Created to study the feasibility of an all electric car in response to California ‘s zero emission mandate (among other needs), the BMW electric car program of the early nineties is one of the more interesting chapters in BMW ‘s research and development history. The E1 concept car was debuted at the 1991 Frankfurt Motor Show with both a hybrid and petrol powerplant. The car was developed by BMW ‘s super secret Technik GmbH arm as a case study in front wheel drive packaging and small engine development. Eventualy BMW debuted the slightly larger E2 electric hybrid version which featured a 32kW AC motor with 150NM of torque that debuted at 1992 ‘s LA Motorshow.
Where the E1 was designed by Technik, the E2 was designed by the then new Designworks/USA. The overall shape was longer, wider, and lower with a smoother silhouette. In other words an E1 meant for the American Market.
The E1/E2 featured an early version of what is now know in F1 as KERS. The system transferred energy generated from brake use back to the battery pack. Technik spent countless hours designing the E1 (and E2 since it was essentially the same concept with a different design and propulsion system) to make use of as many recycled raw materials as possible while allowing for the eventual recycling of the entire car itself. In other words sustainability before it was fashionable.