BMW has confirmed a new sub-brand called i, through which it intends to market a range of advanced standalone hybrid, range-extender and plug-in electric models.
Among the first cars to carry the new badge will be the i3 and i8, both of which are planned for introduction in 2013. “These cars have been designed specifically for their respective alternative drive systems. We’re using an innovative architecture to cancel out practically all the extra weight of the batteries,” revealed Klaus Draeger, head of BMW’s R&D operations.
The new architecture, which goes under the name LifeDrive, uses an aluminium chassis to house the driveline, with the passenger cell constructed from carbonfibre-reinforced plastic developed in partnership with US-based SG Carbon.
The two-plus-two i3, previously known under its internal working title MegaCity Vehicle, is BMW’s first production model to be conceived specifically for urban driving environment. It boasts an upright one-box silhouette revealed in an official sketch generated by BMW late last year.
The first i3 will be powered by an all-electric driveline similar to that found in the 1-series ActiveE, which uses a 170bhp electric motor in combination with a lithium ion battery pack for a claimed range of 100 miles. Other versions of the i3, including a range extender, are also under development.
The i8, previewed the EfficientDynamics concept car first shown in 2009, will use a hybrid driveline likely to combine BMW’s upcoming 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine with the same electric motor used by the i3.
The i3 and i8 will be produced on a dedicated line at BMW’s Leipzig factory, which is being lined up for €400m (£336m) of fresh investment.