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Europe: BMW i3: the production electric i3 hatchback coming in 2013

Project i is way past the point of no return. The task force headed by Ulrich Kranz is already knee-deep in prototyping with both i3 and i8 undergoing early on-road trials in Miramas (BMW’s own proving ground near Marseilles) and near the Arctic Circle. First spy shots show heavily camouflaged cars, but not even the swirly shower curtain foil can disguise the radical proportions, the large-diameter skinny wheels and the extrovert aerodynamics.

The BMW i programme is so big one could almost be forgiven for calling it the reinvention of the motor car. Not only because of the revolutionary engineering and design concept, but also because of the scale of the whole operation. The installed production capacity will stretch close to 100,000 units per year, the expertise in the field of carbonfibre, battery technology and performance electronics is believed to yield a significant competitive advantage.

BMW i3 to be joined by i1, i5 and i8

The impact on the emerging green car market is reflected by the proposed model range which features these four offerings:

• i3, four-door hatchback, late 2013
• i8, two-door 2+2-seater coupe, early 2014
• i5, high-roof long-wheelbase five-seater wagon/MPV hybrid, 2015 (tentative)
• i1, 2+2-seater short-wheelbase city car, 2016 (tentative)

The relation between i1, i3 and i5 is said to resemble that between Polo, Golf and Golf plus/Touran.

Tell us more about the BMW i1 and i5

i1 was at one point a tiny two-seater aimed squarely at the smart Fortwo. In a next step, it morphed into a three-seater with a transverse accommodation for the back bencher. Now that Smart has kicked off the second-generation Forfour featuring rear suicide doors, BMW seems happy to settle for a more conventional 2+2 layout


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