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2011-02-22 06:42

GHOST CAR?: The surface may appear a little out of the ordinary, but this is the future of BMW in-city mobility.

The new BMW sub-brand focused on developing sustainable mobility solutions has been launched.

"BMW i represents a new movement in premium mobility," said Ian Robertson, BMW board member responsible for sales and marketing.

"With the introduction of this new sub-brand, the BMW Group reaffirms its leadership as the most innovative and sustainable premium car company. This is BMW i – Born Electric." Robertson will of course be well known to South Africans after his tenure as boss of local operations at Rosslyn during the period 1999-2005.

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 $100-million.

"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.

DIGITAL DREAM: The appeal and viability of electric vehicles will get a huge boost as one of the world’s most revered automotive brands joins the fray…

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.


"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 light carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP). Klaus Draeger, BMW Board member responsible for development, explained:

"We used the innovative architecture and CFRP to cancel out practically all of the weight added by the batteries. For our customers, this means superior driving dynamics combined with significantly increased range using electric power."

Like the BMW i3, the BMW i8 will also be assembled at BMW’s Leipzig plant. Around €400-million will be invested in plant facilities and  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.


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. Robertson added: "Mobility requirements are changing in rapidly expanding megacities.

"Our commitment to car-enabled mobility services, such as 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."

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, Robertson said: “I'm 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 transport, parking and local entertainment for more than 40 cities in the US. Another 40 will be part of the global rollout - including Munich, of course.”

Of course; its home to BMW.

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