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Launch of the new sub-brand BMW i, Dr. Klaus Draeger, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Development

By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor

SEE ALSO: Complete background on the new BMW i-Series sub-brand

MUNICH - February 22, 2011: Simply “BMW i” - that is the name of the new BMW sub-brand. It has been founded for the future generation of sustainable zero- en ULEV-vehicles and can be compared to M GmbH, which develops and builds the sporty M-vehicles. Starting with the market introduction in 2013, there will be two models, the BMW i3 and the BMW i8. Thus far the i3 is known as the MCV, mega city vehicle, while the i8, which is based on the Vision EfficientDynamics concept car, originally unveiled at the IAA in 2009. The concept for the i3 will probably be shown at the Frankfurt auto show this coming September. We may expect the production model to bow during 2012 and be ready for its market launch in 2013. The i8 will follow early 2014.

More than a year ago, the Germans announced that they were creating a new division. They were able to keep the final name a secret until today. Heavy speculation started last summer, with the historical i-setta name as being the most likely to be used. But rather than using an old fashion name, the philosophy behind choosing just the letter ‘i’ is clear: it is simple and suits the BMW brand, just like the M vehicles.

“The ‘i’ stands for innovative, integrating and inspiring,” said Ian Robertson, Board member for Sales and Marketing, during the presentation of the new sub-brand in BMW Welt in Munich. “We will focus on sustainability. And there is much room for more models….in between the small i3 and the i8.”

Click PLAY to watch the complete BMW i Series Press Conference

The BMW i3 is the first model within Project-I that has been specially developed for the use of an electric drive train. The project started in 2003 with the development of an X5 prototype with a CFRP (carbon fiber reinforced plastic) body, to study the use of this material for the body of the car. Now CFRP will also be used for the i3 and the i8. It will get a specially developed architecture, the so-called LifeDrive concept, for use of an electric power train and the safe storage of the battery pack. An aluminum space frame is used for the absorption of energy during a crash and the cockpit is of CFRP, which weighs 30 per cent less than aluminum and 50 per cent less than steel.

Last fall, BMW showed me a frame that was tested in crashes from three different angles and afterwards was still in tact.

The i-models will be built in a new extension of BMW’s plant in Leipzig, Germany, where it invested 400 million euro (over $500 million) and where some 800 new jobs will be created by 2013, when the i3 goes in production.

The CFRP components for the i models will be produced in another BMW plant from compounding material that is made by BMW’s joint-venture partner SGL Carbon and SGL automotive Fibers GmbH. SGL is specialized in compounding especially for the aircraft industry and started last year with the producing the material for cars that do not have to meet the same requirements as when used in planes, resulting in a cheaper raw material.

Mr. Robertson said in Munich: “This is a new day, a new era in our industry, a new era for future mobility. This is BMW i, born electric.”.

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