BMW is readying itself for an electric future, announcing a sub-brand called BMW i that will launch in 2013 with the BMW i3 and BMW i8. The company said the i3 – previously known as “Megacity Vehicle” – will be an all-electric aimed at urban drivers, while the i8 will be a plug-in hybrid that “blends the sporting ability of a high-performance machine with the fuel consumption and emissions of a small car.”
BMW said it is basing the design of the vehicles on something it calls “LifeDrive architecture.” The cars will both have and aluminum chassis and bodies made of lightweight carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP). “Both cars have been designed specifically for their respective alternative drive systems. We used the innovative architecture and CFRP to cancel out practically all of the extra weight added by the batteries,” said Klaus Draeger, director of development on the cars.
As would be expected of cars in the luxury category, BMW plans to equip the i3 and i8 with all manner of mobility-service bells and whistles. To spur development of applications, which the company expects to be a “profitable area of business over the long term and (to) attract new customers to the company’s brands,” BMW said it had founded a New York-based venture capital firm with $100 million to play with.
Both cars will be manufactured at a plant in Leipzig, which the company said late last year would cost it €400 million, or around $550 million, to build.
BMW gave the i brand the full launch treatment, with light installations and projections on its buildings near Munich, a giant poster at the Munich Opera House and a big news conference. The motto for the brand is “Born Electric,” and BMW said its marketing will initially feature “naturally vibrant, highly aesthetic images with a futuristic atmosphere.” After focusing on lifestyle images, the company said the marketing will “gradually be complemented with more and more content relating to the products.”