BMW is shifting its eco-friendly credentials up a gear with plans for low emission cars for megacities.
The Munich-based group, the world's leading manufacturing of premium cars, has set up a unit called Project i to work on what it terms "completely new car and mobility concepts" for huge conurbations such as London, New York, Tokyo, Los Angeles and Mexico City.
And it's no mere nod to the need of the global automotive industry to allay concerns about the contribution carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from its vehicles are making to global warming.
Project i is being championed at main board level by Friedrich Eichner, group head of brand development, and is under the supervision of Ulrich Kranz, who helped to develop the new generation Mini.
He heads a team of engineers that is currently being expanded from 50 up to about 100.
"This project is fully independent and even free to act beyond BMW structures if necessary," board chairman and chief executive Norbert Reithofer said.
The Project i team's task is to develop a cleaner, greener car nimble enough to negotiate clogged city streets and roads while preserving BMW's hard-won reputation for building premium vehicles.
So it's unlikely to be competing with the likes, say, of Tata's newly-unveiled "one lakh" - 100,000 rupees or about £1,250 - Nano minicar.
That has been designed primarily for Tata's home market in India, but the company - which at the time of writing was putting the finishing touches to it's £1 billion bid to buy Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford - is mulling over the possibility of bringing a more sophisticated version to Europe.
The precedents for such a move, even by a company as well respected as Tata, are not auspicious.
Its previous foray into European markets with the cheap but not very cheerful City Rover was a flop.
So from that respect, BMW will be competing with the likes of Toyota and PSA Peugeot Citroen to develop a truly "green" city car with street appeal and credibility.
A couple of options have already emerged from the higher echelons at BMW.
Mr Reithofer, in his speech at BMW's annual financial results press conference on March18, announced the group was already working on developing a battery-powered car - quite a statement from the boss of company that has pumped billions of pounds into high-powered petrol engines under its slogan "The Ultimate Driving Machine".
Mr Reithofer said: "An electric motor is an option we are looking into as well [as Project i].
"It does not only work at a zero-emission level. The technology is now sophisticated enough to offer sheer driving pleasure.
"This is one of the reasons why we are evaluating the option of launching a battery-powered car. A decision will be taken this year."
BMW - which along with its German rivals Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and VW's Audi unit has reason to be grateful for the German government's tough stance against Brussels' plans to ratchet down emission targets - claims to be up with the game already.
Its range already includes 22 BMW and five Mini models that emit less than 140 grams of CO2 per kilometre (g/km).
And it claims that its new generation of diesel engines (developed by strategic partner Magna Steyr in Austria) bear comparison with hybrids that combine internal combustion with battery power.
The Mini Cooper Diesel, according to BMW, emits "exactly the same" amount of CO2 (104 g/km) as the Toyota Prius, the pioneer in the hybrid field.
Mr Reithofer couldn't resist getting in a dig against the Prius: the Cooper Diesel costs more than £4,000 less and is more fun to drive.
But the company will join the ranks of the hybrids itself in 2009 with a car it claims drinks 20 per cent less fuel than a comparable vehicle with a combustion engine.
Last year, the BMW launched its fuel-saving Efficient Dynamics technology which is already fitted to 450,000 cars in Europe alone. That figure is expected to rise to about 830,000 this year.
Project i champion Friedrich Eichner, when questioned by journalists, said his team was not concentrating on one particular concept at this stage.
But he did reveal the C1, a glorified motor scooter with weather-proof cage allowing the driver to strap himself in and which puttered out after only three years, could be revived for development.
"That was a very future-oriented vehicle and we will certainly have a closer look at this again," Mr Eichner added.
While it is not yet known what shape BMW's vehicle for the megacities will ultimately take, one thing is crystal clear: the company is convinced that no alternative to the motorcar will emerge for many decades to come.
As Mr Reithofer said: "People want to decide by themselves when to travel, whom and what to take along, which road to take, when and how often to stop on their way, and where exactly to arrive in the end.
"Individual mobility will remain a basic necessity, a basic need of mankind."