BMW has lifted the wraps off the production-spec i3 at a global launch event today. This entry point to the eco-friendly ‘i-car’ range hopes to alleviate the notions that EV ownership need not equate to compromises in practicality and performance.
Looking like no BMW before it, the i3’s styling has remained faithful to that of the concept car. To this end, such striking features as the black-panel rear, contrasting body panels the drop line in the rear glazing and coupé-like profile that hides a ‘coach’ door arrangement.
Things are similarly futuristic inside with a clean, tiered facia featuring TFT screens for both the binnacle and iDrive displays and an eye-catching two-spoke steering wheel. From what can be ascertained from the pictures, the cabin has a futuristic, minimalist air.
The BMW i3 will be offered with a choice of drivetrains in order to accommodate commuters with differing needs.
The pure EV drivetrain features an electric motor developing 125 kW and 250 N.m mounted on the rear axle. This equates to a 0-100 km/h sprint time of 7,9 seconds with a top speed limited to 150 km/h in the interests of efficiency.
While the motor is light, at 50 kg, the 230 kg lithium-ion battery pack feeding it serves up an everyday operating range of 130-160 km. The ECO PRO drivetrain preset affords an additional 20 km, while driving in ECO PRO+ ekes out another 20 km on top of that.
The range-extender variant mounts a 650 cc petrol motor serving up 25 kW next to the electric motor. Fed by a 9,0-litre tank, the petrol engine acts as a generator that tops up the battery and stretches the i3’s operating range to around 300 km.
The underfloor lithium-ion battery pack comprises eight modules with 12 cells apiece capable of developing 22 kWh of energy with a 360 V rating. In the event of a fault, this arrangement cleverly allows technicians to replace individual modules instead of the whole battery pack.
In both cases a brake energy recuperation system helps to scavenge kinetic energy produced by braking and deceleration. The system also modulates deceleration braking according to the speed at which the vehicle is travelling so as to allow the i3 to ‘coast’ at motorway speeds.
The i3 can be charged from a standard domestic wall outlet in around nine hours, or you can install an i Wallbox that will fully charge the i3 in roughly six hours. An urban EV charging station will charge the i3’s battery up to 80 per cent in half an hour.
Measuring in at 3 999 mm long with a 2 570 mm wheelbase, the i3 is underpinned by BMW’s new LifeDrive platform. According to BMW, this platform features two distinctive elements; a carbon-fibre-reinforced passenger cell (Life) and a section that accommodates all of the eDrive components (Drive).
Similarly, the beauty of the platform is two-fold. As it’s been designed specifically to accommodate EV components, as opposed shoehorning such items into a chassis designed for a conventional combustion engine drivetrain and fuel tank, such cabin-space-sapping items as a drive tunnel and boot-mounted battery compartment don’t hinder practicality. This arrangement also remains true to BMW’s 50:50 front/rear weight distribution proviso while keeping the car’s overall weight down to 1 195 kg.
The i3, along with its high-performance i8 stable mate, will make its way here towards the middle of 2014 at an estimated price of around R450 000.