BMW celebrates 40 years of electric car research at London Olympics


With the automotive world eagerly anticipating BMW’s first production electric vehicle — the BMW i3 –due to hopefully roll out sometime in 2014, the German luxury automaker wants to let you in on a fun little fact. BMW says that while the i3 is the company’s first production all-electric, it has, in fact, been making electrics since the 1970s.

This summer, BMW will be providing a fleet of Active E and Mini E electric cars for the 2012 London Olympics, no doubt relishing the opportunity to show off its green vehicles to the world. And while the BMW i’s “born electric” tag line may seem a little overstated  (given the fact that the company is arriving a little late to the electric scene), BMW is in fact eager to point out its electric heritage and how it is has been exploring alternative energy sources and working on electric vehicles for 40 years now.

Interestingly, this summer’s Olympics will not be the first time BMW has provided electric vehicles for the world games. In a recent video posted on BMW’s YouTube page, Dr. Johannes Liebl, Vice President Efficient Dynamics for BMW, explains how in 1972 the company turned a 1602 sports sedan into an electric car for the Olympic Games in Munich.


Liebl shares in the video that their biggest concern at the time with converting the 1602 into an electric vehicle was its ability to operate as a support car for the 26.2 mile marathon, which it was in fact able to accomplish.

After the 1972 Olympics, BMW continued research well into the 1980s and 1990s. In 1993 BMW’s electric car program unveiled the E1 electric test fleet, which bears a more than passing resemblance to the upcoming i3.

The E1 was a small two-door concept that fit four people and was designed primarily as a city car. It featured some advanced technology like break energy regeneration that is still found in many cars and hybrids today.

This summer, by supplying a number of green vehicles to the London games, BMW will no doubt be looking to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its previous electrification endeavors at the 1972 Olympic Games, while at the same time pointing to the company’s continued dedication to alternative energy and greener vehicles. 

Check out the short video below: