With the launch of its Megacity Vehicle in 2013, the BMW Group will be bringing its first electric-drive production model to market. "With this innovative vehicle, designed from the ground up, we will be creating new benchmarks for electric mobility from 2013 onwards. Our Megacity Vehicle will be significantly lighter than conventional cars and, in terms of sustainability, will set a new standard across the entire chain," said Norbert Reithofer, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG in Beijing.
The Megacity Vehicle will be a zero-emission urban car for the world's metropolitan regions. It is currently being developed as part of "project I" and will be available from 2013 under a sub-brand of BMW.
When it comes to the choice of materials, the company is broaching entirely new territory. This is because weight plays a pivotal role in the range achievable by electrically driven vehicles. The ultra-light yet high-strength composite CFRP (carbon fibre-reinforced plastic), for example, plays a significant part in the materials mix.
"This vehicle will radically alter the motor industry. The BMW Group is currently the only company that will be launching a volume-production vehicle on the market that features carbon fibre-reinforced material," explained Reithofer.
The BMW Group has been gleaning insights into the daily use of electric vehicles since mid-2009 when it launched global field tests involving more than 600 Mini E models. During the test phase some 50 Mini E cars are also being delivered to customers in China in 2010.
"I am convinced that our Chinese clients will show the same enthusiasm for the vehicle as Mini E drivers in Germany, the USA and Britain," said Reithofer. 2011 will see the handover to Chinese customers of a further fleet based on the BMW Concept ActiveE.
The China Automotive Technology and Research Center (CATARC) and the state-owned energy supply company State Grid are involved as partners in the preparation, implementation and assessment of the practical use of these vehicles. The project has the backing of both the Chinese and the German governments.
BMW gathered its first experiences with electric-drive vehicles some 40 years ago courtesy of a modified BMW 1602 that led the long-distance walking and marathon running events in the 1972 Summer Olympics. In subsequent decades this alternative drive technology was further pursued using many mobile test beds, including the revolutionary BMW E1.
Continuing its announcements in China, the BMW Group also declared it would produce its X1 Sports Activity Vehicle in China. "The BMW X1 could be one of the first products for our new plant in Tiexi in the Shenyang region. We are currently exploring this possibility with the authorities in China," said Reithofer. The facility currently builds BMW 3 Series and 5 Series models for the Chinese market.
Following the launch of the new 5 Series, a successor to the 5 Series Long Wheelbase version will also be produced and sold only in China. Production of the new vehicle will begin in autumn of this year. The Long Wheelbase version of the 5 Series has proved extremely successfully in China, with more than 70,000 vehicles sold since 2006.
China is currently the BMW Group's fourth largest market worldwide. Last year the BMW Group sold more than 90,000 vehicles in mainland China. In the first quarter of 2010, the company increased deliveries by 106% to reach a total of 34,179 vehicles. "China is, and will remain, one of the most attractive automobile markets in the world," added Reithofer. In 2002 - before the plant in Shenyang was built and opened in 2003 - the BMW Group's retail volume in mainland China was just under 6,700 vehicles.