BMW Electrifies China

Deliveries of i3 to start by September. 

Our friends over at Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (aka BMW) are predicting that China will be the biggest market for electric cars by 2019 as the government and private companies build more charging infrastructure and everybody pushes for cleaner air. Karsten Engel, President of BMW China, believes that the Chinese population have become more environmentally aware and the country will become the biggest market of green vehicles.

BMW announced that they will commence deliveries of their electric-powered i3 sedan and the sleek looking plug-in hybrid i8 sports car (pictured below) in September, and so far pre-orders would indicate that the first 1000 allotted for the country this year will be in very short supply. The i3’s launch price, even with the short demand, is lower than many expected at CN¥450,000 (US$72,000) but that still makes it expensive for a small sedan.

‘There are many more customers than supply,’ Engel told reporters in Shanghai, where BMW launched a project to build charging facilities with State Grid Corp of China and Expo Shanghai Group. Engel declined to say just how many pre-orders they had received for the i3 since it was unveiled at the Beijing Autoshow, but did say they have had 28,000 requests for test drives.

The i3 is manufactured exclusively in Germany at present and makes use of a lot of carbon fibre in its construction, and is said to have a range of 160 kilometres. It went on sale in the USA in April of this year where you can pick one up for a snip at US$41,350 – a bargain, really, compared to the cost in China.

BMW will be competing with Tesla Motors, Daimler and Volkswagen in selling imported electric cars in China where the government has set an ambitious target of putting 5 million electric or plug-in hybrids on the country’s roads by 2020; all part of Beijing’s fight against pollution and reducing its reliance on imported oil. But five years after China started to promote new-energy vehicles, there are fewer than 70,000 on the road – well short of the 500,000 the government wanted by 2015.

Daimler is currently in a joint venture with Chinese manufacturer BYD to build the Denza electric car (see It’s Tesla vs BYD In China) and VW has announced that they will be selling a total of 15 ‘green’ vehicle models in China by 2018. BMW entered the Chinese market later than most but believe they will sell 400,000 cars this year. They also have an alliance with Brilliance China Automotive Holdings with whom they have already launched the Zinoro, which quite bizarrely you can rent but not own.

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