Daniela Bohlinger Daniela Bohlinger


As an official partner of British Vogue’s Forces for Change initiative, BMW’s Head of Sustainable Design, Daniela Bohlinger, spoke with British Vogue about the realities of achieving sustainable travel without compromising on luxury. With hands-on experience in the development of the BMW i3, Daniela explains how this mammoth undertaking has involved redesigning both the product and the experience, inside and out, and is a fine balance between traditional design and innovation.

The commitment to a greener future is an on-going journey, where the shift in perspective is as important as anything else. Going from “less bad” to “fully aware and responsible” requires total focus and being open to solutions. “Sustainable design seeks new answers. We found them by questioning everything,” says the focused Bohlinger. And by everything she means down to the finest of design details.

The fully electric BMW i3, along with the entire electric and Plug-in Hybrid range, is a product of this commitment. Every element, from the materials and production technique to the final designs, was selected with sustainability in mind; whether it’s the yarn spun from natural-plant fibres such as wool and hemp, wood panelling is certifiably sustainable, or the dozens of plastic bottles recycled into every car.

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When Daniela talks of being fully aware and responsible, and looking into every detail, she really means it. The electrical energy needed for the production of a BMW i3 comes from 100% renewable energy sources.

BMW’s Leipzig plant takes the idea of an environmentally friendly car factory to a whole new level. On top of the green power sources, the modern settings are surrounded by extensive flowering meadows. These are home to a busy 780,000 bees, which provide the area with local honey. Some 100 trees and shrubs have been planted and nesting boxes for swifts, jackdaws, hawks and other birds are dotted around the property. The factory grounds also feature more than 230 apple trees. At harvest time all the fruit is picked, with leftovers turned into apple juice or desserts in the workshop’s canteen for the afternoon tea break.

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The success of the BMW i3 is in its celebration of new ideas, new techniques and rethinking the art of travel. This ensures that compromises are never made. Instead, we have a clever passenger experience, with less impact on the planet, impeccable quality and design, and superb electric driving capabilities.

With up to 188* miles of emission-free travel per charge, the BMW i3 offers bigger adventures. Full torque is available from a standing start, and the flow of power keeps coming without delay. This is all thanks to BMW eDrive technology, which delivers precise, agile performance.

And this performance is not in place of driving comforts. The passenger experience has been inspired by the feeling one gets in an airy boutique hotel. This is achieved through a careful balance of modern aesthetics and charming details, which aim to humanise the state-of-the-art interiors.

These details include sustainable kenaf fibres, which replace petroleum-based plastics in door trims and the dash panel. Dashboards are made of eucalyptus wood panelling, which bears the ever important green check from the Forest Stewardship Council. Bohlinger calls this attention to detail a “policy of small steps” that will clearly lead to big change.

*Figures are for comparison purposes and may not reflect real-life driving results which depend on a number of factors including the starting charge of the battery, accessories fitted (post registration), variations in weather, driving styles and vehicle load. They were obtained after the battery had been fully charged. The BMW i3 is a battery electric vehicle requiring mains electricity for charging. The electric range was determined according to a new test (WLTP). Only compare fuel consumption, CO2 and electric range figures with other cars tested to the same technical procedure.