Compared to other automobile manufacturers, BMW has been behind in electric car research and development. Considering the demographic to which BMW markets, the lack of such a move was surprising. Early adopters with plenty of pocket change are a compelling demographic for BMW. So far efforts had been limited to the Mini E pilot program, but with the whopping monthly lease payment and some customer service issues, the response to the Mini has been mixed.
BMW has taken a large step forward, however. The quintessential German firm announced it will invest about US$560 million in electric vehicle manufacturing. That Mini E trial will lead to a broader range of EVs after all.
The boost in spending will keep some BMW designers, engineers, and production line workers busy the next few years. For now the spike in EV spending will create about 800 jobs at BMW’s Leipzig plant. By 2013, what BMW describes as its “Mega City Vehicle” will churn out of the assembly lines. To that end, BMW’s executive defended its relatively slow development of EVs, with an insistence that a move to an electric power claim requires a “radical” redesign. And in BMW’s defense, the company has tinkered with several plug-in designs and may have finally found a fit for its product line.
Much of the Mega City Vehicle’s design will be based on the data from BMW’s 600 or so Mini E leases. Evidence suggests that that car will have a 150 mile range per charge, a 134 horsepower motor, and can reach a top speed of about 90 miles per hour. The firm’s engineers promise a complete redesign, from the chassis to the material used in the panels, which will be a lightweight carbon-fiber plastic composite.
BMW’s shift will surely please Chancellor Angela Merkel and the German government. Merkel earlier this year launched the “national platform for electric mobility,” which aims to place one million electric cars on Germany’s roads by 2020. BMW’s German competitors have released or are developing new EV models the past several months.
Score some points for innovation and the reduction of carbon emissions. Add some points for the German automotive industry, too, which many viewed as behind the times compared to Asian and even American firms when it comes to EVs.