With the electric Mini already on trial in the United States, BMW plans to launch a range of near-zero emission vehicles within the next few years.

Chairman Norbert Reithofer said the so-called Megacity would be the second specific vehicle to come out of the company’s project i, established to develop low emission city cars.

He said: “With the Megacity vehicle we are pursuing a radical approach toward establishing a truly sustainable value chain – from development to production and sales.

“This vehicle will be the first of a range of near-zero emission vehicles. Customers will have the choice between a fully electric drive and a high efficiency combustion engine. Large scale production could start in the first half of the next decade.”

No decision has been taken yet on the final design of the Megacity, nor whether it would form the basis of a fourth BMW brand.

Reithofer said the Mini E (EV) is the first result of project i and the first in the company’s milestone towards electric mobility.

“Once again, we are ahead of our competitors. The Mini E is currently being tested by 500 customers in California in everyday city life. Customers in Berlin and Munich are about to join the project. This field test makes us the car company with the largest fleet of electric cars.”

Fully charged, the Mini E can cover around 150 miles, but Reithofer said it would be years before electric cars were a common sight on the road.

“Electric cars do not meet all the different mobility demands and there are still too many open questions regarding affordable technology, battery life cycles and infrastructure. Currently all manufacturers – and our society for that matter – are going through a learning process.

“There are still lots of areas to be defined when it comes to electric mobility. Political decisions have to be taken at EU level at least.”