The BMW i3 is the company’s answer to what comes next in a future where more and more people are going to electricity to power their cars and free them from the grip of the petrol companies … and it’s here in Australia right now.
Well … a pre-production version is but more of them will be in the showrooms in a few months time.
The BMW i3 also introduces BMW i … a new sub-brand that BMW has launched to cover their range of electrically powered vehicles. It seems that, while conventionally powered vehicles will be around for a while yet, BMW believes that electrically powered vehicles are going to grow in popularity and may not be a passing phase as so many seem to think.
There’s no doubt that BMW haven’t been afraid to bring some futuristic concept car styling to the i3 and that goes way beyond the way the vehicle looks.
The BMW i3 is actually two modules … the passenger cell and the chassis and drivetrain… joined together. The body is made from light-weight carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic and features opposing doors and no B-pillar.
The carbon fibre is an extremely rigid material that can absorb a lot of the energy that’s generated in an accident and that enables the body to withstand some impressive impacts without getting bent out of shape.
A feature of the i3 is what BMW describes at its “black belt” The “black belt” runs from the bonnet, up over the cabin and down over the rear of the car.
The BMW i3 is 3,999mm long, 1,775mm wide and 1,578mm high.
The chassis of the BMW i3 has also been designed to be strong and light-weight. It’s made up of aluminium and other light-weight components and, as a totally electric vehicle, it’s curb-weight is just 1,195kg.
That’s a figure that BMW says is comparable to a similar conventionally powered vehicle that has a full tank of fuel.
The BMW i3 comes in two versions. The completely electric vehicle is powered by an electric motor that develops 125kW of power and is fed from a lithium-ion battery pack that sits under the floor of the vehicle.
It takes 3.7 seconds for the vehicle to accelerate from 0 to 60km/h and 7.2 seconds for the vehicle to accelerate from 0 to 100km/h
This combination gives a range of between 130 and 160km and BMW suggests that the average customer would only need to recharge their vehicle two or three times a week. The range can be extended by as much as 20km operating the vehicle in Eco Pro mode and a further 20km can be added to the range by operating it in Eco Pro+ mode.
BMW i will supply a wall-mounted box for charging and the i3 can also be charged from a conventional power outlet.
The BMW i3 will also be available fitted with a small petrol engine to extend the range to around 300km. The petrol engine is a 650cc two-cylinder unit that develops 25kW of power and is mounted close to the electric motor above the rear axles.
This engine is designed to begin recharging the battery as soon as the level drops below a specified point.
The electric motor also switches from drive to generator depending on what the vehicle is doing at the time. It also adds to the braking effect at low speeds and coasts when the vehicle is running at higher speeds.
Inside the car you will notice that there’s no centre tunnel for the transmission and, when that’s combined with the wide-opening doors, no B-pillar and specially designed seats, the result is a fairly spacious looking interior.
The interior of the BMW i30 features naturally treated leather, wood, wool and other renewable and recycled raw materials. The seats have a thinner backrest and the weight has been kept to a minimum to help keep the total vehicle weight down.
The driver’s seat is slightly raised to give the driver a better view in city traffic.
Most controls are mounted on the steering column while the instrument cluster and iDrive display are free-standing.
ConnectedDrive and price
BMW will be offering new ConnectedDrive features with the i3 and the key to these will be a SIM card that will be fitted as standard. More information about these and other features along with the pricing will be released closer to the vehicle launch.
The BMW i3 is definitely going to be an eye-catching car. While the looks and technology may be a bit too futuristic for some I’m sure that this vehicle will have plenty of appeal.