BMW may have launched its first electric car — the i3 — in 2013, but the Germans have been testing battery-powered vehicles since the late 1960s. The Bavarian automaker even went as far as to build two functional prototypes in the early 1970s, one of which was unveiled at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. Named the 1602e, BMW’s first EV was based on the 1602 version of the 02 Series that preceded the first-generation 3 Series. While the standard model was powered by a 1.6-liter, inline-four engine rated at 85 horsepower, the 1602e used an electric motor supplied by Bosch, and a dozen normal, 12-volt car batteries linked together into a cell. As you might imagine, performance was far from staggering.

But even though the 1602e didn’t make it into production, it increased BMW’s focus on electric drivetrains. The compact EV was followed by several prototypes, including the E1 (Z11) shown at the 1991 Frankfurt Motor Show, which ultimately helped BMW lay the foundation of its "i" line, now consisting of the i3 EV and the i8 hybrid. Although largely forgotten today and definitely not as famous as the General Motors EV1 of the 1990s, the 1602e is a milestone in BMW’s history as the first vehicle where BMW tested electric propulsion. Check out the video above for more info on this battery-powered Bimmer.


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