BMW announces new electric vehicle sub-brand: BMW i

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BMW announced Monday that, beginning in 2013, it would sell its electric vehicles under a new sub-brand called BMW i.

The announcement comes as the German automaker readies the second phase of an electricity mobility program it began in 2007 with the two-seat Mini E. That program continues at the Geneva Auto Show next month with the newest version of its follow-up, the Active E -- a four-seat, 1 series sedan converted to electric using a BMW-engineered powertrain and new battery cell technology developed in a joint venture with Samsung and Bosch.

Two new models will be launched under the sub-brand. The larger BMW i3, or Mega City, is planned as a purpose-built, plug-in electric using lightweight materials such as carbon fiber and aluminum that will allow it to have a range simliar to the Mini E. The i3 will go into full production in two years.

The i8 will be a plug-in hybrid with extremely low carbon-dioxide emissions and high performance. It is also scheduled to come to market in 2013.


Developed to present electric mobility as a premium product, the BMW i sub-brand is meant to distinguish BMW’s electric vehicles as highly designed performance vehicles that are also sustainable.

Production numbers and pricing for the models haven’t been announced. Pricing for the Active E will be announced this summer. Like the Mini E it’s replacing the Active E will be available for lease only, but for a longer term than the Mini E, probably 24 months. Pricing will be competitive with the Chevrolet Volt, which leases for $350 a month, according to Rich Steinberg, manager of EV Operations and Strategy for BMW Group.

‘A lot of people have been asking how quickly pure or plug-in electric vehicles will grow,’ Steinberg said. ‘The uncertainty with the Libyan crisis and gas prices, there’s going to be a lot of interest in people looking to decrease their expenditures on gasoline. Many experts are looking at $5-per-gallon gasoline. That bodes well for devleopment of the EV market.’

-- Susan Carpenter

Photos, from top: The BMW Active E plug-in electric sedan; a concept drawing for BMW Mega City electric vehicle. Credit: BMW Group.