BMW to Launch New i3 and i8 Plug-In Electric Models

BMW AG has announced that it will launch two new plug-in electric models under its “I” sub-brand. The new  i3 and i8 will be made at the automaker’s Leipzig, Germany factory and are scheduled to arrive in dealer showrooms in 2013.

In a statement, the company’s sales and marketing boss Ian Robertson said, “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.”

Like BMW, fellow German automaker Audi also created a separate sub-brand specifically for alternative powertrain vehicles. Audi’s E-tron sub-brand is set to launch an electric variant of the R8 supercar sometime next year – just in time for tougher new CO2 emissions standards to take effect in Europe.

Competition between BMW, Audi and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz brand has been fierce as each works to introduce the latest in technology while also reducing their fleet-wide tailpipe emissions.

BMW has designated its Leipzig plant as the production hub for the new i sub-brand and expects to invest $547 million and expand the workforce by an additional 800 workers by 2013.

The i3, which was previously called the Megacity Vehicle, will be the company’s first all-electric production model and is designed for use in crowded urban areas. The i8 plug-in electric model will be based on the Vision EfficientDynamics concept model and combines low fuel consumption and emissions with the performance of a sports car.

The architecture of both the i3 and i8 is based on BMW’s LifeDrive concept and will feature aluminum chassis housings and lightweight, carbon-reinforced plastic passenger cabins.

In the press release announcing the new models, BMW’s head of development Klaus Draeger said, “Both cars have been designed specifically for their respective alternative drive systems.  We used the architecture and CFRP to cancel out practically all of the extra weight added by the batteries.”

The automaker has also invested $100 million to create a new venture capital division, BMW i Ventures, which will “significantly expand its range of mobility services over the years ahead.” The new venture has purchased a stake in My City Way which provides information about local events and public transportation to more than 40 urban areas across the U.S.

Robertson said the company plans a global rollout that will include 40 additional cities.

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