Battery technology has ”reached the point where it really makes sense to drive electric”, said Ulrich Kranz, director of the project’s team, who previously led the BMW team that revived the Mini brand in 2001.
BMW has crash-tested prototypes of the chassis and frame of the electric car, and this month will break ground on a factory in Moses Lake, Washington, to produce carbon fibre for a lightweight passenger compartment.
Auto industry specialists said they were encouraged by the developments.
”It’s not just a marketing project,” Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, a professor at the University of Duisburg-Essen, said. All the big car makers have realised they need electric vehicles to succeed in China, a crucial market where the government is keen to promote emission-free transportation, he said.
BMW is taking a different path to its rivals by designing the so-called megacity vehicle around its electric drive system from the start. Daimler will beat BMW to showrooms with a mass-produced electric vehicle, due in 2012. But Daimler’s e-car is a battery-powered version of its two-seat Smart car.
”I don’t know of any other manufacturer that has conceived of a car exclusively as an electric vehicle,” Professor Dudenhoeffer said. ”The rest are based on conventional cars.”
BMW says it will risk its name to create a sub-brand that will probably contain the initials BMW. Daimler has always kept a distance between its Smart line and the Mercedes brand.
BMW expects sales of petrol and diesel-powered cars to decline from 2020.
NEW YORK TIMES