BMW electric cars: Automobile History.
Think of a BMW electric car and your mind will likely land on the BMW i3. This is one of the most popular electric cars in the UK, with good reason. BMW is ambitious about electric cars, looking to achieve ranges in excess of 400 miles. They are dedicated to a future target of 12 pure BMW electric cars alongside 13 BMW plug-in hybrid cars by 2025.
However, to understand the BMW i3, the future with the BMW i4, as well as other BMW plug-in hybrid cars, we need to glance back in the past.
The BMW electric cars which matter
To understand where BMW is now we need to look at the development of several recent ranges:
Notably, BMW particularly excels in the arena of plug-in hybrids. A plug-in hybrid has a traditional petrol or diesel engine (all petrol in the case of BMW). In addition they have an electric motor, powered by the battery. As the driver, you choose when and whether to drive the vehicle using the petrol engine, its electric motor, or a combination of both.
BMW electric cars: the past
The BMW electric car wasn’t born overnight. It also wasn’t even created from the hotbed of EV debate. It started as far back as the late 1960s.
Indeed, back at the 1972 Munich Olympics, two BMW cars were used as support vehicles for the marathon. To prevent runners breathing in the fumes, they were turned into electric vehicles. It was rudimentary but it was, literally, on the track.
From here BMW continued down the electric route. The LS Electric was unveiled in 1975. However, as with all electric vehicle development, it wasn’t plain sailing.
Some of the problems here can be seen to be because these vehicles weren’t designed as purely electric vehicles. BMW electric cars were really brought in to being with the BMW E1 back in 1991.
This electric car is seen to be the true predecessor to the BMW i3. The 150,000th BMW i3 has just rolled off the production line. The E1 was followed by the E2. However, it was around this time that other car manufacturers were making huge leaps with electric vehicle development and BMW electric cars were seen to be falling behind.
The challenge was embraced when BMW announced that they would lease some MINIs converted to electric. This proved to be so popular that BMW launched the Megacity Project. It was the prototypes from the cars developed during the Megacity Project which became the groundwork for the BMW i3, BMW i8 and all BMW electric cars which we continue to see today.
BMW electric cars: the present
With these foundations, by 2010 onwards, BMW had become a global leader in electric cars, focused predominantly on city life. Strides forward were taken when the LifeDrive (lightweight carbon fibre reinforced plastic shell) was developed. Manufacturing became based in Leipzig, relying largely on wind-powered energy.
However, the launch of the BMW i3 didn’t come without problems. It was painfully expensive and quite a step away from a typical BMW in terms of expectations, especially in terms of design. Its early days, back in 2013, were marred by criticism of the design and its short electric range (just over 80 miles).
That said, it gradually gained a following. Sales were up 16.2% in the first quarter of 2019, making it the most successful start to a year yet.
Find out more about why we at Green Car Guide have fallen in love with the BMW i3 below.
BMW electric cars: the future
The arena of electric cars is developing with speed. BMW is very much part of this. Looking at the BMW i3 development to date, and the BMW i8 design, we can expect a shift towards a more cohesive ‘BMW’ look across the full range of BMW electric cars, BMW plug-in hybrid cars and standard petrol and diesel vehicles. We can also expect the BMW electric car range to expand, pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved on a single charge to meet customer expectations.
These developments will first be coming to fruition with the MINI-E being launched later in 2019. BMW plug-in hybrid cars, notably the BMW X5 SUV, will have an all-electric range of 30-50 miles before any need for petrol. The BMW i4, being launched in 2021, is thought to be capable of achieving a range of 400 miles and will be pure electric.
We’re excited about reviewing the yet to be released BMW plug-in hybrids and the BMW i4 in due course.
Cost-competitiveness is still an issue, but we can expect this to get better over time.
Which BMW electric car?
The BMW i3 and the BMW i3s are leading models in the world of electric cars. The carbon-fibre body makes for a light but strong body. The batteries sit low so handling is good. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed the drive of the i3s both on the track and on the road within cities, on motorways and beyond. The all-electric range is up to 160 miles.
We have written in more detail previously about the BMW i3 and the BMW i3s. You can also read Green Car Guide’s review of the BMW i3s to discover why we rate it 10/10. We’ve thoroughly road tested the BMW i3s and therefore can bring you real-world independent feedback.
The BMW i3 is the BMW electric car of the moment. Indeed it has been where BMW has really entered the EV market with confidence. The BMW i4 will be released in 2021.
The BMW i8 Coupe is one of the BMW hybrid cars using plug-in technology. It feels, looks and acts like a supercar and will take you 34 miles on electric power before you need to switch it over to petrol.
This is what sets the BMW i8 Coupe in a class of its own. It can’t be compared with others because others don’t do what it does. It’s all about clever engineering and design. The petrol engine is just a 1.5 litre 3-cylinder unit which can be found in a MINI. But combined with its electric motor there is a total system power output of 374hp.
As you expect with plug-in hybrid cars, the BMW i8 Coupe can choose between electric and petrol modes.
In the pipeline is the BMW iX3 which will fall in to the BMW electric SUV category, coming later this year. We are definitely looking forward to reviewing this one, check back to see our thoughts in due course.
BMW electric cars and BMW plug-in hybrid cars continue to lead the way in terms of what can be expected. The future is exciting.