BMW unveils new sub-brand, i 21 | 02 | 2011

    BMW HAS confirmed its new sub-brand, i, which will be the platform through which it markets a range of advanced standalone hybrid, range-extender and plug-in electric models. The first cars to carry the moniker 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," Klaus Draeger, head of BMW’s R&D operations, explained today. "We’re using an innovative architecture to cancel out practically all the extra weight of the batteries."

    Working under the name LifeDrive, the new architecture uses an aluminium chassis to house the driveline; the passenger cell meanwhile is constructed from carbonfibre-reinforced plastic developed in partnership with US-based SG Carbon.

    BMW’s first production model to be conceived specifically for urban driving environment, the two-plus-two i3 has previously been known under its internal working title MegaCity Vehicle.

    When it's launched, 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. Further developments, including a range extender, are also being carried out on other versions of the i3.

    Meanwhile the i8 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 i8 previewed the EfficientDynamics concept car first shown in 2009.

    Both the i3 and i8 will be produced on a dedicated line at BMW’s Leipzig factory, which is on course for £336m of investment.

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    Jim McGill

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