Exclusive: BMW CEO Jim O’Donnell talks about BMW i brand, i3 EV

BMW i3

BMW unveiled its new mobile laboratory that represents their latest efforts to explore the challenges and opportunities of living in a metropolitan city at the Soloman R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. The BMW Guggenheim Lab will travel to nine major cities around the world beginning with New York City and will use the information obtained towards their projects involving sustainable living and mobility, more specifically their “i” electric car efforts.

Taking place over a six-year migration, the lab will also conceive three unique mobile structures and thematic cycles by different architects, which will be put on display in three cities during the travels.

Click here for more news on the BMW i3.

“The idea behind the BMW Guggenheim Lab is to tackle the current issues involved with normal city life, whether it’s mobility or living conditions,” said Maria Nicanor, the Assistant Curator.

Additionally, I was able to get a couple minutes with BMW USA’s new CEO, Jim O’Donnell, regarding BMW’s sustainable efforts, particularly with the new i3. Here’s how it went:

egmCarTech: With the BMW “i” brand, BMW is targeting sustainable mobility. The BMW i3 will be the first vehicle of the brand. Will that be a fully electric-vehicle or a plug-in hybrid?
O’Donnell: “Currently, we are working to see how successful the current full-electric cars are with their plug-in systems. As we’re planning, the i3 will be a fully-electric automobile. Additionally, the Guggenheim lab will help provide a better perspective for the functionality of the i3.

Jim O' DonnellegmCarTech: What type of power, performance, fuel-economy and range are you expecting to achieve with the i3?
O’Donnell: “We don’t have a true idea of what the actual number figures are as we are currently still in the research and development phase for the i3.”

egmCarTech: How many BMW i3 units is the company plan on selling on an annual basis?
O’Donnell: “A lot of this is still undergoing research and is dependent on how well the public reacts to these new electric cars.”

egmCarTech: Does BMW have any plans on using the i3 for a sustainable mobility program for major cities – something similar to Smart’s Car2Go program?
O’Donnell: “We’re not starting with a program similar because it is too early to tell. Ideally we would like to sell the i3 as frequently as other BMW models but since electric cars are still new, we need to see how the media and public reacts, especially to the i3.”

egmCarTech: What is your price target for the BMW i3? Will it be similar to vehicles like the Chevrolet Volt or Nissan LEAF?
O’Donnell: “We don’t have pricing yet.”

egmCarTech: Following the BMW i3, BMW will bring the i8 to the market – will that be an exclusive limited edition model?
O’Donnell: “Any plans for additional models will be strongly dependent on the success of the i3. At this point, it is still too early to tell, but they are also not being ruled out”

egmCarTech: It can be said that BMW’s sustainable mobility ambitions began with the Mini E Cooper – do you plan on offer BMW i technology in Minis?
O’Donnell: “We already have the Mini E out for lease in limited qualities. Mini’s E program is similar to that of our efforts here at BMW and whatever we learn from this program will contribute to Mini’s electric future.”

– By: Chris Chin