BMW’s Roadmap Includes Electric Cars in Three Sizes

By · May 24, 2011

The frame of the BMW i3

The BMW i3 starts to take shape.

Most electric car fans already know that BMW is planning to introduce its first production EV in 2013. It was recently given the official name i3, and was previously called the Megacity Vehicle or MCV.

What hasn’t been common knowledge is that BMW is simultaneously working on two slightly different variations called the Intracity Vehicle (ICV) and the Urban Commuter Vehicle (UCV). In addition, BMW is experimenting with the idea of adding a small three-cylinder engine to the i3 as a range-extender option. If that BMW plug-in hybrid ever comes to fruition, it won't be for at least a year or two after the 2013 i3 launch.


Possible cell of the Intracity vehicle.

The ICV will be smaller than the i3, with only two seats, fewer batteries and a shorter range than the i3. The target market is people that live in major cities and rarely need to drive outside the city limits. I’m guessing it will be at least two feet shorter than the i3, making it about 133 inches in length. That’s half-a-foot shorter than the new Fiat 500.

The ICV is planned for a 2015 introduction, two years after the i3 launch. I’ve even heard rumors that MINI may sell a car using the same platform and base it on the MINI Rocketman concept.

Early prototype of the UCV cell

Early prototype of the UCV cell.

The Urban Commuter Vehicle, or UCV, is scheduled for production two years after that, in 2017. It will be a four-door, five-passenger EV that’s bigger than the i3, with a larger pack and greater range. With its greater range, BMW is hoping that its suburban and even rural customers—folks who would never consider the i3—will look at this electric vehicle. I expect this car to be about the size of a Nissan LEAF, if not a bit larger.

BMW eDrive system

BMW eDrive system.

All of these vehicles will employ the LifeDrive architecture, where the drive system and the life cell are basically two different components. They will have use aluminum and carbon fiber instead of steel, making them 25 to 30 percent lighter than comparable sized cars.

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