BMW trekked out to this year’s edition of the biennial Shanghai Auto Show to introduce the limited-edition M4 CS. Seeing it unveiled during the show’s press days was a welcomed break from a full day of covering debuts that were electric, crossovers, or both. We were expecting to find a 2002 Turbo or a 3.0 CS parked next to the new 4 Series variant, but the Munich-based brand instead chose to display an electric 1602 prototype built in 1972.
Visually, the electric 1602s is almost identical to the gasoline-burning model; it was built well before battery-powered models needed to look as balls-to-the-wall insane as possible. Promotional stickers aside, the most noticeable exterior difference is that the electric ’02 doesn’t have an exhaust system so there’s no opening for the exhaust pipe in the rear apron.
Power comes from an electric motor developed jointly by BMW and Bosch. It’s located in the transmission tunnel, and it gets electricity from a battery pack installed in the engine bay.
The battery pack weighs a whopping 771 pounds (350 kilos), while the motor tips the scale at 187 pounds (85 kilos). Period documents indicate the extra weight had a terrible effect on the Bimmer’s performance figures: when propelled by electricity, the 1602 accelerated from zero to 31 mph (50 km/h) in around eight seconds, and it reached a top speed of just 62 mph (100 km/h). It had a maximum driving range of 19 miles (30 kilometers) when driven in dense city traffic.
BMW regularly dispatched the two electric prototypes during the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, and the cars were often showcased during marathons and other similar events. However, the drivetrain’s primitive technology had many drawbacks –- most of them attributed to the immense gain in weight and the very limited driving range –- so the electric 1602 was never seriously considered as a candidate for mass production.