When BMW brings out the Megacity electric vehicle in 2013, it will launch more than a small city car.
The Megacity Vehicle will be no less than BMW's first stab at an environmentally benign car for the 21st century. It is the result of BMW's project i, a six-year rethinking of all aspects of the automobile.
BMW re-examined vehicle structure, materials, manufacturing and recyclability. "The overall project goal," says a company white paper, "is maximum sustainability."
BMW development chief Klaus Draeger said the scope of the project has been challenging.
"This is not like a normal car project," he said in an interview. "Every day you experience something new. But we want to be on the markets by 2013 in significant volumes."
Christoph Stuermer, an analyst at IHS Automotive in Frankfurt, said project i was a "wild think tank where people were absolutely free to question everything," but it is vital for BMW to spread its innovations throughout its lineup. Otherwise, BMW will be hard-pressed to continue to sell larger cars with premium pricing in a "greener, urbanized future," he said.
Key components of BMW's new model are:
-- Vehicle structure: Unlike most other small cars, the Megacity Vehicle will not be a unibody vehicle. Instead, its structure will resemble that of a body-on-frame vehicle. BMW describes the design as "two horizontally separated independent modules."
The lower half is the "drive" module -- an aluminum chassis that melds the battery, electric drive system and crash structure. A high-strength, lightweight, carbon fiber passenger compartment is attached on top. The key benefit is weight reduction, a prime consideration in reducing the weight and cost of the battery, while providing sufficient range, Draeger said.