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On your marks! BMW goes for green at Olympics

Gold digging: BMW has signed on as the official vehicle supplier for the 2012 London Olympics.

4000-vehicle fleet for the London Olympics as BMW gets set to go electric

19 Nov 2009

BMW will showcase a new generation of electric vehicles and other low-emissions cars as part of its commitment to supply 4000 vehicles to the ‘low carbon’ 2012 London Olympic Games.

The sponsorship deal – reported to be worth £30 million ($A54m) to the London Olympic Committee – is designed to establish the German car-maker’s environmental credentials under its ‘Efficient Dynamics’ mantra.

The company has promised to provide a fleet of cars which not only meet the Euro 6 emissions standards to be introduced in 2014 but also beat the maximum average carbon dioxide emissions target of 120g/km established by games organisers.

Currently, the BMW-produced Mini Cooper D is the most efficient car in the BMW stable, emitting just 104g/km, while the least efficient is the Rolls-Royce Phantom, at 380g/km.

BMW’s games commitment, announced this week by London Olympics chairman and former champion athlete Lord Sebastian Coe, will even include a flock of BMW bicycles for Olympic athletes and officials, while BMW motorcycles will support various events, such as road cycling.

Although BMW does not have a van in its current range to match the Mercedes-Benz Vito or VW Transporter, it promises wheel-chair capable transport in its Olympics fleet, which will also cater for the Paralympic Games in London.

 center imageLeft: BMW 7 Series Active Hybrid and Mini Cooper D (below).

BMW is the latest of a long list of car companies to use the Olympics as a launching pad for a marketing splurge, often with a green tinge.

In 1996, General Motors went all out as the official Atlanta Olympics automotive sponsor, supplying the EV1 electric car prototype to lead the marathons.

In Sydney in 2000, Holden supplied the cars, including the hybrid ECOmmodore that led the Olympic Torch Relay around Australia.

In Beijing last year, Volkswagen supplied the transport. VW, however, was gazumped by local Chinese brand Chery Automotive which managed to donate 50 hybrid A5 cars to the Olympics, stealing official partner VW’s thunder.

Along with yet-to-be-seen electric vehicles, BMW is likely to feature dual-fuel hydrogen-petrol 7 Series limousines in its Olympics fleet.

The company revealed at this year’s Frankfurt motor show that it would have such hydrogen-fuelled internal combustion cars on its development fleet within 12 months.

However, if they do turn up in London in 2012, they will not be the only hydrogen-powered vehicles at the Olympics. London Transport has announced a fleet of five hydrogen-powered buses to help move people around the city in time for the Olympics.

A special hydrogen refueling station has been approved for London’s East End to cater for the buses – and perhaps the BMW fleet.

‘Sustainability’ is a major theme of the games, with organisers running an environmental ruler over every aspect of the arrangements, from stadium efficiency to garbage disposal.

BMW says this initiative is a perfect fit for the Munich-based organisation, which says it has been named the most sustainable automotive company on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for the five years in a row.

However, the Olympics operation will not come cheap. While Fleet Street speculates the deal is worth £30 million ($A54m) to the games organisation, mainly in loan cars, the development of ‘hero’ concept models to grab headlines and marketing initiatives to leverage the original investment will likely double the spend.

BMW sees the high profile investment as important in the UK, where it employs 8000 people, mainly at its Mini and Rolls-Royce plants, making it one of the biggest ‘British’ automotive employers.

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