BMW chairman says the carmaker hasn't scrapped its electric car dreams
The BMW i3: "We have tackled the issue of e-mobility."
Over the past few months, it seemed that the world has cast aside electric cars. Toyota came out publicly and said that hybrids and, eventually, fuel cells, were the way forward – not battery cars. Even Nissan, which had put so much investment and faith into the Leaf, quietly admitted that it was turning its attentions more to hybrids. Given that only 11 new electric cars were registered in the first two months of this year in Ireland, it seems most buyers here agree.
BMW though still reckons that pure electric cars have a role to play and the company’s chairman of the board, Dr Norbert Reithofer, yesterday unveiled the coupe concept version of the upcoming BMW i3 electric car. And he was quite firm that pure battery cars still have a future:
“We believe that customers will decide to buy an e-car if they receive compelling offers. Still, success is not guaranteed. But I am an engineer, and as such, I know that technical progress and pioneering work require a daring approach.
“At the BMW Group, we have tackled the issue of e-mobility from a holistic perspective, and let me add: more so than any other automaker,” Dr Reithofer said as he presented the i3 Coupe to the waiting press.
Its not so much the batteries that BMW is putting its faith in (indeed, the i3 will also be available as a range-extender, with a compact petrol engine on board to keep the batteries topped up) but in the i3’s structure.
It’s made almost entirely of carbon-fibre (actually carbon-fibre-reinforced-plastic, or CFRP), a material which hitherto has been considered too expensive for a mass-market car. BMW reckons it has cracked the cost factor of carbon though, and while the i3 won’t be cheap, it will be the most affordable all-carbon car yet launched.
That carbon structure, and the incredibly light weight it brings, is what BMW thinks will give the i3 and electric edge.
It’s the first car to be designed as an electric car from the ground up, and it’s that low weight that will allow it to stretch the range of the batteries as far as possible. And of course to provide proper BMW-esque performance from its 170bhp drivetrain.
Things can only get beta for Alfa
Alfa Romeo is hoping for yet another revival in its fortune, this time relaunching the brand on the basis of its 4c compact sports car. It’s a smart-looking package built on a carbon fibre package, a material that continues to sneak into sports cars but is unlikely to make it into mainstream models anytime soon.
The production 4C coupe is powered by a 240bhp 1.7-litre petrol engine with a six-speed twin-clutch transmission, a powertrain already on offer in the Giulietta. Produced at the Maserati plant in Modena, if it’s as much fun to drive as it looks then the Italian brand could be onto a winner, but it really needs to revisit those front lights. However, it’s unlikely to revive its fortunes in Ireland, with prices in the order of €40,000 being mentioned.