While this is a time of retrenchment in electric vehicles (EVs) and alternative powertrains for automakers, BMW appears to be heading in the other direction, Automotive News enterprise editor Dave Guilford writes. Entrepreneurs are "flaming out" (figuratively and sometimes literally) and some major automakers are pushing EVs farther back on the product pipeline as excitement wanes among car shoppers.

With two small-scale electric vehicle test projects (the finished Mini E and the ongoing ActiveE programs), BMW sees global market trends changing and believes EVs will make play a significant role. "We consider electric mobility a technology with the potential to achieve emission-free driving pleasure," BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer said in a statement accompanying BMW's third-quarter earnings.

Reithofer reaffirmed the company's commitment to electric drive technology and to corporate sustainability. He talked about BMW's commitment to using recycled materials, offering end-of-life recycling and integrating renewable energy into its manufacturing process.

So, what's in it for BMW? Stringent regulatory requirements are in place from the European Union and US governments, and that's taxing for luxury carmakers looking for high profit margins and well-loaded luxury cars. For BMW, there's something larger looming on the horizon.

Projections from United Nations are gaining attention from automakers like BMW – that "megacities" are flourishing around the world. The UN sees the world's population clustering into megacities with populations of more than 10 million. By 2015, there could be 35 cities at that size, totaling nearly 360 million people.

BMW has been taking the concept quite seriously since 2007, when it initiated its BMW Megacity Project. The BMW i3 electric car came from this initiative and we will likely see a new version at the Los Angeles Auto Show later this month.

BMW is hoping electrified versions of its high-performance luxury cars will bode well in these megacities where consumer demographics are expected to be right for global business, wealth and consumption. There are also regulatory moves that cities are taking to reduce traffic congestion and smog, such as the city of London adding a congestion charge of 10 pounds – about $16 US – a day for drivers to gain access to the center city.

BMW sees densely populated megacities holding opportunities for companies willing to get creative and adapt to change such as new forms of mobility. BMW is partnering in a car sharing program, DriveNow, in Germany and San Francisco. German luxury rival Daimler also takes car sharing seriously through its fast-growing Car2go subsidiary.
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Mobility Experts from Around the Country Help Kick-Off the BMW i "Born Electric" World Tour in New York City

BMW's Forum Exploring the Future of Mobility Also Features the North American Debuts of the BMW i8 Concept Roadster and Next Generation BMW i3 Concept

New NYU-BMW i Mobility Study Highlights the Importance of Mixed Transportation Systems to Improve Cities' Resiliency Following Natural Disasters

Woodcliff Lake, NJ – November 13, 2012... Mobility experts from around the country joined executives from BMW i today to kick-off the BMW i "Born Electric" World Tour, a week-long event in Manhattan exploring issues of future mobility. At a midday press conference, Mitchell L. Moss, director of New York University's Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management, revealed the results of a new NYU-BMW i study which finds that, in the coming years and decades, fundamental changes in the demographic makeup of cities will profoundly alter the way people travel. Also at the event, BMW i unveiled the BMW i8 Concept Roadster and next generation BMW i3 for the first time in North America.

The BMW i "Born Electric" World Tour at 1095 Avenue of the Americas offers the public an opportunity to explore the future of mobility through visionary new vehicles, interactive displays and demonstrations of technologies that will help shape the way we move in and around our cities in the future. The event is open to the public on Tuesday, November 13th from 6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. and on Wednesday, November 14th through Sunday, November 18th from 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.

The NYU-BMW i study predicts a future where growing cities will be inhabited by populations that, although less likely to own cars, will increasingly utilize a new generation of smaller, more efficient, sustainable and "networked" vehicles to get around.

Demographic factors such as an overall urban population boom, the increase in urban single-person households and rapidly aging urban populations -- the population age 65 and older in New York City, for example, is expected to increase more than 36 percent by 2030 -- will lead to significant changes in urban mobility. These changes may include an increased emphasis on creating "walkable" city neighborhoods and an overall decrease in car ownership, though not necessarily car usage, as car sharing and other alternatives to ownership increase in popularity. The next generation of smaller, sustainable cars -- specifically designed to operate in densely populated cities -- is poised to be a key part of the solution in conjunction with improved fixed rail systems, buses, ferries and other modes of transportation. Improvements in technology will transform these vehicles' role in urban mobility, with a trend toward creating highly connected, interdependent networks of vehicles.

The NYU-BMW i study also reports that demand for parking is going to intensify in major cities. Increasingly, cities will need to invest in the "soft" infrastructure of information and communications systems, rather than improving streets and highways, as well as electric power generation, transmission and distribution systems, and electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

The study's authors write that cities which have developed a mix of transportation systems, not solely dependent on one predominant mode of travel, are best able to adapt and recover in times of disaster. The fact that New Yorkers had the ability to access multiple modes of transportation was critical to helping the city and its people get up and running within days of superstorm Sandy.

In addition to the presentation of the key study findings, the press conference also featured the North American debuts of the BMW i8 Concept Roadster and the next generation BMW i3 Concept. The BMW i3 and i8 will become the first purpose-built electric and hybrid-electric production vehicles to be made primarily from carbon fiber when they come to market in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

BMW i also announced that through BMW i Ventures, the company is investing in Embark, an award winning mobile app company dedicated to helping travelers navigate mass transit systems in several major cities, adding to its stable of mobility services providers which already includes MyCityWay and ParkAtMyHouse, as well as Chargepoint, the largest network of independently owned charging stations, which operates in more than 14 countries.

