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. â€œBMW 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. Itâ€™s a new day in our industry; a new era for individual mobility. This is BMW i â€“ Born Electric.â€ 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 â€“ 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.
â€œBMW i offers visionary cars and services, inspiring design, and an entirely new concept of premium mobility â€“ all with a focus on sustainabilityâ€, 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 Groupâ€™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
â€œWith BMW i, we are building on the success and strength of our core brand,â€ emphasised Robertson. The BMW i3â€“ previously known as the Megacity Vehicle â€“ will be the BMW Groupâ€™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). â€œBoth 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,â€ 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 BMWâ€™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 â€“ which can also be used independently of the cars â€“ 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 companyâ€™s brands.
â€œMobility requirements are changing in rapidly expanding megacitiesâ€ adds Ian Robertson. â€œOur commitment to car-enabled mobility services, like BMW ConnectedDrive, will be significantly expanded under BMW i. Weâ€™ll also grow our car-related premium mobility services. Whatâ€™s truly groundbreaking is that weâ€™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.â€ 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, â€œI 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.â€