Automakers don't give up profits easily. So when one of the world's most profitable, BMW, commits to building a range of electric vehicles, they have to be taken seriously.

BMW Chairman Dr. Norbert Reithofer has reaffirmed this commitment during a recent teleconference.

"We consider electric mobility a technology with the potential to achieve emission-free sheer driving pleasure."

He added that 2013 will be a year of revolution for BMW--a year when it starts series production of BMW i.

BMW i will take lessons learned from BMW's recent electric mobility projects, such as the MINI E and BMW ActiveE, and applies it to a dedicated, all-new line of plug-in vehicles.

The company is already confident that its products work in real urban traffic. During MINI E testing, drivers collectively logged almost 10 million miles, and a further 3.1 million so far in the ActiveE.

That development will go into BMW i's first two products, the i3 urban electric car, and the i8 plug-in hybrid sports car. Both have been showcased at several auto shows over the last few years, and seem to have impressed even staunch anti-EV types--if anyone can change the perception of plug-ins, BMW can.

Those vehicles are expected to be joined in subsequent years by others, including a sporty coupe version of the i3--likely to be named i4, expected to debut later this month in L.A.--and a range-extended version of the i3.

Reithofer also explains that BMW's mission is about far more than electric propulsion alone, and that engineers will also concentrate on the use of new materials, and sustainability throughout the value chain.

That also includes different approaches to invidivual mobility--such as the DriveNow car-sharing scheme currently underway in San Francisco and other cities.

Even the production plants will be greener--the Leipzig plant due to produce the BMW i vehicles is currently being equipped with a wind farm.

The firm is on track to halving its CO2 emissions by 2020, compared to its 1990s lineup, despite huge increases in performance, safety and equipment since then.

Are plug-in vehicles the future? BMW is betting they are--and you'd have to be brave to bet against them.


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