Rumor: Is BMW scalling back on electric cars?

BMW i3 Concept und i8 Concept 032 750x500 Rumor: Is BMW scalling back on electric cars?

In 2013 BMW will launch the i3, the first fully electric vehicle part of the new i sub-brand. The electric project kicked off years ago …

In 2013 BMW will launch the i3, the first fully electric vehicle part of the new i sub-brand. The electric project kicked off years ago and went through a series of iterations that began wit the MINI E and more recently, the 1 Series ActiveE.

Next on the roadmap is the i8, BMW’s own interpretation of sportscar that runs on alternative drivetrains, in this case, a hybrid combining three electric motors with a small, 1.5 liter petrol combustion engine. The electrified concept is due out in 2014.

As we learned in the past BMW is placing a large bet on the electric vehicles market and the investments so far have been substantial. But according to Automobile Mag, things might not be as glamorous as previously reported. The U.S. magazine says that i brand is “skating on dangerously thin ice.”

BMW i3 Concept und i8 Concept 032 655x454 Rumor: Is BMW scalling back on electric cars?

Initial estimates are calling for 100,000 i3 vehicles sold every year and roughly 10,000 units for the 493 horsepower i8 sportscar. The issues may arise from two areas: availability of global battery-charging infrastructure and lack of green incentives from most western governments.

“There’s a lot of lobbying going on to iron out external obstacles. Trouble is, BMW is not dealing with only one country and one market here. Rather, it confronts an increasingly fractious Europe, a China that is changing its own rules with little warning, and a U.S. federal government that hasn’t followed the state of California’s eco-leadership,” says the report by Automobile Mag.

The slower adoption of EVs could also come from the fuel prices which aren’t much higher than they were several years ago, coupled with the latest technology advancements in the area of conventional engines that offer mileage as good as some hybrids.

Yet BMW is still convinced that Project i and the i sub-brand will pay off in the long run. Same magazine speculates that team leader Ulrich Kranz and new research and development chief Herbert Diess are discussing contingency plans.

Automobile Mag:

BMW refuses to put a number on a Project i exit strategy, but chairman Norbert Reithofer claims that, although it would cost billions, halting the i3 and i8 would not throw the carmaker into the same kind of turmoil its Rover misadventure caused in the late ’90s.

As expected, other i variants like the i4 or i5 are yet to be greenlighted.

In the mean time the i3 and i8 models continue their worldwide roadshow and further communication on the progress of i sub-brand is expected to be released this year.

[Source: Automobile Mag]
  • Wouter Van Belle

    I hope that BMW I stays alive!

  • Shadetree

    “…and a U.S. federal government that hasn’t followed the state of California’s eco-leadership,” says the report by Automobile Mag.” Really? You want leadership from a state that’s practically bankrupt for years now? More like eco-hypocrisy and eco-piousness.

  • Tommolog

    Personally I believe the Automobile Mag article was nothing more then a hack story with no credible information. As you noted they wrote that BMW is backing off their production estimates of 100,000 i3’s and 10,000 i8’s per year. Anyone that has been following BMW i at all knows that the only production estimate EVER printed about either of these cars stated that BMW had hoped to sell 30,000 i3’s worldwide per year and no estimate for the i8 was ever offered but it would certainly be less than 10,000 per year as it is a very expensive ‘supercar’. So the fact alone that they say BMW is backing off production estimates of 100,000 i3’s proves they know nothing about BMW i and didn’t even do the slightest research into it. BMW couldn’t produce 100,000 i3’s even if there was demand for them, they just won’t have the capacity to make that many CFRP life cells and SB-Li Motive couldn’t provide them with 100,000 battery packs per year.

    There’s simply nothing to this ‘story’. It was written by an anonymous staff writer and my guess is they just needed something to fill space. BMW just a couple weeks ago announced the Born Electric World Tour where they are going to take the i3 & i8 on a world tour for the next 10 months leading up to the i3 launch. They are actually gearing up for the i3 launch, not scaling back.

    • Horatiu B.

      I tend to agree Tom. That’s why I labeled it as rumor since none of our sources confirmed this.

      • Tommolog

        Yeah, I get it Horatiu. The only thing that bothers me is this site is THE authority on BMW and people read the headline and all they get from it is BMW is having second thoughts on the i brand and in my experience working with them, it just isn’t true. When Automobile Mag does a hack job on BMW most knowledgeable people take it with a grain of salt. But when BMWBLOG writes something about BMW, people listen! ;)

        • Horatiu B.

          :) Hugo wrote a piece last week on this and pretty much explained while BMW will stay committed to i.

          I’m hoping that people will read the article as a rumor.

  • gerhard

    During the past months a lot of lobbing has been done in Brussels the capital of the EEC,the future emissions standard have been set for the next decade and will be fixed for new developping cars on 76mgCo2/km Maybe carmakers are using this arguement for tring to prevent cheap import of polluting cars since de they invested so much on this new technology, so in this case i will seem to turn out to be a technology push strategy, in tring to convince the europen comittee. I rather think they will change the i3 from being a full electric into a super hybrid with a rangeextender as they have ivested so much on carbon.
    Anyway i want one!!! as soon as possible

  • LaMa

    electric cars are NOT the future. If only 10% of the population would switch to electric cars and plug them in tomorrow, there would be blackouts on 50% of the world. Increase that number to 30% and an electricity would become a luxury item and people would live without as they could not afford it.
    As it is some states already experiencing blackouts and forcing the people to cut back on energy use.
    Plug-in Electric vehicles are a novelty and will remain that.
    gas-electric hybrids are better but the solution is not that. We as humans needs to find a good energy source that’s available widely and could be used in an internal combustion engine. We need to design better engines and use that energy to achive 100-120mpg with a small car. Natural gas is one I’m thinking could be a future of energy sources, much better choice then a plug-in-electric.

    • Tommolog

      I’d love to see that data you are basing that on LaMa. I have been talking to public utilities about this for the past three years and the general consensus is that we can certainly, without doubt convert our current automobile base to electric without any major problem. 10% of the world isn’t going to switch tomorrow and plug them all in at once anyway, so don’t worry about that. There is going to be a gradual transition and utilities will be able to adjust to the increased demand like they always do. An electric car driven 15,000 miles per year uses about the same amount(actually less) of electricity as five 100 watt light bulbs left on continuously do. Here’s a Scientific American article about it. There are many, many other publications that prove it won’t be a problem either.
      I’d like to see more CNG cars also, it will take a mixture of alternative energy vehicles and super efficient gas and diesel cars and hybrids to solve our energy problems

    • martinwinlow

      LaMa – Do you know how much electricity is used to refine a gallon of petrol or diesel or where in relation to their consumption they are generally refined? No? Well that explains why your statement is WRONG! Have a google about it – a good idea generally before committing yourself to an opinion broadcast to the entire world, IMO.

      (Ans: about 7kWh – enough to take you almost as far in an EV as a gallon of gas would in an ICE… and most refineries are LOCAL to their markets. Ergo, even if all ICEVs changed to EVs there would be little increase in electricity generation required. Besides, most charging will occur at night when demand is 10% or less of peak. Try again.)


  • Gery Katona

    As a Leaf owner, I’m pretty conscious of the EV market. Look at hybrids. It has taken more than 10 years and they represent less than 5% of the auto market. And they are just slightly more expensive than a conventional ICE vehicle. EV’s are WAY more expensive and have the added limitations that I don’t need to mention. Even without infrastructure and without the other limitations like charging time and range, the cost alone will keep them a small niche for the foreseeable future.