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1991 BMW E1 (Z11) Concept Car

At the start of the project, the Z continued to form a characteristic feature of all the concept vehicles developed by BMW Technik GmbH during the subsequent years.

At the beginning of the 1990s, the terminology had already reached number 11. The prototype designated internally as the BMW Z11 was ultimately launched in the public domain as the BMW E1, which bore testimony to its revolutionary power unit.

The BMW E1 presented at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1991 had an electric motor mounted in the rear. The development goal of this project was to research the advantages and disadvantages of a car propelled entirely by electric motive power when subject to the practical test of everyday conditions on the road.

The BMW E1 was also intended to represent a standalone, efficient automobile designed according to the defining principles of driving pleasure while making no compromises concerning functionality.

Today, the BMW E1 is regarded as the launchpad for the holistic development of electro-mobility concepts in the BMW Group. Several electric vehicles had already been developed based on conventional series models from the 1970s onwards. These vehicles yielded fundamental insights into the areas of power-unit and energy-storage technology. The BMW E1 resulted from the first vehicle concept based on electro-mobility.

The electric motor of the BMW E1 packs 37 kW, with power being transferred to the rear axle. The innovative extruded aluminum construction and plastic body produced an exceptionally lightweight city car with a top speed of 120 km/h and a range of 200 kilometers.

The BMW E1 was a fully roadworthy prototype capable of being used in everyday traffic conditions. The performance and practical qualities of the vehicle, with its aerodynamically pioneering design, were immediately given a seal of approval by the test drivers at the time.

High-grade materials and the quality of finish typical of BMW definitively set the BMW E1 apart from the few other electric vehicles.

Airbags for drivers and passengers set a new benchmark for protecting the occupants.

The trade magazine “Auto Bild” designated the 2+2-seater that generated zero emissions when driving as “the most advanced car of the century.” The readers’ choice in the car magazine “Auto Zeitung” voted the BMW E1 as the winner in the category “Environment and Technology.”

In the BMW E1, sodium-sulfur batteries are mounted under the rear seat and adequately protected in a crash. Recharging the power supply requires a conventional domestic power socket.

The 1993 BMW E1 (Z15) designed as a successor and the slightly bigger BMW E2 based on that platform are powered by a sodium nickel chloride battery. Also, Henrik Fisker would be instrumental in both the Z15 and Z11.

This development series, established in the early 1990s, concluded that vehicles powered by electric drives are technically feasible. Still, the technology for storing electric energy needs more work and sets practical limits for use. This has provided a technological basis for the MINI E and the BMW Concept ActiveE.

Source: BMW Technik GmbH

Images: BMW