BMW launches electric models in Oz

BMW has announced that its new i-branded electric city cars will hit local showrooms in November, with the all-electric i3 BEV priced from $63,900 and the range-extended i3 REx from $69,900.

The two i3 models will be joined in early 2015 by BMW’s sleek i-brand flagship, the plug-in hybrid i8 sports car.

The environmentally friendly range, which is expected to expand beyond the i3 and i8, will initially be sold through a national network of six BMW i dealerships, with service provided by an additional 10 service-only dealers.

Charged with the task of launching the i brand flag into the fierce Australian new-car market, BMW Australia managing director Phil Horton said the new i3 was BMW's first dedicated zero-emissions electric vehicle designed from the ground up.

He said both vehicles employed new manufacturing initiatives focused around sustainability and the use of world-first technology.

The all-electric i3 BEV requires recharging while the i3 REx is fitted with an extra two-cylinder 647cc petrol engine to help eliminate range anxiety.

BMW claims the electric-only i3 can achieve up to 170km on a single charge, while the range-extender can push that to more than 300km.

There will be three choices interior choices and six exterior paint schemes.

Although the hybrid i8 will not go on sale here until early next year, BMW hopes to have demonstrator models in each of its BMW i dealerships when they open with the new i3 in November.

The i8 – which was revealed at the Frankfurt motor show last September and will go on sale in Europe in June – features a wide, low and sleek aerodynamic shape, topped off with scissor doors.

Its rear wheels are powered by a three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine producing 170kW and 320Nm.

Powering the front wheels are an electric motor with a rechargeable battery that can provide up to 35km of electric-only driving.

The i8 will hit 100km/h in just 4.4 seconds and top out at 250km/h (when the electric and petrol motors are used in unison).

While BMW Australia was not prepared to discuss local pricing at the Sydney launch this week, a figure of about $300,000 is expected for the i8.

With electric and hybrid cars yet to be embraced by Australian motorists, Horton was conservative when discussing projected sales for the new i3.

"We have pre-orders for 20 vehicles at the moment," he said.

"We have a limited number of vehicles available to us (so) I would say 50-60 sales in the first year.

“This is not a volume-selling car for us in Australia, but that's not to say we won't be able to get more if we need them.

"For the i8, we actually have pre-orders for 15, which probably says more about the instant appeal of the hypercar. We have about 2000 enquiries on both."

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