BMW AG is showing off the production model of its new i3 electric compact that uses carbon-fiber materials to keep the weight down and improve driving performance.
CEO Norbert Reithofer stressed at a New York unveiling that the car was designed as an electric from the ground up. The i3 is "born electric," he said.
The company says the i3, built in Leipzig, Germany, will go from zero to 100kph (zero to 62 mph) in 7.2 seconds.
Its range is billed as 130-160 kilometers (80-100 miles). Models with an optional range extender gas engine can go as far as 300 kilometers (200 miles.)
BMW is targeting a "meaningful" chunk of the electric-car market and expects demand to be driven up as urban populations rise, its sales chief.
The world's biggest luxury carmaker has declined to give sales or production goals for the four-seater i3, to be followed early next year by a battery-powered i8 sports car.
But the company already sees good sales potential for its first all-electric vehicle in affluent urban regions of California, Europe and Asia, sales chief Ian Robertson said.
Some 92,000 people have expressed an interest in test-driving the i3 online.
The New BMW i3
"We're not entering to be a niche player," Robertson told reporters at the i3's launch event in London.
"We're targeting meaningful sales," he said, in an electric-car market which BMW expects to grow to between 150,000 and 160,000 vehicles globally this year, from 7,000 in 2010.
Demand will rise as the number of people living in urban environments more than doubles to 4-5 billion over the next 20-25 years, Robertson said, citing United Nations projections.
While the i3's 34,950 euro ($46,400) price tag is well above the conventional BMW 3-Series saloon's, it also qualifies for tax breaks and generous upfront government incentives in markets such as Britain and the United States.
The company, which has trademarked its new "i" series through to i9, does not yet have another i-branded model in development to follow the i8, Robertson said. ($1 = 0.7539 euros)
Cameramen work around the carbon fibre chassis for BMW's new i3 electric before it was unveiled in London. Reuters photo
Asked if the company has plans to launch the i3 in India, the Group's Board member for production Harald Krueger said: "I was in New Delhi last week. We have discussed about this with the concerned minister. We will definitely come to India as we see there is a potential market. But we cannot say when (i3 will be launched in India)."
The infrastructure in India for such electric vehicles has to be developed first, he added.
The company said it sees huge potential in India for the BMW i3 and is in talks with the government on the issue of sustainable mobility.
The car goes on sale in November in Germany and other European markets starting at 34,950 euros ($46,000) and reaches the US, Japan and China next year.
The all-electric BMW i3 Exterior Design
(With inputs from Reuters and AP)