BMW’s electric i3: Not out till 2013, but apps are here now

What else, besides would-be US presidential candidates, go into full-bore publicity mode months, even years, before anyone can actually buy … or, er, vote for … them?

Cars, of course. And now that all-electric vehicles have entered the consumer culture, the advance hype machine has even more reason to switch on fast and early, since it’s no longer targeting just the same old replacement-car buyer anymore. This is a fresh, early-adopter audience we’re talking, which means new, more unpredictable and higher stakes for auto manufacturers.

With more than a year to go before its i3 concept car is actually available on the market, BMW is already aggressively promoting the all-electric “megacity vehicle” through multiple campaigns, both online and off. It’s teamed up with Mashable to sponsor weekly features on innovation in urban mobility. It’s working with Wallpaper* on a Sustainable Neighborhoods project. It’s rolling out an interactive and location-wise app for smartphones. And it’s pushing the i brand via Twitter and Facebook.

As for car itself? BMW says the i3 will accelerate from 0 to 62 mph in under eight seconds, reach a top speed of 93 mph, provide a single-charge range of 80 t0 100 miles, fully charge via a standard electrical socket in six hours (one hour for an 80-percent charge using a high-speed charger) and offer a roomy, comfortable ride in a lightweight, carbon-fiber reinforced plastic body. (The carbon fiber material will be manufactured at a new plant in Washington state, which offers plenty of clean hydropower for the energy-intensive process.)

Set to retail at around $35,000, the BMW i3 is expected to begin production in 2013 and enter the market later that year.

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