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BMW i3 on sale here next year

BMW managing director Phil Horton said the zero emissions i3 electric car will be in showrooms in a little over 12 months. It will be followed early in 2014 by the i8, a plug in hybrid sports car that also uses a turbo diesel engine.

But the i3 commuter car uses no fuel at all, running on a 22kWh lithium-ion battery that gives it a total range of about 160km between recharging - though it may come with a petrol range extender engine. Capable of about 150km/h, the battery is fully recharged in four hours.

"They are BMW's, but not as we know them,'' Horton says.

But he says there is "massive amount of work to do'' to prepare infrastructure for electric vehicles.

"It would be highly desirable if the government was to take a more open minded view about actively promoting the sale of zero emissions cars, as opposed to not seeming to be very interested in anything to do with the industry,'' he says.

"I think it could be done quite simply. We have a lot of tolls. If you were able to drive a zero emission car down the highway without incurring tolls, that would make more people think about them.''

Australia’s first family sized electric passenger car, Nissan’s Leaf, goes on sale next month at $51,000, joining Mitsubishi’s tiny i-Miev. Nissan estimate that the Leaf, which can be charged up overnight from a specially adapted domestic power point, will sell some 1500 units a year.