Most of us associate BMW with performance luxury vehicles. Their line of cars extends from the compact "1" Series through to ultra the luxury "7" Series with stops along the way servicing nearly every segment of the high-end automotive spectrum. However, BMW is more than that. It is also a very "green" company with a strong corporate culture of sustainability and environmental responsibility. As evidence of that culture, BMW has introduced several fuel efficient hybrid vehicles and two all electric cars - the Mini-e and the current Active-e. These are two cars that were modified for all-electric power from their original gasoline power plants.
Enter the i3 - A BMW that was "Born Electric".
Marketing: BMW plans to market an all-electric "sub brand" from special "i Brand" stores and the first vehicle will be their i3 - a mid-sized, 4 passenger vehicle that will boast zero tail pipe emissions, the kind of safety and performance we have come to expect from BMW with unique styling that will easily distinguish it from every other car on the road. The vehicle will make extensive use of race-proven, ultra strong, ultra lightweight carbon fiber to provide both a safe environment for the driver and passengers and true BMW agility.
Technical Details: The i3 will consist of an upper "LifeDrive" module - essential the place for people and their "stuff". LifeDrive will be a safety engineered cocoon that surrounds the occupants in the lightest and strongest protective "box" possible. It will sit atop the Drive module - a very high tech platform similar in concept to the familiar frame used in trucks. The Drive module will contain the battery array and the power plant and it will be light years ahead of any other "frame" we have seen to date.
Range: The very first question anyone asks BMW when they see an all-electric vehicle is: "How far can I drive before I run out of battery power?" Right now, people driving BMW's 1 Series based Active-e cars are getting between 80 and 125 miles between charges. The owners I have spoken to say that this "range" has been more than adequate for the vast majority of their driving needs. Naturally, BMW has some tricks up its sleeve to help improve the range. For example, when the driver backs off the "gas pedal" and coasts, there is technology built in that recharges the battery. Recently, I drove an Active-e vehicle around the hilly roads at Bear Mountain State Park and watched the "gas gauge" actually show an increase in range as I drove down hills. Also, because heating and air conditioning use stored battery power, BMW has engineered systems to automatically turn on the air conditioning when the all-electric car is connected to the charging system so that the interior is cooled or heated before you set off on the road. For example, if the owner normally leaves for work at 6:30AM, the vehicle can be programmed to begin heating or cooling at 6:15AM so the driver and passengers will be comfortable when they get in and the battery will be still completely charged.
BMW has plans to open i Brand stores within the next year, offering buyers a real BMW built from the ground up as an all electric vehicle. Also in the works is a sports car model called the i8 - Stay tuned!
You can follow their progress at: http://www.bmw-i-usa.com/en_us/