BMW wants to position its forthcoming family of electric cars as ‘premium’ vehicles, occupying the top tier of the emerging EV sector.
Designers at BMW’s Technik and FIZ technical centres in Munich are formulating new design themes for the cars, collectively known as Project i, which will be available with two, three and four wheels.
The three-wheeled Simple concept from 2008, and recently revealed for the first time, isn’t a guide on design, according to the car’s project manager, Sebastian Schelper. “Simple is about the concept and engineering, not styling,” he told Autocar. But lessons learned on the 3.5m-long Simple and its sister three-wheeler, Clever, will be incorporated into Project i cars. At 2.5m long, Clever was built to explore how to engineer a tiny car to be as safe as possible.
If BMW can hit its premium-positioning targets for the Project i cars, it will shake up the emerging EV segment when the first models are delivered around 2014/15. EVs today are usually developments of existing volume-brand cars or are limited-run, low-cost models like the G-Wiz.
A key consideration for the styling will be the brand positioning of BMW’s EV models, an important detail yet to be finalised.
“Whether Project i cars fit below Mini, between Mini and BMW or above BMW is one of the important things we’re still deciding,” said Marc Gerard, boss of BMW interiors.
One of the major factors in developing the styling is whether buyers of electric cars are prepared to make two significant steps: to drop a combustion engine in favour of electric power, and to pay for a car with radical styling.