BMW Progressing On Greener Vehicles

Rex Roywriter

According to BMW's Chief Executive Norbert Reithofer, BMW is not going to launch a fourth brand to BMW, MINI, and Rolls Royce as some media outlets had reported. During a telephone conference, Reithofer did confirm that the new Megacity-vehicle program (dubbed Project i) will be launched under a "BMW sub-brand" comparable to BMW's M badge. The launch of the electric BMW will come after 2010 and prior to the 2015 model year.

Reithofer confirmed BMW is in talks with French automaker PSA Peugeot-Citroen SA (PEUGY) over a possible cooperation beyond the already existing engine cooperation, but didn't provide details, such as whether PSA may be the engine supplier for the Megacity. PSA and BMW over the years together have made over one million engines used for Peugeot and Citroen models at plants in France and Germany.

According to Reithofer, regarding the Megacity, "Customers will have the choice between a fully electric drive and a high-efficiency combustion engine." It is unclear whether the Megacity will be some sort of hybrid or if it will be offered with two separate and distinct powertrain options.

BMW's Battery SupplierIn a separate announcement, BMW announced that it has chosen SB LiMotive as the supplier of battery cells for the Megacity. This gives BMW access to state-of-the-art lithium-ion storage technology. Reithofer said, "The decision is a major milestone along the way to serial production of the Megacity vehicle. The battery is a key component in any electric vehicle - it determines the range and performance of the car. With SB LiMotive we have selected a supplier who offers the best available technology, combining leading German automotive expertise with future-oriented Korean battery know-how."

SB LiMotive is a 50:50 joint venture of Robert Bosch GmbH and Samsung SDI. Samsung SDI is a leader in the production of lithium-ion batteries for mobile phones and laptops. Its technology has a proven track record with millions of products in market. Integration in an automobile requires higher standards in terms of durability, operational stability and safety, and this is what Bosch brings to the table. By inking a deal with a battery supplier, the BMW Group is taking a significant step toward getting serious about EV-motoring.

BMW's Charging Partner for the MINI EIn news related to electrically-powered vehicles, BMW officially announced a partnership with the E.ON utility company to evaluate 15 MINI Es in Münich, Germany. As Detroit is to the Detroit Three, Münich is BMW's hometown, so putting its best foot forward on its home turf seems like a good move.

E.On will provide electricity for the cars in 13 special charging stations near the Museumislen area of town. The juice for these stations will be certified to come from renewable energy sources, E.ON says.

After launching the MINI E in the U.S. to customers this May, the all-electric MINI is only now being released in Berlin and Münich. A fleet trial for Britain is also planned. The Münich test will take 12 months to complete and opens the door for a larger, more stable EV recharging network in the Bavarian Capital city down the road.

BMW's Upcoming HybridsAdditional green news from BMW includes the launch of their first two hybrid vehicles at this Fall's Frankfurt Motor Show. The hybrid X6 will use the two-mode hybrid system co-developed with General Motors and then partnered DaimlerChrysler. GM has already released the technology in the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid, Tahoe Hybrid, GMC Sierra Hybrid, GMC Yukon Hybrid, and Cadillac Escalade Hybrid. Chrysler introduced its Aspen and Dodge Durango Hybrids last year, but only several hundred units were produced before production of all Aspen and Durango models was suspended.

The second BMW hybrid vehicle will be a 7-Series that is a mild-hybrid. The system will be more like that used in the 2010 Honda Insight that benefits from an electric motor integrated into the transmission. The hybrid 7-Series will not have enough power to drive on electric power alone.

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