The German manufacturer's first mass-produced electric car is entirely new from the ground up. The i3 is based on BMW's unique 'LifeDrive' vehicle architecture, incorporating a predominantly aluminium chassis and a carbonfibre-reinforced plastic passenger cell, as well as the brand’s own electric motor, lithium-ion battery and power electronics hardware.
Powering the BMW i3 is an electric motor that sends 125kW of power and 250Nm of torque to the rear wheels via a single-speed transmission. BMW claims the i3 accelerates from 0-100km/h in 7.2 seconds, a time comparable to petrol-powered pocket rockets like the Volkswagen Polo GTI and the Ford Fiesta ST. Its top speed is electronically limited to 150km/h.
BMW says a fully charged lithium-ion battery gives the i3 a range of 130-160km in “everyday driving conditions”. This rises by approximately 20km when Eco Pro mode is selected, and another 20km in Eco Pro+ mode, giving it a potential EV range of 200km.
Recharging can be completed in less than 30 minutes from a fast charger, while a complete top-up takes about eight hours from a standard domestic power socket.
The BMW i3 will also be offered with an optional range-extending engine, which maintains the charge of the battery at a constant level. The 25kW 650cc two-cylinder petrol engine derived from the brand’s motorcycle division is mounted adjacent to the electric motor above the rear axle, and increases the maximum range in “day-to-day driving” to approximately 300km.
Specifying the range-extender hybrid has no impact on the i3’s cargo capacity, with its nine-litre fuel tank positioned at the front of the car.
BMW Australia is yet to finalise whether it will offer both the EV and the range-extender when the i3 arrives in local showrooms around the middle of 2014. The hybrid is expected to be available from launch, and the EV – while a lower priority for our market – is also a chance.
BMW claims the i3 is the “world’s first fully networked electrically powered car” with an unrivalled level of information exchange between the vehicle, the driver and the outside world.
An integrated SIM card provides owners with access to BMW’s ConnectedDrive services, including satellite navigation optimised for EV driving with pedestrian and public transport directions to take drivers from door to door.
The optional driving assistant plus safety system incorporates active cruise control and a collision warning system that operates up to 60km/h. The system can deliver maximum braking power if required to avoid a stationary or moving vehicle or pedestrian.
The fully automated Parking Assistant system is also available as an option, allowing the driver to hand complete control of the throttle, brake and steering to the vehicle.
The BMW i3 will be fully revealed in New York on July 29.