In case anyone still questions whether the world’s automakers are taking electric cars seriously,
BMW joins Volvo,
Jaguar Land Rover, also on Thursday, said its entire fleet of new vehicles will be electric or hybrid-electric starting in 2020.
The latest announcements come as auto companies, especially in Europe, position themselves to get ahead of government mandates requiring low- and zero-emission cars and trucks to cut pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
France and England are considering a ban on the sale of diesel and gasoline cars by 2040. China is encouraging electric cars for reasons both environmental and economic — it's attempting to develop an electric-car export industry. India's government said it intends to ban all internal combustion engines by 2030.
BMW Chief Executive Harald Kruger, in his announcement Thursday, argued against the mandates, which may bar gas or diesel engines from parts of cities at rush hour. "Customer demand cannot be forced," he said. "We do not advocate driving bans and quotas."
BMW board member Klaus Frolich added: "Customers all over the world will prefer different types of powertrain for a very long time."
Mandates or no, the automakers are preparing themselves for a major shift toward what they call "electrification." That includes hybrid cars as well as pure electric vehicles.
Hybrid cars range from "mild hybrids," which cut emissions and improve mileage by using a small electric motor to take some load off a traditional combustion engine, to plug-in hybrids, which let a driver commute on electric power alone and use a combustion engine for longer distances.
"The cost of electrification is dropping," said Karl Brauer of Cox Automotive. That's making it possible for people to buy hybrids without paying a huge premium. He likens the evolution to fuel injection, first used in expensive race cars to improve efficiency before it became a standard piece of mass-market engine technology.
BMW said it will equip all of its factories to handle combustion engines, hybrid cars and electric cars by 2020.
The Germany-based carmaker plans to unveil a four-door zero-emission car at the big auto show in Frankfurt, next week. An electric version of the company's Mini brand will go on sale next year, and an all-electric version of the X3 sport utility will debut in 2020, with other vehicles to follow.
The all-electric Jaguar I-Pace SUV, meantime, goes on sale in 2018.
To attract attention to its electric car announcement, Jaguar also showed off a custom-built all-electric version of the famed E-type sports car, called the E-type Zero. The 1968 version of the car is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful cars ever produced.