BMW has accelerated its rollout of electric cars, in a bid to convince investors it is capable of catching rivals in the race to sell battery vehicles.

The company will release 25 fully electric or hybrid models by 2023, two years earlier than previously announced, it said on Tuesday. More than half of the new vehicles will be fully electric.

While it was one of the first major carmakers to sell a specifically designed electric car, the i3, BMW is regarded as having lost its momentum in the technology.

Its major rivals Jaguar, Audi and Mercedes have all released long-range electric sport utility vehicles before the company’s iX3 model comes to market next year.

“Historically, BMW has been at the forefront of taking risk and shaping the future,” wrote Arndt Ellinghorst, lead auto analyst at Evercore ISI, before the event. “We believe BMW needs to dare more.”

Carmakers are facing tough emissions targets in Europe, where the decline of diesel is forcing groups to embrace battery technology more quickly to avoid fines.

A torrent of electric vehicles is due to hit the market in the coming two years, as carmakers roll out models they believe will help them comply with the new rules.

BMW will begin selling the iX3 SUV next year, and the iNext and the i4 cars in 2021. The all-electric Mini from its UK plant in Oxford goes on sale this year. BMW expects electric and hybrid sales to double by 2021 compared with 2019.

“We expect to see a steep growth curve towards 2025: sales of our electrified vehicles should increase by an average of 30 per cent every year,” said Harald Krüger, chief executive.

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The ramp-up comes as BMW battles to keep its existing business on track. 

Profits in the first quarter fell 78 per cent after it set aside €1.4bn over a possible collusion fine. It expects margins this year to be weak because of “challenging and volatile” conditions sweeping the industry.

The carmaker unveiled a new self-driving car design on Tuesday, and a new technology that will see its hybrid cars automatically switch to electric-only mode in cities that have zero-emission zones.

The move is designed to shore up regulatory approval for its plug-in hybrid technology, a system that combines both a traditional engine and a battery. 

While it is seen by the industry as a stepping stone to fully electric cars, with families able to use the engine for longer journeys, regulators have taken a dim view of the technology, with the UK government excluding it from electric vehicle subsidies.

The new system will feature on all BMW hybrids from 2020.

Via Financial Times