In a series of three articles over at Autocar, the much anticipated 2013 BMW Megacity—the first production intent electric vehicle offering from the German automaker—has been treated to a fairly in-depth analysis.
The Megacity vehicle (MCV) will be the first vehicle BMW releases under the moniker of an as-yet-unannounced, all-new sub-brand. It represents some radical thinking on BMW's part and includes a subframe of carbon-fiber (produced at a plant in central Washington state), covered in panel of extruded aluminum.
The special construction should lead to an extremely long service life. Along with the durable carbon fiber frame (that BMW claims they can repair if it gets cracked in an accident) and the rigid aluminum chassis (which has individual panels that can easily be replaced), the MCV has half the moving parts of a combustion car and a single speed gearbox. Autocar muses that, when combined, these features suggest that the MCV could stay in use for decades with little cost.
Apparently, the aluminum chassis panels lead to cheaper repair costs when involved in accidents and protect the carbon fiber frame from damage because they absorb impact well and are easily replaced. The extruded aluminum of the chassis also makes it easier to place a square battery more efficiently than in a traditional pressed steel frame because of the sharper angles that can be obtained. The MCV's battery is mounted low and in the middle of the car, whereas the motor and single speed transmission are mounted at the rear and drive rear wheels.
According to Autocar's unnamed source, BMW also says a range extended version of the MCV with a 1-liter, 2-cylinder engine is possible. In that case, the engine would be mounted up front and, clearly, the battery size would be reduced dramatically.
BMW's "huge" research and development program for the MCV began in 2007. It was so vast in scope that it involved BMW staff living with potential customers in their houses and driving with them on their commutes in cities across Europe, Japan, and America. In BMW's view, the dramatic rural to urban shift over the next several decades will spur huge changes in driver needs. Their research has led to the conclusion that 70% of world's population will live in urban areas by 2050, so a majority of BMW's customers will be in urban areas at that point.
“Strategy number one,” an unnamed BMW source told Autocar, “was an attempt to create the future, understanding future customer needs and accessing key new technology. It is the only way to ensure growth in the long term.” In order for BMW to continue producing luxury cars under the banner of ever stricter government regulations and a dwindling oil supply, the firm clearly saw that they had to start developing next generation technology now.
“Aside from environmental regulations,” the source was quoted as saying, “we expect legislation to mushroom, restricting vehicle access to city centers and the establishment of intelligent traffic control systems”.
BMW envisions three types of customers in the future: responsibility-driven buyers who are most concerned with environmental issues, economy-driven customers worried about overall ownership costs, and lifestyle-driven customers who have disposable income but demand environmental friendly products. It is these lifestyle customers that BMW sees as the premium buyers of the future and the target market for their MCV.