And while BMW itself hasn’t run into any production or development snags in its i3 and i8 models, electric cars have not been as well-received as BMW had hoped, especially worldwide. As of right now, the engineering and tooling work behind producing these models is still on schedule, but Ulrich Kranz, team leader of the project, and research and development chief Herbert Diess are looking into contingency plans for Project i.
In the most general terms, the i3 and i8 are true technological advancements in automotive production and will undoubtedly change how consumers view cars in the future. The i3 is supposed to be priced around your run-of-the-mill 3-Series sedan model – around $45,000 – but features a lightweight, carbon fiber body sitting on an aluminum platform, a lithium-ion battery, and a 150-hp electric motor mounted in the rear.
BMW however, is expecting sales of the entry level i3 to soar towards 100,000 a year and even 10,000 a year for the higher-end i8 plug-in hybrid with 493-hp. Those are obviously optimistic figures, since electric cars have hardly caught on around the world. Battery-charging infrastructures have barely been setup in America while the German automaker also has to deal with Europe’s regulations and support, while China continuously changes the rules without warning.
Ultimately BMW still believes that Project i will pay off and it’s refusing to put a number on an exit strategy just yet. Chairman Norbert Reithofer, however, claims even though shutting down the Project i could cost BMW billions, it wouldn’t impact the automaker like the disastrous Rover project in the late ’90s.
Currently the i3 and i8 could still be on schedule for a 2013 and 2014 launch, respectively. But for now, the i1 intra-city car and i5 eco-van have been put on hold. BMW could also halt the electric i3 and i8 production to shift its focus to more conventional plug-in hybrid variants or even making a gas-only model of the i3 and i8. It’ll be interesting to see if BMW is willing to compromise to the market rather than continue to be a ground-breaking automaker with its Project i.
[Source: Automobile Mag]