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Europe: BMW shifts Into Electric Gear

An artist’s rendering of BMW’s i series cars. Credit: BMW North Americ
BMW is diving headfirst into electric vehicles.
Last month, it offered a glimpse of its concept electric scooters. And a few days ago, in Frankfurt, it debuted its “i series,” a sub-brand dedicated to electric or plug-in hybrid models.

Specifically, it showed off prototypes of two models, the i3 (a compact) and the i8 (a sports car). The i3 is a full-electric vehicle, intended for the urban commuter (with considerable income to spare, of course). It’s expected in 2013. The i8, meanwhile, will be a gasoline-electric parallel hybrid, available in 2014. Its developer, a man named Klaus Draeger, described it this way: “the sports car for a new generation—pure, emotional, and sustainable.”

One thing that’s getting people particularly emotional about these cars is their novel frames, which are made of carbon-fiber with an aluminum underbody. These materials make the cars considerably lighter, which is essential in an EV, since the electric drive system (made up of the battery, motors, and electronics) is considerably heavier than the drivetrain of a typical gasoline-fueled car.


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