Born Electric: BMW Officially Announces “BMW i”

Today is the day that BMW took the wraps off its biggest gamble to date. No it’s not a full car reveal. Actually much more grand and has greater implications than any single new model. The brand is BMW i and the idea is to rethink the car and the way we use our transportation infrastructure.

Along with the brand, BMW announced its plan to produce two cars under the i name. The i3 will be a fully electric three and five door hatch with a carbon fiber monocoque on an aluminum frame (yes body on frame is back). Pricing has yet to be even hinted at but we expect this to be a premium offering (ie high-end 3 Series territory). The i8 will also be much more premium costing more than $150,000. But it will have performance, design and engineering that will live up to that price. Likely very similar to the Vision concept that debuted at Frankfurt a year and a half ago, the car will likely redefine what a sports car is. With its three cylinder turbo diesel developing great power while being extremely efficient, the i8 will lead the brand.

Look for the BMW i8 to debut in 2013 and the i3 to follow it about a year later.

Official Release: The new BMW sub-brand focused on developing sustainable mobility solutions has been launched. “BMW i represents a new movement in premium mobility. With the introduction of this new sub-brand, the BMW Group reaffirms its leadership as the most innovative and sustainable premium car company. The products and services have been conceived around a revolutionary approach: purpose designed and purpose built for sustainable, premium mobility. It’s a new day in our industry; a new era for individual mobility. This is BMW i – Born Electric.” said Ian Robertson, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG responsible for Sales and Marketing, in Munich on Monday. (Official gallery and video after the break)

In a first move, two models will be launched under the new sub-brand from 2013 – the BMW i3 and BMW i8. The BMW Group will also significantly expand its range of mobility services over the years ahead. To achieve this, a Venture Capital company was founded in New York City, BMW i Ventures, with an investment totalling up to 100 million US dollars.

“BMW i offers visionary cars and services, inspiring design, and an entirely new concept of premium mobility – all with a focus on sustainability”, explained Robertson. The BMW i brand comprises vehicles and services developed since 2007 as part of project i, a BMW Group think tank exploring sustainable mobility solutions. It is the BMW Group’s response to changing customer needs, including increasing demand for alternative drive trains, such as electric drive systems and hybrids. There is a widespread desire in megacities for solutions which intelligently combine the benefits of various mobility concepts in a single package.

Revolutionary vehicle concepts

“With BMW i, we are building on the success and strength of our core brand,” emphasised Robertson. The BMW i3– previously known as the Megacity Vehicle – will be the BMW Group’s first series-produced car for urban areas to be driven by electric power alone. The BMW i8, meanwhile, is based on the BMW Vision EfficientDynamics concept study. Its plug-in hybrid drive blends the sporting ability of a high-performance machine with the fuel consumption and emissions of a small car.

Both models are based on a revolutionary construction concept known as LifeDrive architecture. An aluminium chassis houses the powertrain, and the passenger cell consists of high-strength but extremely lightweight carbon fibre-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. 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.

BMW i8 to be built in Leipzig

Like the BMW i3, the BMW i8 will also be manufactured at BMW’s Leipzig plant. Around 400 million euros will be invested in new plant facilities and some 800 jobs will be created up to 2013. Development and production synergies will be achieved through both vehicles using the same component sets for the electric motors, power electronics, and high-voltage lithium-ion batteries.

A range of vehicle-independent services

An additional range of mobility services – which can also be used independently of the cars – will be an integral component of BMW i. This will allow the creation of a new, profitable area of business over the long term and attract new customers to the company’s brands.

“Mobility requirements are changing in rapidly expanding megacities” adds Ian Robertson. “Our commitment to car-enabled mobility services, like BMW ConnectedDrive, will be significantly expanded under BMW i. We’ll also grow our car-related premium mobility services. What’s truly groundbreaking is that we’ll begin offering car-independent premium mobility services. BMW i aims to provide customized mobility solutions across a seamless network of premium products and premium services.” The focus is on solutions which will improve usage of existing parking spaces, as well as intelligent navigation systems with local information, intermodal route planning, and premium car-sharing.

In addition to services developed in-house, the BMW Group is pursuing collaborations with partner companies and exploring strategic capital investments in providers of mobility services. To this end, the venture capital company BMW i Ventures has the goal to expand the range of products and services offered by BMW i in the long term by taking stakes in highly innovative service providers.

New York-based My City Way is the first company in which BMW i Ventures has taken a stake. Of the partnership, Ian Robertson said, “I am thrilled to announce that we have just signed our first strategic partnership with My City Way. 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.”

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  • Rixter

    Good marketing hype to start, lets see what they deliver. I can’t believe calling it “i” though. Surely they could’ve come out with something a little more creative that jumping on the i-branded bandwagon

  • walk

    What were they thinking using “i” branding. Oh ya, that trend of putting “i” in front of any product – let’s do that too… So lame BMW!

