BMW’s i Ventures spin-off has announced it will open an “incubator laboratory” office in New York City, and has named Edward Robinson as the company’s president. Robinson is currently CEO of BMW Financial Services, will serve as i Ventures’ president in addition to his current role.
i Ventures is a BMW-backed investment firm dedicated to developing new transport ideas and technologies for big cities. It was launched in February concurrently with the i sub-brand, which is focused on environmentally friendly vehicles. The i brand will develop the i3 electric car and the i8 plug-in hybrid, both of which are scheduled to launch by 2013.
The i3 is the development of BMW’s earlier MegaCity concept, a full-electric hatchback aimed at efficient and sustainable transport, while the i8 is a coupe-like, “sporty” plug-in hybrid almost identical to the EfficientDynamics Concept from 2009. They will employ aluminum chassis and carbon-fiber construction to reduce weight. We spotted BMW testing the i3 and i8 near the Arctic Circle, proving the two eco cars are moving swiftly through the company’s development process.
With $100 million in initial funding, i Ventures has already funded the launch of a mobile application called MyCityWay. It lets users locate nearby public transport, parking, restaurants, and other services in over 40 cities worldwide. The New York-based incubator space will help other startups develop similar technologies. An advisory board will help guide investments; the first member appointed is Josh Rubin, entrepreneur and founder of the blog Cool Hunting.
Citing the grandiose goal of “increasing the freedom of mobility of individuals” in large cities, i Ventures is focused on developing technologies “not exclusively related to automobiles.” It’s unclear exactly what ideas that will generate, but it seems the goal may upset the workers currently building BMW’s many cars.