The BMW i Program is huge. It’s not just the name for the electric vehicles that BMW is planning to produce, it’s reinventing vehicles and how they are built. The entry level BMW i3 is supposed to cost around $45,000 but will have a carbon fiber body shell built on an aluminum platform. The i3 will be powered by a rear mounted 150hp electric motor and powered by a lithium-ion battery. The overall goals were huge – BMW was expecting to sell up to 100,000 unites per year.
However, many of the external factors BMW was counting on for the i vehicles have failed to materialize. Green car incentives around the world have been dropped due to austerity measures, and battery charging infrastructure hasn’t progressed as fast as many people thought it would. Since BMW was planning to launch the i3 in Europe, China and North America, there are lots of factors that come into play, and that’s leaving the i project in jeopardy.
BMW is still convinced that Project i will eventually pay off, but maybe just not as fast as they had hoped. The complex engineering and tooling are still on schedule, but team leader Ulrich Kranz and research and development chief Herbert Diess are discussing contingency plans. It might be possible to delay the launch of the BMW i3 electric vehicle and the BMW i8 electric super car to focus on potentially more sellable vehicles like a plug-in hybrid or a gas only model. For now, it’s carry on as planned, but this is definitely something to keep an eye on.