We were first introduced to BMW’s all-electric i3 concept car back in 2011 at the LA Motor Show where it was presented alongside the manufacturer’s i8 hybrid sports car concept. With a design unlike any other model in their portfolio, the i3 promised that the production version would travel 100 miles on a single charge whilst zooming from 0-37mph in under 4 seconds.
Jump forward to present day and the i3 production car is due for official launch in London towards the end of the month (29th July 2013), adding another model to BMW’s series of low to no emission cars (BMW i).
The futuristic new kid on the block has been much anticipated since BMW began its foray into the world of electric cars. In an economy of rising fuel costs and government pressure on manufacturers to lower their CO2 emissions, the German brand’s decision to produce such vehicles is one that we hope will be welcomed with open arms.
Earlier this week the BMW i3 was unleashed for testing to a variety of motoring reporters including the world famous Top Gear and the UK’s popular Autocar. Based on their experiences with the i3 we can identify a number of features and experiences to look forward to.
Test Driving the i3
After admiring the seemingly light and aerodynamic bodywork of this car, you and your passengers can easily step into the five door i3 through its Wild West saloon-esque coach doors, similar in proportions to those of the Mazda RX-8.
Behind the wheel you are seated in a high driving position which provides ample visibility whilst you drive and manoeuvre – handy for parking in busy areas.
The gearstick (described as more of a rocker switch by Top Gear) offers the options of D N and R. Positioned nearby is the Start/ Stop button that awakens the rear-mounted 170 bhp electric motor with no noticeable noise from the cockpit, except the faraway hum of the loudspeaker notifying members of the public that your car is in motion for their safety.
Power and Speed
Powered by a 22kwh lithium ion battery, which takes roughly 6 hours to fully charge with the home charger provided, the i3’s powerhouse is also partnered with a 2 cylinder, 650cc combustion engine that serves as a backup if you ever run out of 80-100 miles worth of electronic juice. In fact the petrol engine alone can carry you a further 100 miles with its 9 litre fuel tank bringing the car’s total range capability into the 180 region.
The transition between gears is as smooth as butter, taking the car up to 0-62mph in 7.2 seconds with a capped top speed of 93mph to ensure the car has enough energy to achieve the mentioned range.
With its rear wheel drive offering sharp turning capabilities, as a RWD should, the i3 is perfect for BMW’s target users who tackle the hussle and bussle of city life on their everyday commute. The car’s weight is much to do with it, which is considerably light for an electric car at 1200kg, in addition to the responsive engine brake as you relieve the accelerator before you contemplate pushing down on the brake pedal.
The reduction in weight is achieved through the aluminium and carbon fibre bodywork combo which is reinforced with BMW’s patented honeycomb technology for improved safety whilst still maintaining its slim figure.
Because the shell itself is light, the battery, suspension, brakes and other usual heavy weight components are also fitted in their lighter versions that in total contribute to the wonderfully quick pace and easy handling of the i3.
Inside the Cabin
The interior of the i3 is being withheld from the public for now and will most likely hide away until the big launch. All that reporters could identify is that the interior has had a refresh from your typical BMW cockpit that matches the new character of BMW i and hold similar characteristics to the most recent concept’s interior.
Buying the BMW i3
Judging by the 100 mile range this car is ideal for city folk, short-distance commuters who enjoy sitting in traffic, or people who need a second economic car for weekend errands like popping to the supermarket.
The price is yet to be announced but there is speculation from trusted observers that it could be available from around the £30,000 bracket which is a reasonable price for an electric car that produces zero emissions, saving further costs on fuel, tax, and congestion fees.
Pre-orders are already being taken by BMW ahead of its official launch and AutoCar suggests that orders will be shipped to the UK later on in 2013.
One hopes that the success of BMW i in the UK will match that of Tesla’s in the US.
Author: Written by Service4Service, Glasgow’s independent BMW service specialists.