China's new-energy vehicle industry is booming because of a rising awareness of saving energy, protecting the environment and traveling in an environmentally friendly way.
China sold 74,800 units of all-electric and plug-in hybrid cars last year, 3.2 times more than in 2013. Dozens of new-energy car models were launched in the market last year, giving more choices for environmentally conscious drivers.
Thanks to the Chinese government's strong policy support and car manufacturers' focus on new-energy vehicles, China sold nearly 30,000 plug-in hybrid cars last year, almost nine times the sales of the previous year.
With its global influence on branding and position as an industry leader, German premium car manufacturer BMW Group plays a key role in China's promising new-energy vehicle market.
BMW has been researching electric car technology for a long time as it considers saving energy and cutting emissions a social responsibility.
Back to 1972 during the Munich Olympics, BMW's first electric car, the BMW 1602 was already used to lead the Marathon and road walk events. In 2002, the company launched its " EfficientDynamics" strategy, and since then advanced energy-saving technologies were used on all production models. The strategy also set a road map for electric-drive vehicles from 2010 to 2020.
BMW not only earned fame for improving the internal combustion engine with better efficiency, but has also strengthened its research and development of electric cars over the past decade.
In 2008, BMW started the MINI E's world's largest field test in Europe, the United States and China. Together with the BMW Active E, the total distance of the road tests was more than 20 million kilometers.
BMW collected a huge amount of data through those road tests and shared it with governments, industrial organizations and scientific institutions.
Based on the results of those road tests, which showed that most electric car owners drive 40 to 60 km each day, most auto manufacturers have set an electric mileage of 150km on a full charge.
BMW made a historic decision and established the BMW i sub-brand in February 2011 to provide new-energy products and services, and planned to release two new models - the all-electric i3 and plug-in hybrid i8.
The research and development of the two models started in 2007. The models use carbon fiber in their bodies as the material is stronger and lighter than metal. BMW's use of carbon fiber for car bodies is ahead of other auto manufacturers and leads the trend of future auto production.
Carbon fiber has mainly been used in the aviation industry in the past, as it is 50 percent lighter than steel and 30 percent lighter than aluminum.
As the only automaker who can produce carbon fiber on a large scale at present, BMW has a great advantage over its rivals in designing a lighter car.
The BMW i8 and i3 broke the 130-year routine of building cars from metal such as steel and aluminum, and showed the industry a new concept of designing cars constructed of carbon fiber.
Thanks to the superior functions of carbon fiber, the all-electric model i3 weighs only 1.3 metric tons, and can go from zero to 60 km/h in only 3.7 seconds. Moreover, it can cover up to 160 km on a full charge, which fulfills the basic needs of driving in the city and BMW brand's typical driving pleasure.
The plug-in hybrid i8 combines the power of a turbo engine with the efficiency of an electric motor. It only takes 4.4 seconds to go from zero to 100 km/h and its average fuel consumption is 2.1 liters per 100 km.
These functions make the i8 a combination of energy efficiency and driving pleasure, which is the ideal future of new-energy cars.
The BMW i sold 17,800 units worldwide in the last half of 2014, and its supply fell short of demand. China was one of the first countries to launch the BMW i. The cars are available in seven cities - Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Hangzhou and Shenyang.
BMW believes China plays a key role in the global new-energy vehicles market.
In 2010, BMW teamed with Tongji University and launched an electric car scientific research project, the first of such collaboration between China and Germany.
BMW is also very active in formulating charging standards, constructing charging facilities and promoting the development of NEV market in China.
BMW authorized 11 5S dealers to offer sales and after-sales services for BMW i models in the seven cities. With the increase in business, the company plans to bring on board more authorized dealers, as well as financial services in the future, to attract more customers.
In response to a government appeal, the company's local joint venture BMW Brilliance Automotive Ltd created the ZINORO brand in 2013 and its first pure electric car, the 1E, drove into the market just one year afterwards.
The ZINORO 1E is China's first new-energy vehicle produced by a premium joint venture, and the first such model available to customers through rental services.
According to BMW research, rentals are suitable for cultivating the electric car market as renting lowers customer concern about driving electric cars.
ZINORO has brand showrooms in Beijing and Shanghai, and offers services to many organizations and individuals through cooperation with partners such as the Beijing Guoan Football Club.
BMW Brilliance unveiled the new BMW 5 Series Plug-in Hybrid early this year, the 530Le is the world's first plug-in hybrid vehicle in the premium business sedan segment. Under pure electric drive mode, the car can accelerate to a top speed of 120km/h with maximum mileage of 58km. Its fuel consumption is only 2 liters per 100 km.
Heeding the idea of "Made in China, Made for China", BMW Brilliance established a research and development center in China in September 2013, where 500 engineers work to develop new-energy products and technologies.
BMW believes that plug-in hybrid technology will prevail among the BMW family in the future. Karsten Engel, the president & CEO of BMW Group Region China said BMW would bring more plug-in hybrid models to the Chinese market in 2015 as they have distinct energy-saving functions and unlimited driving mileage.
Last year, China became the world's second-largest market for new-energy vehicles only next to the United States.
The government has set up an ambitious goal of having 5 million new-energy cars on the road by 2020.
Combining the applicability of traditional vehicles with the energy-saving functions of electric cars, plug-in hybrid vehicles have huge potential. Plug-in hybrids now play a key role in all auto manufacturers' development strategies.