Last week BMW confirmed its plans to begin selling its first battery electric car under the new Megacity sub-brand in 2013. At the same time during a workshop in Munich, Germany BMW showed the first teaser sketches of what the first new car will look like as well as the new carbon fiber structure.
The Megacity EV will likely be the first high-volume mainstream vehicle built using a carbon fiber structure. The new composite material will provide similar strength to a steel structure but weight approximately 40 percent less.
Until now only race cars and high performance supercars like the McLaren F1 and Porsche Carrera GT have used such materials because of the high cost. Another downside to carbon fiber is the lack of recyclability. Metal structures can simply be melted down at the vehicle's end of life. BMW and its partner SGL have developed new manufacturing and recycling processes that will help alleviate both of these issues.
BMW's first large-scale electric vehicle effort was the MINI E program that was launched in late 2008. The MINI E used a 35 kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery pack that consisted of over 5,000 cells similar to those used in laptop computers. The MINI E program put over 500 vehicles in the hands of regular drivers to evaluate real world EV use.
The BMW ActiveE concept that debuted at this year's Detroit Auto Show used a new type of lithium ion cell developed specifically for automotive use by SB LiMotive. These automotive cells are the same type that will be used in the Megacity vehicle. A 22 kWh pack is expected to yield a driving range of approximately 95 miles on a charge. Like the ActiveE, which will spawn a phase two test program in 2010, the electric drive motor for the Megacity will be mounted at the rear axle.