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BMW Launches New “Sustainable Mobility” Brand

BMW i debuting with battery-powered i3 and i8 models.

by on Feb.21, 2011

Renamed i8, the striking BMW Vision concept will reappear as one of the first two models for the maker's new BMW i sub-brand.

BMW has given an official name to its new battery-powered brand-within-a-brand.  The operation, which had been going by the working name, Megacity, will now be called BMW i, and will charge into dealer showrooms in 2013 with a pair of lithium-ion-powered luxury cars.

Using the new “LifeDrive” architecture, the BMW i3 and i8 models will target those customers who want premium products that are nonetheless eco-friendly, the maker explains.  Additional products are likely to be added to the line-up in the years ahead, the maker broadly hints.

“BMW i offers visionary cars and services, inspiring design, and an entirely new concept of premium mobility – all with a focus on sustainability”, explained BMW Board Member and sales and marketing director Ian Robertson.  “The products and services have been conceived around a revolutionary approach: purpose designed and purpose built for sustainable, premium mobility.

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The BMW i3, originally known as the Megacity Vehicle, will serve as the core of the new sub-brand.  It’s the first BMW product designed specifically for use in urban areas solely on electric power.  Set for production at the German maker’s plant in Leipzig, it will be based on the LifeDrive platform, which uses an aluminum chassis and a carbon fibre-reinforced plastic, or CFRP, passenger cell.

BMW's Megacity concept will now be the i3.

“We used the innovative architecture and CFRP to cancel out practically all of the extra weight added by the batteries. For our customers this means superior driving dynamics combined with significantly increased range using electric power,” explains Klaus Draeger, BMW Board member responsible for development.

While the i3 will be purely battery-driven, the i8 will be powered by a plug-in hybrid driveline.  The bigger BMW i model is modeled upon the maker’s sleek Vision EfficientDynamics concept study.  While the maker is holding technical details, it provided a hint, late last year, suggesting the high-performance plug-in hybrid will be capable of launching from 0 to 60 in just 4.8 seconds while still getting about 31 miles on battery power before its diesel engine fires up.

Unlike the relatively mainstream i3, the maker was talking about a price tag somewhere around $200,000.

The bigger model will use a modified version of the LifeDrive architecture, and it will also be produced at the Leipzig plant, according to BMW.

The new BMW i sub-brand will extend its reach beyond electric vehicles, said Robertson, noting that the maker has set up a New York-based venture capital firm, BMW i Ventures, to explore a “range of mobility services.”  It will have access to $100 million in start-up capital.

The VC has signed its first strategic partnership, with a firm called My City Way, the BMW marketing chief noted, adding that, “As a mobile app, My City Way provides users with information on public transportation, parking availability, and local entertainment for over 40 cities in the US. Another 40 cities will be part of the global rollout, including Munich, of course.”

News of the new BMW i brand launch coincides with word that BMW’s ultra-luxury subsidiary, British-based Rolls-Royce, will debut a battery-powered concept, the 102EX, at the upcoming Geneva Motor Show.  (For more on the Phantom Experimental Electric model, Click Here.)

At the other end of the spectrum, BMW’s Mini brand is also planning to integrate battery-based models into its line-up.

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