  • Aurel

    hmm … we might be saving the earth, but we’re losing our souls.

  • R554M

    This will undoubtedly – wait for it . . .

    . . . ruin the brand!

  • What were they thinking using “i” branding. Oh ya, that trend of putting “i” in front of any product – let’s do that too… So lame BMW!

    September 2001 BMW introduced iDrive. A month later Apple introduced the iPod. Yes ‘i’ was done before that (notably by Apple in the iBook and iMac) but BMW certainly did give it some thought. Does it work now? I’m not 100% sure but I will say it follows along with the tradition of BMW M as far as naming conventions go.

  • walk

    Not being the owner of a BMW I forgot about iDrive. I don’t like the naming of “iDrive”, nor do I think much of the name of my “iPhone” or the “iPod” before it.

    I guess what I am saying is it seems like it will date the product line very quickly. They could have called them the “e” line… also overused but at least a little more appropriate.

    What about all the negative stigma associated with previous iDrive systems… I guess BMW thought that was not an issue?

  • GregW

    Well I hate to say this but it’s all a big letdown. Here’s me thinking that this was going to be a small electric bubble car named the I-setta. What do we get? more big BMWs on steriods with a price tag to boot. As for the ” i ” tag – it’s been done before and ain’t new. Like @walk, I would have gone for ” e ” personally.

    So ” i ” joins the list of other things like; i-pad, i-touch, i-feel, i-want, i-wish. All about ” i “, and not about ” U ” or ” mE “.


  • Andy

    Electric cars are great and all, but as long as we’re still relying on fossil fuels to generate that electricity we’re shooting ourselves in the foot.

    I guess a “pure” electric is better than another silly hybrid. Why you’d want to carry around two engines when one would do just confuses me. I’d rather have an efficient diesel than a crappy gas engine + a crappy electric. (again, going back to the fossil fuels…)

  • Jim W.

    Never saw the car….

  • R.O.

    BMWi: is this about Mini Coopers or MegaMini? If not, wouldn’t this story be more appropriate for

    It’s an interesting article but if it’s about BMW’s, then it should be on the BMW blog site not on the Mini Cooper site.

    Is Bimmerfile having trouble attracting readers?

  • CraigE

    The thought processes of people in marketing is very strange and alien to me.

    This whole press release seems to be a big deal about nothing. Calling this new brand “BMW i” is very disappointing. I was hoping for something more dramatic or historical. It would have been cool if they reincarnated the Isetta brand. I think that my reaction to this can be best summed up by saying “meh.”

  • Doug Buchanan

    The marketers obviously think they’re saying a lot there. Um. They’re not. Still, thanks MF, for posting.

  • that.guy

    Have to agree that the “i” branding is monumentally uninspired.

    So the traditional “i” model suffix now becomes a prefix (328i >> i3)? And you still do this despite the fact that Apple has now fully claimed this i-prefix branding territory for itself? And what is the connection between the iDrive subbrand (which has near zero equity given its initial false start) and these cars? Really, BMW?

    And what about the shot of a leaf blower during the environmental love section. Maybe it was a sustainable leaf blower, but that device is just the poster child for negative air quality impact.

  • Some interesting facts….

    If you bought the same mileage of electricity as we did in gas, you’d save over $400B a year in end user costs…

    If you bought the same amount of mileage using electrics as we use for fossil fuels, with current US electricity production mix, you’d emit about half the CO2 created by the light vehicle fleet.

    If you upped the light vehicle fleet to about 50 MPG, even with the current mix of propulsion systems used in the light vehicle fleet, you’d drop our balance of payments by about 50%.

    Makes you think….


  • GregW

    Now I’m more confused. Hyundai call their cars i30 and i45 – so what’s new? What happens to the “i” for injection on petrol cars – are they doing away with it – making 325, 330, 535 – by taking off the i badge they will save thousands of bucks. How does i related to electricity apart for having two letters in it?

  • HERR26

    The letter i cannot be trademarked but it can be trademarked if it is applied to other figures or letters. i3 and i8 for example apply a numerial beside it and is therefore trademarked under BMW AG.

    However i3 and i8 are not the end of BMWi. There is certainly ideas being conceived into what to else placeon the shelf along the BMWi Bookends of the i3 and i8, ranging from city cars (a True Isetta replacement) to micro sports cars.

    @ the IAA in Frankfurt this September will be the opening shot with a first look at the i3 as a Vision Concept Car.

    However the applications for the i3 in relation to Carbon Fibre technology are carried over for the MINI Rocketman Concept car which is a few hours away. Which will showcase, advancing the use of Carbon Fibre in the premium city car segment.

    A MINI with not only Style and sophistication but more advanced in terms of ideas… It goes back to the original thinking… It is overly cute , and although it is a concept , I think that public perception will make it become a reality.

    As of now it is purely a Concept car but if it is well received expect a new level for the MINI brand concentrating on smaller concepts and eventually inclusion for the US Market.

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