BMW is using the Frankfurt show not only to let German buyers catch up with its incessant flow of new models but also to give a tantalising glimpse into its future.

The latest 1 series, 6 series, M5 and 520d Efficient Dynamics are all appearing for the first time, even though some of them are already on sale. But the focus is on two carbon fibre body alternative fuel cars which will be launched under the i sub-brand in 2013-14.

The first offerings will be a compact all-electric model slightly smaller than a VW Golf, to be called the i3, and a dramatic hybrid sports car, the i8. Both are on show at Frankfurt in close to production form.

The i3 has a 168bhp electric motor delivering 185lb ft of torque from take-off so that 60mph is attainable in less than four seconds. It is expected to have a potential range of around 100 miles.

The platform which underpins it has been designed to house a range-extender powertrain, too.

The i8 is a pure hybrid, mating a 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine developing 223bhp with a modified version of the i3’s electric drive system. The motor would drive the front wheels while the petrol engine takes power to the rear, so that when the two are working together the car would have four-wheel drive. BMW reckons the i8 will be good for a limited top speed of 155mph, with fuel economy of nearly 95mpg.

“They won’t go into every dealership – mainly those in metropolitan areas,’ said a BMW spokesman.

There is no indication yet of how many cars the UK will get but it already seems that demand will far outstrip supply. BMW is currently deciding whether to sell the i models or offer them on a leasing scheme which would remove customers’ fears about battery life and costs.

The range will grow in future years, but the i sub-brand is about far more than just another model portfolio. It will eventually become what BMW calls a ‘mobility provider’, offering everything from parking services and traffic avoidance schemes to vehicle sharing and even bicycles and scooters.