The company will also expand its DriveNow car sharing program, which recently launched in San Francisco and features a fleet of 70 all-electric BMW ActiveEs, to include San Francisco International Airport (SFO). This premium zero emissions transportation option costs just a fraction of a typical trip from downtown to SFO - approximately $12 versus a $40 taxi ride. In the coming months, all DriveNow vehicles will include MyCityWay, adding a new layer of service and helping drivers find and take advantage of the many things San Francisco has to offer.

BMW i Ventures' investments in these companies will further the company's work towards increasing freedom of mobility for individuals, whether it be by car, train, bus or foot.

As part of the BMW i "Born Electric" World Tour stop in New York, BMW i will host a hackathon beginning on Friday, November 16, 2012 at 7:00 p.m. through Sunday, November 18, 2012 at 4:00 p.m. Under the theme of sustainability, teams of developers will be challenged to create an original app with the purpose of addressing some of the most pressing environmental problems facing major cities. A group of judges will decide the winners of the contest based on the team's ability to clearly articulate what the app does, the originality of the idea and whether the app is native to iOS and Android operating systems. For more information or to register for the BMW i hackathon, interested parties should visit: http://sustainhack.eventbrite.com/#

The BMW i Born Electric Tour kicked-off in Rome in June 2012, making stops in Dusseldorf and Tokyo prior to New York. Following the New York stop, the tour will travel to London (January 2013) and Paris (March 2013) before ending in Shanghai (June 2013). The seven-city, year-long global tour exploring the future of mobility is an initiative of BMW i, BMW's visionary and sustainable brand dedicated to the development of new vehicles and services aimed at solving the mobility challenges facing the world's most densely populated cities. For more information and full program details, visit www.bmwusa.com/bmwi.

For updates on Twitter, follow BMW i at @BMWiUSA and follow the conversation with the hashtag #BMWiNYC
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About BMW i
BMW i is about the development of visionary vehicles and mobility services, inspiring design, and a new premium perception strongly guided by sustainability. Under the banner of the young sub-brand, the BMW Group is developing purpose-built vehicle concepts which redefine the understanding of personal mobility. Key elements include groundbreaking technologies, intelligent lightweight design and the innovative use of materials, all with the aim of creating vehicles with extremely low weight, the greatest possible range, generous interior space, poised and authoritative driving characteristics, and exceptional safety.

Sustainability plays a paramount role in the BMW i concept. It is an issue that runs like a thread throughout the value chain – all the way from purchasing, through development and production to sales and marketing. And when it comes to the efficient manufacturing of its vehicles, BMW i goes a step further still.

BMW Group in America
BMW of North America, LLC has been present in the United States since 1975. Rolls-Royce Motor Cars NA, LLC began distributing vehicles in 2003. The BMW Group in the United States has grown to include marketing, sales, and financial service organizations for the BMW brand of motor vehicles, including motorcycles, the MINI brand, and the Rolls-Royce brand of Motor Cars; DesignworksUSA, a strategic design consultancy in California; a technology office in Silicon Valley and various other operations throughout the country. BMW Manufacturing Co., LLC in South Carolina is part of BMW Group's global manufacturing network and is the exclusive manufacturing plant for all X5 and X3 Sports Activity Vehicles and X6 Sports Activity Coupes. The BMW Group sales organization is represented in the U.S. through networks of 338 BMW passenger car and BMW Sports Activity Vehicle centers, 139 BMW motorcycle retailers, 115 MINI passenger car dealers, and 32 Rolls-Royce Motor Car dealers. BMW (US) Holding Corp., the BMW Group's sales headquarters for North America, is located in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey.

Information about BMW Group products is available to consumers via the Internet at: www.bmwgroupna.com

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    • 1 Second Ago
      Giza Plateau
      • 2 Days Ago
      Do we believe him?
      • 2 Days Ago
      I offer 'emission-free' shagging pleasure, but I have not got many takers. I hope BMW do better.
        • 2 Days Ago
        @daveMart If you, and or her, are 'emission free' someone is doing something wrong. I took my psychologist girlfriend to the beach over the weekend, and oh yea. There were emissions.
        • 2 Days Ago
        @ DaveMart " I offer 'emission-free' shagging pleasure," ! I'm surprised ! It's a really great line.....:)
      • 2 Days Ago
      This is not surprising at all. Here in the US an election happened and we reaffirmed our commitment to sustainability. China is also another driving force behind the push for reduced emissions. Automakers can no longer ignore this reality.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 2 Days Ago
        Who reaffirmed their commitment to sustainability, and what's their plan? now i'm excited. We elected someone who's going to make us energy independent.. now you just have to tell me who it is and what their promises are! oh boy! Our politicians have been telling us that they will work towards energy sustainability since the 1970's "oil crisis". Where are we at with that, decades later?
      Michael Walsh
      • 2 Days Ago
      They certainly do!
      • 2 Days Ago
      I with BMW would offer "emission-free driving pleasure"
      2 wheeled menace
      • 2 Days Ago
      I can't believe BMW is going to sell cars that look like this.
      • 2 Days Ago
      Just a lot of B....S. PR by a company who will be the last to build an EV. Kind of like all the car companies that have been riding the Fuel Cell PR wave for years. Lots of talk, Action only if the sales figures dictate a necessary change. Also, Is BMW working on a fuel cell powered car like everyone else in the car business? That too is also PR B....S.
      • 2 Days Ago
      To BMW CEO: No sh*t Sherlock.
      Levine Levine
      • 2 Days Ago
      When it comes to EV and real hybrids, BMW is all talk, can't do the walk.
        • 2 Days Ago
        @Levine Levine
        I usually wait until a company doesn't do what it said it will do before saying that it has failed. It seems you are prepared to do that before they have had a chance, but the grounds on which you do so baffle me.
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