BMW has confirmed that it will put its revolutionary E1 city car into production. It is likely to go on sale in 1998, and cost about pounds 12,000.

The space-efficient one-box runabout will come with a choice of three-cylinder petrol and diesel models and either a pure electric or a diesel/electric hybrid.

'It is our objective to offer the public a car which, at least some of the time, does not use any petrol at all,' says research and development chief Dr Wolfgang Reitzl.

He admits, however, that the 'green' version will be at least pounds 2,000 more expensive and account for only one in five cars sold.

Dr Reitzl says that the diesel version is likely to be as environmentally acceptable as is currently possible for an internal combustion engine, and claims it will return almost 75mpg in average use.

The 1,460cc unit is expected to use direct injection and four-valve combustion chambers for fuel efficiency.

An ingenious exhaust gas recirculation system will help to reduce particulate emissions.

There is also an electronic system for shutting off the engine when the car is idling in traffic, or coasting.

(Photograph omitted)

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