To Germany to find out how electric motors jump from milk floats and golf carts to Audi and BMW without leaving the premium cars feeling a little flat.

Ian Robertson was there in Munich, sitting on the BMW board table in his role of sales and marketing supremo, the sole Brit among German directors helping field questions from the financial press.

 His job – amongst other things – is to future-proof BMW. He must make sure that the sporting brand engages with electric power packs as fast as possible with positive connotation… and no negatives.

He will develop a sub-brand, called i-brand, which will be the polar opposite to the M-brand.

“The M-brand is an important part of the mother brand. At the other end will be the alternative-energy product. It will go to market under the BMW umbrella; but the i sub-brand will have different colours and type-faces.”

In his own mind, he sees M and i as the “bookends” for his shelf of BMW cars. There is to be, quite soon, an all-electric car. ”Our customers want everything. They will want a full battery-electric vehicle but they do not want to compromise on the performance that they get from their BMW.

“When we introduced stop-start to our cars, we did not lose any horsepower. Our competitors did. Our customers will embrace the new technologies and new necessities but they do not want to give up what they enjoy in a BMW currently.”

The sub-brands will get the BMW dealers fighting among themselves because not all of them will be franchised to sell M and i brands. It is not just the drive technologies that are complex. It is the body construction as well now. There is going to be carbon fibre in there for low weight/high strength. And more complicated still – there will be aluminium/carbon fibre blends in structural items for the cabin. 

It’s great to get the weight and fuel consumption down. It will be a devil for the body shops to deal with after accidents.

Robertson has become a bit of an activist on warning noises on otherwise soundless electric cars. There is pretty universal agreement that silent electric vehicles should give some sort of audible warning to pedestrians who currently step off the pavement before they look if they hear no cars approaching. 

But would BMW like to have to broadcast the same noise as lesser vehicles? They would not. “We have our own sound and can engineer it in an instant. I really hope that we do not get legislation.”

Electric cars are going to be a hard row to hoe in the short term. Every car brand needs one in the range. But while there is only one in the range, economies of scale and low production numbers mean that they will remain very expensive.