BMW’s first Electric Car will hit the US in mid-2014, it announced today. The i3 is aimed at urban dweller-types with a Nissan Leaf-type 80-100 mile range and interior similar to the common BMW 3 series sedans. The shell of the i3 is much smaller than the 3 series lending to the smaller amount of space needed by electric drive trains.

I had a chance to drive a BMW concept electric car earlier this year and with the exception of a long stall at a stoplight, it drove very nicely in New York City.

“We’re at the dawn of this electric era,” sales chief Ian Robertson said during a test drive outside Munich on July 15.

Coming after an estimated $2.7 billion investment program, the i3 launch is a milestone for the world’s biggest luxury carmaker as well as the electric car fraternity.

“This is a significant move for BMW,” said Lincoln Merrihew, vice president of transportation at market researchers Millward Brown Digital. “They’re launching a new brand in a new segment with new vehicles … And they’re going all in.”

Priced like a Chevy Volt but with specs similar to the $28,800 Nissan Leaf, BMW will have to rely on its reputation as a performance/luxury car-maker for differentiation.

Tesla is expected to roll out a $30K-ish mid sized sedan followup to its popular Model S in 2015. The BMW comes in at about $28,000 less than the base Model S.

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