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BMW to produce two electric cars by 2014

BMW's "green" cars of the future depend heavily on lightweight materials and various takes on electric drivetrains – from pure electric to plug-in-hybrids and at times something in between.

In Frankfurt, BMW AG lined up all its heaviest hitters, from CEO Norbert Reithofer to global sales boss Ian Robertson and everyone in between. BMW wanted to make this point: we as a company are dead serious about two "concept studies," which within two years will become two production cars: the 2013 BMW i3 compact and 2014 BMW i8 sports car.

In fact, BMW design director Adrian von Hooydonk says both concept cars are 90 per cent of what the final production models will look like in dealer showrooms by 2013.

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Development chief Klaus Draeger says the gasoline-electric parallel hybrid i8 coupe is "the sports car for a new generation – pure, emotional and sustainable." The Megacity Car, the all-electric, four-seat i3 hatchback is a rear-drive BMW through and through, he added – even though it will be available with an on-board motor for battery charging just like the Chevrolet Volt. BMW's electric city car, however, will most likely sell for something in the $50,000 or $60,000 range.

Then we have the i8 super sports car, which itself will more than likely list for a price in the low six figures. In both cases, BMW says you will be buying the most advanced cars of their kind on the market, right down to the carbon fibre construction.

The i3 will have an electric drive range of about 150 km and is very light – about 1,250 kg or about 270 kg lighter than a Nissan Leaf. It will have a 0-100 km/h time of less than eight seconds and can be quick-charged to 80 per cent in an hour.

The i8 will do 0-100 km/h in less than five seconds and boasts fuel consumption of under 3.0 litres/100 km. It's a plug-in hybrid with a range of up to 35 km in electric mode. A high-performance, three-cylinder gas engine extends the range and improves performance. Top speed: 250 km/h.

BMW's global sales boss, Ian Robertson, says the "i" brand will be a sub-brand of BMW, not a stand-alone entity such as Mini. The "i" apparently stands for "individual" mobility. That is, BMW's vision of a green future does not call for everyone to share public transit.

The i cars have been in the works for years and BMW seems deadly serious here about becoming some sort of "green" car company – a premium one, of course. To get there BMW is going electric and throwing down the gauntlet to its competition in doing so.

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