BMW will launch its first all-electric vehicle in 2013 and is planning to create a sub-brand to market it.
However, although the company is currently trialling electric versions of the Mini and 1 Series, it is the as-yet-unseen Megacity urban electric vehicle project which will make it to showrooms first.
'It will be sold under the BMW name but as a sub-brand, and we are currently deciding what that sub-brand will be called,' said Ian Robertson, the board member in charge of sales and marketing.
Robertson confirmed that the car would carry the iconic blue-and-white BMW propeller badge and have a carbonfibre passenger cell. BMW has gone into partnership with an American company to set up a carbonfibre production plant in Washington state.
The first electric vehicles will be relatively expensive, he admitted. 'Governments can help, but don't expect a cheap and cheerful electric vehicle from a manufacturer in the first wave. Ours will be a premium product.'
To counter this, he said that 'future ownership models will have to be much more flexible' and said the Megacity might be leased rather than sold outright.
Megacity the first in a series of BMW electric cars
The Megacity project is just the first step in a series of electric vehicles from the BMW Group, says Robertson. He believes between 10 and 12% of the company's sales could be electric cars by 2020 and, if hybrids are included, that proportion could rise to 30%.
The high-performance Vision sports car concept shown at last September's Frankfurt motor show is one example of how far BMW might take electric cars, says Robertson.
'The concept car from Frankfurt shows the possibilities for electric vehicles in the future,' he said. 'There will clearly be those where you can get four people in, but there could also be a sports car and there is no reason why an electric vehicle could not be a BMW, a Rolls-Royce or a Mini.'
Robertson admitted that BMW is considering all forms of electric propulsion, from hybrids and plug-in electric vehicles to range-extender cars, which have a small fossil-fuel engine on board to act as an electricity generator.