BMW takes Mini steps towards electric car market


22 Oct 2010

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Unless an electric vehicle has been purpose built, it will not be worth the asking price, according to BMW group communications manager Tobias Hahn, who elaborated on the company’s plans to enter the electric car market.

Hahn, who was discussing the Mini E (electric) experiment, said that BMW believes that taking an existing structure and simply building around it is not the prudent approach to developing a quality electric vehicle.

“We think, in order for an electric vehicle to be a good proposition to our customer, it has to be purpose built and designed for an electric drive train.

“It’s no use taking an existing vehicle and simply replacing the internal combustion engine with an electric power train because it simply cannot work,” he said.

Steps to the electric market

BMW, which produces and owns the Mini brand and is parent company to Rolls Royce, is taking its first steps towards the electric car market with the Mini E. Indeed, Hahn said that the Mini E is only "an enabling project" in BMW’s electric vehicle road map and that testing its 600 models among customers from the US, UK, France, Germany and Japan is important to identify what a customer "wants" and "fears" in electric vehicles.

“The Mini E is a quick solution we’ve used off the shelf. We wanted to get electric vehicles into customers’ hands quickly to get feedback from them, how they get along with this new kind of driving, the limited range of an electric vehicle, how they get along with the charger.

“Field trials are under scientific surveillance, we ask customer questions before they get the Mini E, what are their expectations, fears about electric vehicles – to get information about how customers get along for every day driving conditions.”

Hahn said BMW is using the Mini E trials in order to gather useful knowledge to better serve the 2013 rollout of its upcoming Mega City Vehicle (which Hahn insists is a working title but it has a nice powerful ring to it), which will be different than any other electric car on the market.

“We’re working on a series production vehicle called Mega City Vehicle. It will be introduced in 2013, an electric vehicle and will be quite a radical car – completely different than any car you know from any other manufacturer.

“In order for an electric vehicle to be a good proposition to our customer, it has to be purpose built and designed for an electric drive train. It’s no use taking an existing vehicle and simply replacing the internal combustion engine with an electric power train because it simply cannot work.

Radical vehicle concept

“They will be built around the electric power train and will also be a radical vehicle concept. It’s a very exciting project and the Mega City Vehicle will be an entirely new sporty sub brand of BMW.”

As the vehicle is expected to hit the showrooms in 2013, we have something of a wait before glimpsing BMW’s vision of the electric future. But if the early concept shots are anything to go by, there’s nothing Mini about BMW’s Mega future.