Is a BMW i Electric in Your Future?

BMW is planning to offer the i series of electric, plug-in hybrid, and range-extended electric vehicles beginning in late 2013. This entirely new model line will offer BMW’s usual focus on premium engineering and style, but critically, it will also feature a consistent focus on eco sustainability and urban living. BMW is serious enough about this to have worked with New York University to develop a report, ‘Urban Mobility in the 21st Century.’ The report finds that 80 percent of us drive less than 50 miles per day, and that by 2050 the world’s urban population will grow by 80 percent, from 3.5 billion to 6.3 billion. In short, BMW thinks we need cars that work in megacities and also don’t pollute.

The large volume, five-door i3 hatchback will be constructed of lightweight carbon-fiber reinforced plastic containing the i series ‘life’ passenger cell and ‘drive’ electric propulsion cell, powered by a 170 hp electric motor driving the rear wheels. A range-extender engine will be optional. In a departure for BMW, the i3 will have rear ‘coach doors’ hinged at the rear of the doors rather than the front, plus bench seats to make city living (and parking) easier.

The seductive, two seat i8 coupe/cabriolet combines the same lightweight engineering with a 131 hp electric motor driving the front wheels and a 223 hp, 1.5-liter 3-cylinder turbo gas engine at the rear. These powerplants can be used together or separately. The car’s combined 354 horsepower accelerates the i8 from 0 to 60 mph in under six seconds. The i8 also features an electric-only range of 20 miles, a top speed of 155 mph, and up to 80 mpg.

BMW’s long-term mobility plan seems a good one. It integrates lessons learned from data gleaned from its extensive Mini-E and ActiveE electric vehicle field trials and focuses on sustainable manufacturing, practicality, and pollution reduction in an entirely new series of vehicles. BMW’s new i series could be poised to make a huge impact on how electric vehicles are designed and built.

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