German premium carmaker BMW launched a new sub-brand for environmentally friendly vehicles on Monday. The 'BMW i' models will be constructed of lightweight materials and powered by electric and hybrid engines.
BMW's electric vehicles will be fitted with a special 'i' badge
BMW plans to roll out a range of electric and hybrid cars bearing a new "BMW i" badge, similar to the Munich-based company's "M" performance series.
The new sub-brand will begin producing two lightweight models in the city of Leipzig in 2013.
The BMW i3, previously known under the project name "megacity vehicle", is an all-electric compact aimed at affluent drivers living in metropolitan centers.
The BMW i8, meanwhile, features a plug-in hybrid drive designers say can deliver sports car performance with the fuel consumption and emissions of a much smaller car.
No photos of the cars are available yet, but designers say they will feature large, narrow wheels
"Both cars have been designed specifically for their respective alternative drive systems," said Klaus Draeger, the BMW board member responsible for development.
Both models feature an aluminum chassis combined with passenger cell made from lightweight carbon fiber-reinforced plastic. The two models will share common components in their electric motors, electronics, and high-voltage lithium-ion batteries.
BMW plans to invest 400 million euros in its Leipzig plant over the next two years. The i3 and i8 are expected to create about 800 new jobs.
BMW also plans to expand its palette of mobility services. It has invested more than 70 million euros in a new venture capital subsidiary known as BMW i Ventures.
The investment unit has already bought a stake in New York-based company MyCityWay.
"As a mobile app, MyCityWay provides users with information on public transportation, parking availability, and local entertainment for over 40 cities in the US," BMW sales and marketing head Ian Robertson said.
"Another 40 cities will be part of the global rollout, including Munich, of course."
Rolls-Royce wants to test the luxury market's interest in electric models
Meanwhile, BMW's luxury subsidiary Rolls-Royce plans to unveil its first electric-powered vehicle at the Geneva Motor Show on March 1.
The British company will take a one-off Phantom 102EX prototype on a tour of Europe, the Middle East, Asia and North America to see if high-end customers are interested in a fully electric car.
"We have engineered the world's first battery electric vehicle for the ultra-luxury segment," chief executive Torsten Muller-Otvos said in a statement.
"With this vehicle, we begin an exploration into alternative drive-trains, seeking clarity on which alternative technologies may be suitable to drive Rolls-Royce motor cars of the future."
The company wants to ascertain how long the car can drive between re-charges and how it operates in extreme weather conditions, but there are no plans yet to develop a production.
"I must be convinced that any alternative drive-train we choose for the future delivers an authentic Rolls-Royce experience," Muller-Otvos said.
Author: Sam Edmonds (dpa, AFP)
Editor: Saroja Coelho