BMW hopes that the big investment in production of EVs will pay off in the race with Audi

Article by Christian A., on August 3, 2011

In Frankfurt last Friday, BMW presented for the first time its concept versions of the i3 electric city car and the i8 hybrid supercar. As part of a plan to fend off Audi, BMW’s new electric-powered city car features a lounge feel with bench seats, leather that’s a naturally tanned "mocha brown,” as well as the use of hemp fibers in the floor covering.

According to BMW chief executive Norbert Reithofer, the i8 is priced higher than EUR100,000 ($143,000). These models will anchor BMW's new "i" sub-brand.

Development chief Klaus Draeger said that most of the current electric vehicles are so-called conversions of traditional vehicles and that there are always compromises when undertaking conversions.

Draeger said that what BMW aimed for was to offer e-mobility “without compromise." BMW expects that its investment amounting to EUR530 million ($756 million) to establish production of the vehicles will pay off in the race with Audi, which did better than Mercedes-Benz this year.

Audi aims to beat BMW and become the luxury-car leader by 2015. Sales chief Ian Robertson said that initial volumes for the models may reach the "tens of thousands," with the possibility that it will increase rapidly depending on market and regulatory developments.

Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, director of the Center for Automotive Research at the University of Duisberg- Essen, said that if this project succeeds, BMW will get an edge in terms of innovation and Audi will find itself in a “difficult situation.”

BMW's two electric cars use a carbon-fiber frame and an aluminum underbody to reduce their weight and to cut battery costs. For this project, BMW has invested in a new carbon-fiber factory in the U.S. and a EUR400 million expansion of its plant in Leipzig, Germany. The i3 will start selling in 2013, while the i8 will follow in 2014.

A few months ago, BMW revealed the new M3 CRT (Carbon Racing Technology), which is based on the M3 Saloon. With a weight-to-power ratio of 3.5 kg/hp as well as a total output of 450 hp (331 kW) and peak torque of 440 Nm, the M3 CRT can sprint from nil to 100 km/h in just 4.4 seconds and boasts of a top speed of 290 km/h.

The BMW M3 CRT will be built in a limited numbers of just 67 units, with each customer receiving bespoke lightweight design components such as bucket seats for the driver and front passenger made from a cellular carbon honeycomb. The M3 CRT features a bonnet made from two CFRP moldings encasing an aramid honeycomb structure – representing a 50 percent weight reduction over the aluminum bonnet of the standard BMW M3.

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