Late next year BMW's i3 electric car is slated to arrive and when it does it will mark the provisional culmination of 40 years of development work at BMW. It started back in 1972 at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, where the BMW starting line-up included two electrically powered test vehicles. The converted BMW 1602 models served as a means of transport for the members of the organizing committee, and were also deployed as support and camera cars in various long-distance events.
Back then the electric cars were powered by lead batteries that weighed a whopping 772 pounds, but only provided a range of around 37 miles. From late 1975, an experimental vehicle built on the platform of the BMW LS and fitted with new batteries and a new electric motor was developed. Then, in the 1980s, a research project was launched entitled "Electric car with high-energy battery", which provided valuable experience in the use of sodium-sulphur energy storage devices. Besides the batteries, testing here focused primarily on the drive system and drive control. To trial the concept, eight vehicles based on the BMW 325iX were converted. At this time BMW started to work on designing a pure electric vehicle with the first model, the BMW E1 being unveiled at the 1991 Frankfurt Motor Show. The E1 was designed for use in cities and had range of 100 miles.
Fast forward to 2008 when 600 all-electric MINI E models were released for private everyday use. Just one year later, the world premiere of the BMW Concept ActiveE in early 2010 saw the BMW Group push even further ahead with its research and development activities. Practical trials of over 1,000 units of this model got under way in 2011. As with the MINI E, the overriding objective was the creation of a Megacity Vehicle (MCV), which is now on the verge of being launched as the BMW i3.
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