During the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, it made sense to use an experimental BMW as an escort vehicle for long distance runners. Everybody got to breathe fresh air and BMW got some nice PR. Four decades later the i3 arrived, but this was the original electric BMW.

We can thank America for BMW's first foray into electric power. It was a reaction to California's upcoming smog regulations, forcing the Germans to look beyond internal combustion engines.

The two 1602e prototypes were the first in a line of electric vehicles that led to the i brand becoming reality. They both used a very simple recipe: Take twelve standard 12V lead-acid batteries, jam all 771 pounds of it in the engine bay of a light four-cylinder coupe, ask Bosch nicely for a motor... done!

If you think about it, the only significant difference between this and modern electric cars like the Volkswagen e-Golf is the usage of the much smaller and lighter lithium-ion batteries and the more efficient compact electric motors.

I have a feeling that converting a New Class using today's technology would produce an interesting, tail happy and still very usable classic, but I guess that's not new to anybody who's ever seen a Zelectric Beetle...

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Photo credit: BMW

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