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Offline AshSimmonds

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Latest Electric Car Will Be a BMW, From the Battery Up

BMW lifted the veil this week on its planned battery-powered car, in an indication that it is serious about building a new class of vehicle and delivering substantial numbers to showrooms by 2013.

BMW hasn't said what the car will look like, but it released this impressionistic sketch, saying the car would be sporty and stylish.

BMW, the German carmaker, created Project i in late 2007 with the goal of building a car for urban areas where more than half the world’s people live. But, as with many corporate green projects, it was sometimes hard to tell whether the effort was sincere or just a way to generate sustainability credentials.

During two days of briefings for journalists at a garagelike BMW plant outside Munich, the company devoted major resources to proving that battery-powered cars were practical. The demonstration was also intended to allay doubts about whether traditional carmakers were innovative enough to make the leap from gasoline.

Battery technology has “reached the point where it really makes sense to drive electric,” said Ulrich Kranz, director of the project’s team, who previously led the BMW team that revived the Mini brand in 2001.

BMW has crash-tested prototypes of the chassis and frame of the electric car, and this month it will break ground on a factory in Moses Lake, Wash., to produce carbon fiber for a lightweight passenger compartment.

Auto industry specialists said they were encouraged by the developments.

“It’s not just a marketing project,” said Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, a professor at the University of Duisburg-Essen who studies the auto industry. All the major carmakers have realized that they need electric vehicles to succeed in China, a crucial market where the government is keen to promote emission-free transport, Mr. Dudenhöffer said.

BMW is taking a different path than competitors by designing the so-called megacity vehicle around its electric drive system from the start.

More: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/02/business/global/02bmw.html

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