BMW Plans Big Expansion of Plug-in Cars

2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e

CARS.COM — BMW Group, the German automaker behind BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce, plans to roll out hybrid and electric cars in spades. Revealing vehicle details at Frankfurt's International Motor Show Germany this week, BMW Group laid out plans to introduce dozens of electrified vehicles over the next decade in a strategy that would eventually affect even Rolls-Royce and BMW M vehicles.

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Shoppers' demands "cannot be forced," said BMW chairman Harald Kruger according to a transcript of remarks. Kruger said the automaker doesn't favor "driving bans and quotas" — no doubt a reference to Britain's plans to ban diesel and gasoline cars in 2040 — but consumers' needs "must be anticipated and met." There are many drivers looking for alternative-fuel vehicles including electric and hybrid configurations, rather than vehicles with gasoline-only engines, that still deliver a great driving experience with impressive horsepower and torque but also don't sacrifice efficiency. BMW plans to meet the demands of these drivers by releasing several battery-powered and hybrid options over the next few years. 

Toward that end, BMW Group will offer 10 electrified vehicles — a term for hybrids, plug-in hybrids or fully electric cars — this fall en route to 25 such vehicles by 2025, with a dozen of them all-electric. Beginning in 2020, BMW plans to offer every model with all types of drivetrains. Among them will be an all-electric version of the X3 SUV in 2020 under BMW's "i" electric sub-brand; officials also hinted at a vision for a four-door car between the i3 and i8, but vehicle details are still unknown. 

It's unclear how many of these cars will make it to the U.S., where BMW currently offers six electrified vehicles as alternatives to traditional gasoline-powered engines: the battery-powered i3 hatchback, which has an optional gasoline engine-generator to extend range beyond what the battery alone can provide, plus the plug-in hybrid i8 and plug-in hybrid versions of the X5 SUV and 3 Series, 5 Series and 7 Series sedans. Mini also offers an electric driving experience with its plug-in hybrid version of the Countryman SUV.

Combined, those hybrid and alternative-fuel variants of the brand's popular sedans and SUVs account for only about 1 in 20 U.S. vehicle sales for BMW Group, but that's an impressive share for SUV-hungry America where roaring engines, horsepower, and space are often priorities. The automaker says sales of its electric and plug-in hybrid cars are up 9.2 percent through August, amounting to 11,672 cars sold in the first eight months of 2017 — about 5.2 percent of all BMW Group vehicle sales over the same span. By contrast, U.S. sales for all hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles amounted to just 1.1 percent of new-car sales in that period, according to estimates from InsideEVs.com and sales totals from Automotive News.

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