Widespread implementation of electric cars might be closer than you think according to BMW product development boss Herbert Diess.
“Electricification will be a central thread in what we do, be it plug-in hybrid, hybrid or full electrification. The i8 shows what’s possible even below 50g/km, but we will also offer all standard models with entry-level electrification,” he told AutoCar. “We will try to use the modular kit developed for the i3 and i8 on a kit basis.”
Diess says that Europe will be the first to start seeing a bigger push toward electric cars because of stricter emissions regulations – probably between five and seven years ahead of other regions. Its two newest models – the i3 and i8 – foreshadow a breadth of products that BMW will offer ranging from the entry-level to high performance. Diess’ comments don’t mean the death of internal combustion engines in BMW products, but they do signal a big shift in ratio of gasoline to electric cars in its stable and likely others.
“The motivation is always sheer driving pleasure, whatever we do. Not everyone wants to take the bus or train. But that philosophy is under environmental pressure. Automotive is one of the most heavily regulated industries. What is coming in the future is not just a reaction to customer requests, but also regulation,” he said.
Electric cars are weathering a lukewarm reception by customers in most parts of the world. Norway is the most notable exception, but only because of incentives from the Norwegian government.
High initial cost, long charging times and a lack of infrastructure make driving a car with relatively limited range especially difficult. Both Nissan and Chevrolet are finding limited success for the Leaf and Volt. In both cases, sales were relatively slow until the brands announced big price cuts.
But BMW is hoping that it can offer a different spin on electric cars. The i3 uses a carbon fiber monocoque, powers the rear wheels and offers an optional on-board gasoline engine to serve as a generator, relieving range anxiety. It’s also the least expensive car to use a carbon fiber monocoque to date with a starting MSRP of about $42,000.
GALLERY: 2014 BMW i3
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