BMW Opens i to Electric Cars

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BMW today took the wraps off BMW i, its sub-brand for a new line of electric cars launching in 2013.

In an event streamed live from Munich and also promoted with a new Facebook page, the German automaker unveiled a tagline (“Born Electric”) and the slanted “i” logo that will be the official mark of it electric vehicle arm, with designs for two of its planned models highlighted today.

The i3 is a four-seat, battery powered city car, while the i8 is a plug-in hybrid sports car that the company promises “will be able to reach 60 miles an hour, or nearly 100 kilometers an hour, in five seconds, while burning no more fuel than a subcompact.”

“BMW i represents a new movement in premium mobility,” stated Ian Robertson, the BMW executive board member responsible for sales and marketing.

“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.”[more]

As the New York Times quotes Robertson at the launch, BMW i “will serve as “an independent brand, but committed to the BMW brand promise of joy through pure driving pleasure.”

Additional vehicles will join the BMW i family, notes Wired. The BMW Group already sells other distinct auto brand names in Mini and Rolls-Royce that don’t play up their BMW connection, just as Daimler separately markets its luxury Mercedes-Benz cars and two-seat Smart city cars.

In terms of design, the i-branded plug-in cars will retain BMW’s distinctive kidney-shaped grill design on the front end, even though the “grill” is not needed by a battery-powered vehicle and would be purely decorative.

Their wheels “will be narrower and taller than conventional cars, with body elements that wrap around the front and back of each tire for better aerodynamics,” adds the Times. “BMW is striving for minimum weight and maximum aerodynamic efficiency to help compensate for the limited driving range inherent to battery-powered cars.”

The Times feels that with BMW i as its electric flagship, “BMW is betting that there is a market among young, affluent buyers for cars that are sporty and stylish yet guilt-free.”

In addition to being design-conscious, BMW’s electric cars will aim to be electronically advanced and hyper-connected. To spur their smartcar abilities, the carmaker also announced that it had formed a New York-based venture capital fund to develop mobile apps.

With up to $100 million in funding from the BMW Group, BMW i Venture, as the automaker’s new VC arm is called, has taken an undisclosed stake in MyCityWay, a start-up whose location-based smartphone and iPad app serves as an urban reference map to public transit, parking availability and local entertainment in more than 40 US cities.

Here is the i3 concept and, below that, the i8 design, along with BMW i’s launch marketing videos:

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