BMW’s Hybrid Future May Include 3 Series

BMW was initially slow to build hybrid cars, but now it is turning just about everything into a hybrid. In a speech to shareholders on Tuesday in Munich, Norbert Reithofer, chairman of the BMW AG board of management, not only confirmed the rumored production version of the 5 Series ActiveHybrid concept, but also said a 3 Series hybrid is likely coming, too.

The gas-electric 5 Series could be on road next year, Mr. Reithofer said, and he added that the company was “anticipating the hybridization” of other models, “such as the BMW 3 Series.” He said that BMW would choose “the most suitable hybrid solution for the respective model.”

The ActiveHybrid 7 is already on the market, and these two new models would give BMW a full range of eco-cars. Mr. Reithofer’s speech touched on a number of green themes, including an initial $100 million investment in a joint venture based in the United States with SGL Carbon to provide lightweight carbon-fiber parts for future production cars. And he talked about the battery electrics BMW has been testing. “Our global field test with the Mini E is a great success,” he said. “Many enthusiastic customers for e-mobility already exist today.”

The electric Mini Es are headed for fleets in France and China in 2010, Mr. Reithofer said, and test fleets of BMW-branded electric cars, built in Leipzig, will be on the road next year.

The first electric BMW in series production will be the so-called Megacity Vehicle in 2013, and Mr. Reithofer described the urban car as part of a new “BMW subbrand.” The Megacity Vehicle, which will have lithium-ion batteries from SB Limotive, will be “sustainable throughout its entire life cycle,” he said, which puts BMW “on the verge of revolutionizing vehicle production.”

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