BMW has launched its i3 EV at simultaneous events in Beijing, New York and London, staking its claim to be the technology leader among all premium automakers.
BMW relies on the i3 to attract customers, who have avoided buying an EV due to the limited range and high prices, compared with the plug-in hybrids or the vehicles powered by internal combustion engines. Henner Lehne, an IHS Automotive analyst, said that BMW has to stay at the pinnacle of technology to surpass rivals such as Mercedes and Audi.
“If it succeeds, it will firm up BMW’s lead on innovation,” said Henner Lehne.
The i3 is BMW’s first EV and will be followed by the i8 hybrid supercar which will hit the market in 2014. The German automaker has made an investment of 2 billion euro to develop the i series, with the i3 being created from scratch, instead of simply converting an existing model.
The i3 features an aluminum chassis and a carbon fiber-based shell, an its 160-km range would be enough for customers based in suburban and urban areas. Customers worried about the limited range can choose the range-extending engine, a two-cylinder, 650cc gasoline engine which is taken from the C 600 Sport scooter.
The i3 will hit the European market in November and the US during the second quarter of 2014. The base price will be 34,950 euro in Europe, but it will reach 39,950 euro for the ranger extender. HIS predicts that BMW will sell between 15,000 and 20,000 units of the i3 by the end of this year, which would be in line with the Tesla Model S, trailing the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt which are expected to sell 100,000 units annually.