London gets first-ever BMW i Store, to be major market for i8

Carmaker also shows off e-bike, home charging & other integrated solutions

By Will Dron on June 13, 2012 4:53 PM

BMW today launched its first ever “i” brand store in London, and revealed that the UK capital is likely to be one of the strongest markets for the i8 plug-in hybrid supersports car when this is launched in 2014.

The BMW i Store, on London’s glitzy Park Lane, opens its doors to the public on 25 July and is focused on the premium carmaker’s sustainable mobility vehicles. These include the i8 and the 2013 BMW i3 hatchback, but also a new pedelec (electric bicycle) concept and a more general insight into electric vehicle ownership. BMW says the Store offers a “completely new brand experience” compared to its traditional dealerships.

“This is the first ‘i’ brand store to be rolled out anywhere in the world,” commented Ian Robertson, BMW board member for sales and marketing. “It is a very different ambience. I think it speaks…to the type of customers that are interested in electric motoring, and clearly BMW…has an absolutely clear DNA and brand positioning. BMW i is a sub-brand, and so there are subtle differences that become clearer as you walk around here.”

The BMW i Store on London's Park Lane (top) is the first in a small rollout of such showrooms in carefully-selected locations. The store includes touchscreen information tablets (above left) and a living grass wall (above right).


Pedelec

BMW today also revealed its electrically-assisted bicycle. According to BMW i head designer Benoit Jacob, the BMW i Pedelec follows the “i" brand values of cleverness, light weight and electric power.

As a folding bike, it folds neatly into the back of the i3 concept car, where it can be charged up using the car’s lithium ion battery. This gives a range of around 33 miles and a maximum speed of 15.5mph (the legislated maximum for powered bicycles) from the 200-watt motor, which offers power as you pedal.

The pedelec’s quick-folding mechanism is said to take “just a second”, and at under 20kgs it can be carried easily on public transport, offering an easy solution for getting around while the car is charging.

A total of 200 prototype pedelecs will be deployed along with BMW’s official vehicle fleet for the 2012 London Olympics, and BMW will be treating the Games as a field trial before volume production.

Integrated approach

Robertson said London could be one of the major cities for the striking i8 plug-in hybrid, which he expects will cost in excess of €100,000. “That car, with the multi-national population of London, is a very appropriate product, and you can bet the London dealership will have a very healthy sales target for it,” he commented.

BMW is not expecting huge volume sales of its electric vehicles, and certainly not in their early years. But Robertson emphasised the fact that emissions targets mean that EVs will increase in volume over time, and he believes that plug-in hybrids will begin to take off in significant numbers between 2015 and 2025. In the meantime, he says BMW is well-positioned to perform strongly against other electric vehicle manufacturers, thanks to its premium brand positioning and its “integrated” approach to manufacturing, sales and customer service.

“We, and the industry, are asked a number of questions by the public,” Robertson continued. “Will I have enough range? Will the car run for many years? Will I need a wallbox charger? How can I get a rapid charge? Can I charge in a public areas? Is there a service that allows me to reserve a charging space? What if I don’t have a garage? What if I want to drive to Birmingham this afternoon? We took on board all of these questions and have delivered a concept we call ‘360° Electric’.”

Robertson said 360° Electric will be rolled out aggressively in all BMW i markets, and that this falls into four key categories. ‘Assistance services’ include vehicle and smartphone information on where the nearest charging points are and what speed they charge at, as well as the reassurance that should there be a problem with charging, a support vehicle could arrive to assist.

Secondly, when it comes to charging, BMW is the first electric carmaker to create its own purpose-built home charging wallbox. Customers will buy this from BMW, who will then install it and even select a suitable green energy tariff where available. BMW will also provide RFID cards to allow customers to utilise public charging posts, and BMW is working with public charging providers to ensure this is also a premium service (look out for our upcoming report on our experiences using the Source London charging network to see just how necessary this is!).

BMW's wallpod charger (top left) was designed and built in-house. Customers who purchase it can have it installed by BMW for charging of their i3 or i8 (top right). The BMW i Pedelec bicycle can be stored in the back of the i3 (above).


Finally, and a potential key to the success of the pure-electric i3 (though less relevant for those with the range-extended version of the car), BMW is developing a package to allow customers to lease a petrol- or diesel-powered car for those occasions when customers need to drive long distances.

Sound familiar?

If all this is ringing a few bells, you’re not wrong. There’s another company that creates “integrated” products, places an ‘i' in the name of its products and decided to reinvent the sales experience with stores focused as much on brand experience as sales. Having grown to become the world’s largest company, it’s no wonder the likes of BMW (and Tesla, for that matter) are drawing inspiration from Apple.