The cars haven’t even made it stateside yet, but BMW is already anticipating sales in excess of 100,000 units of its i range on an annual basis by 2020. Automotive News Europe reports that BMW Chief Executive Norbert Reithofer said the company would ramp up production of the electric and hybrid cars in light of increasingly toughening emissions protocols.
To put that in perspective, Nissan has sold 100,000 units of its Leaf electric car since its debut in 2010; the Leaf is about half the price of the BMW i3. To BMW’s credit, however, electric cars are showing signs of snowballing as uptake increases and supply continue to swell.
Production of the i models — currently sitting at two, the i3 and i8 — will increase through 2018, and by 2020, “we will be forced to build them in a six digits figure to comply with stricter emission rules,” Reithofer said during a presentation in Germany.
BMW is on a mission to cut average CO2 emissions of the vehicles it sells in Europe to 105 grams per kilometer by 2020 from 133 grams per kilometer last year. This would bring the figure to about half the level seen in 1995, when it sat at 210 grams per kilometer. By 2021, the European Union is requiring average CO2 emissions from new cars of 95 grams per kilometer. Rather than continuously down-powering their gasoline vehicles, many automakers are choosing instead to rely on electric cars to bring their emissions averages down, since they emit nothing when in motion.
So far, the signs are promising. BMW has logged 11,000 orders for its compact i3 in Europe after going on sale in November. Unlike America’s reliance on sprawling metropolises and freeways, electric cars with lesser ranges — the i3 gets an estimated 80 miles without the help of the range extender –are more ideally suited to Europe’s close-knit cities and towns, where range is less of an issue.
“We are extremely happy with the i3′s early reception, particularly considering that in June we will open the order book in the United States, the world’s largest market for EVs,” said Ian Robertson, BMW brand’s head of marketing and sales, to Automotive News Europe. He added that 2014 is a ramp-up year for the i3, though he declined to give a sales forecast for this year to the publication. “By 2015, we will have a more clear idea of the i3′s true potential,” he added.
In the meantime, the $135,000 plug-in hybrid i8 has an estimated six-month waiting list when it goes on sale in the U.S. in the fall. ”I think customers could live with the idea of waiting for six months for such an innovative product, but longer waiting lists could be a problem,” Robertson told Automotive News Europe. BMW also has hinted at expansions in the i lineup, with a larger vehicle to sit above the i3. Those plans have yet to materialize for certain, though.