First Look: 2013 BMW Megacity Vehicle

BMW’s Megacity Vehicle is finally taking shape with these official sketches that tease the electric car well before its 2013 arrival. Until now, BMW’s Project i has merely been vague talk about future mobility concepts and electric vehicles for major urban areas. The sketches reveal the first car that will come out of BMW’s electrification program as a dynamic but practical hatchback. For now, it’s called the Megacity Vehicle (MCV). BMW says the edgy shape reflects a commitment to building fun and engaging cars, while the ultrashort overhangs emphasize a minimalistic design that optimizes vehicle efficiency and range. To complete the picture, our contacts in Munich have slipped us significant information about the car’s powertrain, packaging, and pricing.

To maximize the MCV’s range, BMW has focused on reducing weight with a carbon fiber passenger cell and aluminum chassis components. A lithium-ion battery with about 35 kWh of capacity is placed below the vehicle’s floor and should deliver about 100 miles of range. Power will be delivered to the rear wheels through a rear-mounted 150-hp electric motor. Top speed is predicted at 95 mph.

While the sketches are ambiguous, Automobile Magazine has learned that the MCV will feature a four-door, four-seat configuration with rear “suicide” doors, like a Rolls-Royce. Length measures in at about 157 inches, roughly the same as a Ford Fiesta. The production vehicle is also rumored to be taller than the sketch leads on. An MCV concept car should appear on the BMW stand at the 2011 Frankfurt auto show in September.

BMW officials acknowledge that they’re paying close attention to the prices of the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt. That said, it’s unlikely the MCV will come near to the Leaf’s $25, 280 price (after $7500 federal tax credit). Rather, buyers will pay a premium for BMW refinement and cachet similar to the markup between a 3-series and a Nissan Altima. That leads us to believe the MCV will cost between $30,000 and $40,000 after any government incentives. BMW classifies a megacity as an urban area with a population of six million to eight million people, but it’s likely that the MCV will be sold in smaller (but still big) cities in the United States.

There’s no official name yet, but we do know the MCV and future electric vehicles will be sold as BMWs under a sub-brand tag, similar to how the M badge is used for performance vehicles. Our sources hint that possible tags include e-range, i-range, or i-setta. Eventually, the electric-vehicle sub-brand will expand to include at least two more models. The smaller Intracity Vehicle (ICV) will be a two-door, two-seat car on sale in 2015. An Urban Commuter Vehicle (UCV) is slightly longer than the MCV, has four doors, and packs five people. It’s due in 2017.

We’ve also been told by a BMW insider that Project i cars will eventually expand to include other powertrain options. One possibility would package a 35-hp combustion engine as a range extender, much like the Chevrolet Volt. Plug-in hybrids are also in the cards and would have a ten-mile electric range before relying on a three-cylinder gas or diesel engine to cover another 300 miles.