No “i” in team – or in BMW’s Olympic fleet, sadly

16 February 2012

BMW i3 and i8 concepts

The Olympics will come a tad too early for sponsor BMW when the games begin this summer. The company is furnishing a fleet of cars and motorcycles, plus 400 pedal cycles, to provide transport for London 2012. But its most innovative new products – the i3 electric car and i8 plug-in hybrid – won’t quite be ready in time.

BMW is sponsoring 130 athletes aiming to compete this summer, all of whom hope to peak at just the right moment to win gold. But the company’s own lithe new stars aren’t yet fit to compete. The compact i3 is not due in showrooms until late 2013, while the sleeker i8 coupe won’t follow before 2014, and neither is far enough along in its development cycle to participate.

BMW Olympic Pavilion artist's impression

Visitors to the Olympics will be able to see prototypes of both cars on display in a purpose-built pavilion, alongside the company’s other products. “We would dearly love to have been able to use the i3 as part of the fleet,” said BMW communications director Graham Biggs, “but we will show the i cars and we will be talking about them.”

The display at the Olympic site will form part of a much larger marketing effort, designed to familiarise potential buyers with the two upcoming cars. There’s quite a bit of communicating to be done. The i3 will be BMW’s first purely electric vehicle to go on sale, while the i8 will be the company’s first plug-in hybrid. Both will be very different to existing BMWs, built using a carbon-fibre body mounted on an aluminium platform chassis.

With such exotic underpinnings, the i3 and i8 will no doubt prove expensive to produce. “The price point will be a challenge,” admitted Biggs. “Leasing will be an important way for customers to come in with limited risk,” he added.

While spy videos confirm that there are at least a few BMW i prototypes capable of running around, they won’t be joining the experimental Mini E and 1-Series-based ActiveE electric cars, which will both serve as part of the Olympic fleet.

BMW Concept-e electric scooter

Biggs confirmed that BMW’s motorcycle division will launch its anticipated electric scooter at the games. Best known for its large motorcycles – which will be put to use as camera bikes during the games – BMW Motorrad is due to launch a pair of 650cc scooters in the spring, with an electric version following in the summer. But the e-scooter is another electric vehicle that won’t be joining the fleet either, again due to unfortunate timing.

The bulk of the Olympic fleet will be made up of more conventional vehicles: diesel-engined BMW saloons, such as the 320d Efficient Dynamics Edition that promises 109g/km of CO2 and 68.9mpg economy.

The 320d ED is already compliant with the upcoming Euro 6 emissions standard, which will become a legal requirement from September 2014. It requires dramatic reductions in harmful NOx and particulate emissions, which Biggs said are tough to control while continuing to deliver low CO2 scores. Customers can order this model of the 3-Series from dealers today – the first examples are due for delivery in two to three months.

A Euro 6-compliant 520d Edfficient Dynamics Edition is also a few months away, and will be on duty at the Olympics. According to Biggs, two thirds of the fleet will meet the Euro 6 standard.

Overall, BMW is aiming for a fleet average below 120g/km. And no, it’s not counting the bicycles.

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