technology” to remain ahead of Audi and Mercedes-Benz.
He remarked that the i series is "a true halo project for” BMW, noting if the project succeeds, it will firm up the carmaker’s lead on innovation. The i3, the first car for BMW's i sub-brand is a four-seat urban compact with a squat front end and plastic exterior. BMW will launch the i8 hybrid supercar in 2014, with more i models planned. BMW has already trademarked i1 through i9, according to Ian Robertson, BMW's sales chief.
Analysts estimated the BMW poured at least EUR2 billion ($2.7 billion) on developing the "i" series. BMW developed the i3 from scratch instead of converting an existing model. The i3 hatchback is built around a carbon fiber-based shell and an aluminum chassis to make it lightweight.
According to, the i3 boasts of a range of 60 km range, enough for drivers who are living in urban or suburban areas. A driver could recharge the i3 in less than an hour at special stations, and up to eight hours from a conventional power socket. BMW could avail of an i3 variant that comes with range-extending engine -- a two-cylinder, 650cc gasoline engine derived from the C 600 Sport scooter. The i3 variant boasts of a range of 300 km.