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BMW i3 Enters the Electric Scrum

"The Tesla Model S is priced at around $90,000 and that hasn't stopped it from being a hit, but once Elon Musk's buddies in Silicon Valley have bought theirs, then what?" Omotoso said.

Sales are thought to drop off in the U.S., which is why Tesla is pushing so hard in Europe and Asia. The i3 might actually suffer, because some of its potential buyers will have bought a Model S already, according to Omotoso, who estimates sales of the i3 to be under 10,000 units per year starting with the first full year of sales in 2014.

This is all to say that BMW won't stop relying on its most popular 3 Series any time soon and will hope for the i3 to have a dovetail effect in attracting attention to the X5 and 4 Series set to launch later this year. That's not to discount the i3 longterm.

"There are questions surrounding the real-world practicality of EVs rather than a stigma," said IHS's Newton. "They remain something of a 'statement' technology for early adopters at present, but will certainly grow to make up one 'powertrain' solution in the future vehicle landscape."

--Written by Ross Kenneth Urken

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