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BMW locks in Megacity

Powering up: BMW is set to join the electric age with a city car under a new sub-brand. Digital impression: Chris Harris.

Production site and suppliers named for BMW’s ‘Megacity’ electric city-car line

23 Feb 2010

BMW has announced more production details of the all-new, all-electric compact car codenamed the 'Megacity', which will go on sale as early as 2013 under a new sub-brand from the German luxury car-maker.

Developed by its ‘project i’ skunkworks and aimed, as the name suggests, primarily at urban dwellers in US and European cities with more than 10 million people, BMW's first dedicated electric vehicle will be manufactured at the Leipzig factory in Germany, alongside the 1 Series small-car and upcoming X1 compact SUV.

Reports had speculated the Megacity could be sold as either a Mini, a born-again 'Isetta' or an '0 Series' BMW, based on the third-generation Mini platform and dubbed UKL1, for Untere Kompaktklasse (lower compact class), which would make it the Bavarian brand's first front-drive model.

Either way, it will compete directly with the Mercedes-Benz A-class and Audi's all-new A1, which enters production this year before arriving in Australia in early 2011. The Volkswagen Polo-based A1 - the first Audi to be unavailable with all-wheel drive - is expected to attract 80,000 annual sales.

“With this new automobile, the BMW Group will be providing an innovative solution for sustainable mobility in urban environments,” says BMW.

“It is being developed as part of project i and is due to reach the market in the first half of this decade under a sub-brand of BMW.” Like the A1, the Megacity is expected to spawn an entire light-sized model family between the Mini and 1 Series (and below the A3 and next-generation A2 in Audi's case), comprising three-door hatch, five-door hatch and two-door coupe/convertible body derivates - the latter perhaps badged as a Z2.

Foreshadowing its latest EV drivetrain technology, BMW showed an electric 1 Series concept at the Detroit motor show last month, but it’s not clear whether the production Megacity will share components with the 1 Series.

The Megacity had been expected to come to market will brand-new internal combustion engine, possibly including the three-cylinder diesel engine revealed in the scissor-doored Vision EfficientDynamics plug-in hybrid coupe concept at the 2009 Frankfurt motor show.

Now it appears the "progressive electric vehicle" from BMW's first EV sub-brand is more likely to be powered by a variation of the Detroit show's ActiveE concept, which incorporated a rear-mounted 125kW/250Nm electric motor driving the rear wheels and powered by a liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery mounted up front.

The 1800kg 1 Series coupe-based ActiveE was said to accelerate to 100km/h in less than nine seconds. BMW said it was confident the concept 160km maximum driving range could be extended by up to 20 per cent, although its top speed will remain at 145km/h. Charge time from empty using a 240-volt domestic power supply is claimed to be about three hours.

BMW this week said its additional model line will incorporate components supplied by a range of Bavaria-based joint-venture companies including SGL Carbon, which will produce carbon-fibre reinforced plastic panels for the new vehicle at BMW's Landshut plant.

When it signed the co-operative deal with SGL last year, BMW said CFRP materials for the super-lightweight Megacity would be produced in both Europe and the US, suggesting two production sites for the groundbreaking small EV. BMW last year also announced a joint-venture with Bosch and Samsung to produce the car's lithium-ion batteries.

Confirmation that the Megacity vehicle will, at least initially, be produced wholly in Germany is the first tangible step towards series production of BMW’s second small EV, following the all-electric Mini E, which was also produced by the project i team and is available for lease in limited numbers in Europe and the US.

“The BMW Group will build the car of the future in Leipzig with high-tech innovations from Bavaria,” said BMW AG chairman Norbert Reithofer.

“The main reasons behind this decision are the qualities that Germany has to offer: we have a tried and tested production network here and high levels of education and outstanding competencies at our disposal.”

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