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Business

BMW launches all-electric i3 hatchback car

The German luxury carmaker BMW has presented its first mass-production i3 electric hatchback. The Munich-based company underscored the seriousness of its long-term ambitions regarding mobility in Germany and abroad.

On July 29, BMW launched its i3 electric model at promotion shows in London, New York and Beijing, hoping to stir demand for an expensive luxury brand against the background of other makers facing obstacles in selling battery-powered propulsion.

"This is not a short-term endeavor," BMW Sales Chief Ian Robertson said. "We enter this market segment to with the aim of becoming a major actor."

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BMW futuristic model

The i3 comes after an estimated $2.7 billion (2 billion euros) investment program, with the German carmaker hoping the resources pumped into research and development will eventually pay off.

Bumpy road ahead

The business environment for such products remains difficult. Consumers are skeptical about electric vehicles due to their costs, with the i3 starting at 34,950 euros, 20 percent more than the base version of BMW's best-selling 3-Series.

There are also concerns about the driving range. According to BMW, the i3's 160-kilometer range (100-mile) is enough for drivers based in urban or suburban areas. The company reported that the car could recharge in less than an hour at special stations and up to eight hours from a wall socket at home.

A study released Monday by the Essen-based Center Automotive Research found that in the first half year of 2013, only 580 electric cars were sold in Germany, and 35 times as many in the US. German Chancellor Angela Merkel set a target of 1 million such vehicles on the country's roads by the end of the century, but so far only about 1,700 have been registered.

hg/mkg (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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