BMW has recently announced that they will launch a new segment in their model range. It will be called simply "i", (big surprise?) Leaving the discussion about calling everything something with "i" in it to make it seem new and modern, we instead dive into what this new range is all about.
Not long ago, BMW revealed their supercar concept the "Vision Efficient Dynamics". It was displayed as a hybrid supercar with both an electric and a diesel powertrain which propelled it from 0-100km/h in about 4 seconds. (M3 performance actually). They have developed this concept further to become all electric and it will be manifested in their new i range together with a smaller "Mega City" vehicle, as they call it. The two cars will be named i3 and i8.
Together with these new environmentally friendly and efficient vehicles there is also a new business proposal. Customers will be able to lease these cars and with them you also lease the batteries. As re-charging batteries affects the lifetime of the battery, an i3 or i8 owner will be able to replace the batteries free of charge when it is depleted and no longer can maintain a proper charge.
The idea is not bad, many companies are now seeing potential business in leasing cars and having car pools for larger cities. People living in larger cities prefer to use public transport more frequently because of the high gas price and environmental awareness and thus it can be profitable to only use a car when you actually need one, for weekends or longer trips.
The i3 and i8 not only brings new business ideas but also new design features that have not yet been launched in such a large scale. The two cars will utilize BMW’s new LifeDrive architecture. The LifeDrive architecture provides lightness with strength, the cars will have an aluminium based chassis to hold the powertrain and a carbon fibre monocoque that surrounds the occupants. This has been common technology in supercars and sports cars but has not yet been utilized in everyday cars for everyday people.
Lightness is however a key parameter when developing fuel efficient cars, together with aerodynamics and the “i-cars” seem to have been developed with this in mind. The LifeDrive architecture is not cheap though, thus another reason for leasing the i3 and i8 instead of selling them, it would simply not be possible to sell them on the market since they would be too expensive.
Regardless of the silly “i” name, the idea is good; cars that cause minimal environmental damage, whenever you need them and to a reasonable price. That is probably what future transportation in larger cities will be like. The i-Cars will be launched in 2013, until then, keep yourself updated at www.bmw-i.com