BMW have shown us all many, many i3 concept cars and camouflaged production vehicles, but now, finally, they’ve lifted the lid on their production version i3 electric car.
According to the suits from BMW, the new i3 will be as revolutionary as the world’s first mobile telephone… Whether you believe that or not – we’re a bit skeptical if we’re honest – the little BMW i3 is an important car for BMW and perhaps the entire world.
Y’see, global warming is not going away in a hurry, so everyone is doing their bit to reduce the amount of CO2 they pollute the Earth’s atmosphere with. The automotive industry’s method of doing so is based greatly around the electric car, with most major manufacturers now producing a sort of hybrid or solely electric vehicle. But, with the exception of those stupidly powerful hybrid hypercars (the The Ferrari, McLaren P1 etc.), none of them are particularly special or interesting, they’re mainly electric/hybrid versions of cars normally fitted with internal combustion engines or horrible Toyota Prius’.
The BMW i3 isn’t that. It’s been designed from the ground up to be an electric car and as such a motor with pistons and explodey bits will never power its wheels. Instead the i3 is powered by an electric motor developing 170hp and 184lb ft of torque, the latter available from 0rpm. 0-62mph takes a pretty impressive 7.2 seconds, and the i3 even sends power to the rear wheels alone, which is handy.
The range isn’t too shabby either, BMW reckon the i3 could travel between 80 and 100 miles before needing a recharge. But, when you do need to recharge the i3, it’s going to take several hours… 3 hours gets you 80% battery life with the ‘Fast Charging’ unit – appropriate name that – or between eight and ten hours from a standard household electricity supply. TEN HOURS. That’s a bit ridiculous if we’re honest, and it’s probably the single biggest problem with electric vehicles at this point in time.
Rather cleverly though, BMW are offering the i3 Range Extender or i3 REx – imagine the disappointment when you tell your mates you’ve got a Rex and they see this electric car and not a Subaru with a stupid spoiler and massive exhaust… Anyway, the REx features a baby 650cc engine which powers a generator to top up the i3’s batteries. Due to the extra heft of the generator and internal combustion engine the 0-62mph time increases to 7.9 seconds with the REx, but more importantly this i3 can travel between 160 and 186 miles before you need to refill the tiny nine liter fuel tank. So there are no range anxiety issues here.
This is all nice. But the part I’m most interested in is the chassis and body panel bits, because it’s in this department that the BMW i3 becomes interesting if you’re the sort of person who almost deliberately wastes petrol by blipping the throttle on down shifts and accelerates unnecessarily briskly from stop signs. Because, while the i3 may be all about saving Johnny polar bear, it uses carbon fiber, aluminum and other lightweight materials extensively. The chassis is all aluminum, all of the body panels are made from carbon fiber reinforced plastic, so it only weighs 1195kg and BMW are claiming a perfect 50:50 weight distribution. The i3 is also the first mass produced vehicle to use lots of carbon fiber, and that is a little bit exciting – remember when carbon was only found in million dollar supercars like the Ferrari Enzo?
Continuing on with the whole eco theme, the U.S factory which produces all of BMW’s carbon fiber is a zero emissions facility that sources its electricity from nature – the wind.
The i3’s interior will keep hippies calm, too. Buyers can choose from four different interior designs, all of which feature sustainable materials such as tree, natural fibers and leather which has tanned naturally. Its interior also looks rather special and relatively unique compared to other BMW products, which tend to look exactly the same as one another.
The i3 goes on sale during November later this year priced from £25,680 ($41,350) for the standard car to £28,830 ($45,200) for the Range Extender i3. Expect it to be quite popular amongst environmentally conscious fashion types, Californians and people who want more than a Prius. And perhaps, people who want to drift without polluting the environment with CO2 – it’s torque-y, light and rear wheel drive remember…
By Aiden Taylor (@AidenT_RD)