When one of the world’s most renowned automobile manufacturers says it want to design a car that is not only emission-free but sustainable as well, you know you’re in for a treat. In 2011, German automaker, BMW, lifted the wraps off the i3, an electric vehicle designed under the company’s Project i program. The venture seeks to target those living in megacities by offering them a solution to commute with ease. Mobility is the key here which is why the i3 is a compact vehicle designed to navigate through congested city streets and park more easily.
The urban electric i3 is slated to go into production in 2013. Fans of EVs can get to witness the compact car in all its glory come the 2013 London Summer Olympics. Incidentally, it will be the first EV by BMW to be mass produced owing to its electric powertrain and it will be interesting to see how it stacks up against other electric vehicles already in the market.
What buyers will like best about the four-seater i3 is the optional REx, a range extender that allows the car to go further on a single charge. This is crucial when designing an electric vehicle as all too often, customers are left unsatisfied with poor mileage that they can do little about in view of the low number of charging stations. The REx is a small petrol engine that drives a generator to maintain the battery’s charge level which in turn ensures that the i3 can continue running on electric power.
Another feature that stands out with the i3 is the roomy interior. This is all thanks to the placement of the battery which is in the underfloor section of the ‘Drive’ module. Owing to this, there is no center tunnel that cuts the car in half. Moreover, the i3’s ‘Life’ module provides easier access to seats which are placed on an elevated level and allows occupants a good view of the surroundings and traffic.
BMW i3, BMW i8
What makes the i3 unique is that it has been built specifically for urban citizens. With its compact size and modular structure, it allows for easy access, easy maneuverability and no emissions. The car is based on the automaker’s LifeDrive architecture, a design concept that is said to ensure safety and spaciousness. The Life module focuses on the occupants comfort to offer a cabin that is light and airy. Renewable materials make up a sizeable chunk of the interior like the paneling of the doors and the instrument panel which are built from natural fibers.
The Drive module focuses on the electric motor that drives the vehicle along with other internal workings that add to the performance aspect. Together, the two modules make up the whole with equal attention being given to both.
A look at the external design will show you a car that sports sharp and clean lines and a striking front end with its molded kidney grille. LED lights and U-shaped LED backlit lines give it a vibrancy not found in many other vehicles. The rear, meanwhile, has a retractable window for access to the cargo area. Like the headlights, the taillights are U-shaped and appear to be floating on the glass itself.
Like many electric vehicles, the i3 isn’t the most powerful. But that’s to be expected as the whole point of owning an EV isn’t to burn rubber but is more of a lifestyle choice. Still, the i3 is able to deliver a decent output of 170 hp and 184 lb/ft. And, like all EVs, it delivers maximum torque at 0 rpm. The electric motor is able to propel it from 0-37 mph in under four seconds and in under 8 seconds when going from 0 to 62 mph.
The i3 uses a single speed transmission that takes it to speeds of up to 93 mph. The electric drive allows for deceleration with the accelerator pedal and when the brakes are hit, the electric motor harnesses the resulting kinetic energy to turn it into electricity. Moreover, a ‘coasting’ mode of the i3 lets the vehicle run solely on kinetic energy as the driver eases off the pedal.
The EV can be charged in six hours using a standard electrical outlet and that figure can be reduced if it’s plugged into a high-speed charger, taking just an hour to charge the battery to 80 percent.
$35,000 for the i3 and around $160,000 for the i8
As per the LifeDrive architecture, the i3’s interior is designed for comfort. Full-width seat benches connect occupants, allowing them to converse and interact. In keeping with the light weight of the vehicle, the back of the slim front headrests feature a design that is delicate and almost airy. Blue straps run diagonally across the backrest to provide more storage space.
A freestanding steering column features various elements grouped together to offer easy access while cut-outs add to the airy ambience of the cabin.
Comfort and safety
BMW’s ConnectedDrive facility is incorporated in the i3 to give drivers assistance while on the go. This includes features such as Bluetooth audio streaming, internet via mobile phone and BMW apps and BMW live, to name a few in the entertainment department.
As for comfort, the i3 has active cruise control with start and stop, hands-free opening of the tailgate, no overtaking indication via a camera, surround view for a bird’s eye view of the vehicle’s surroundings and a teleservice diagnosis where BMW staff can help drivers when faults occur.
When it comes to safety, the i3 has it in spades. An Advanced Emergency Call feature relays information to the BMW call center if the vehicle has been in an accident which is then routed to the concerned emergency service department. Collision warning and lane change systems keep drivers focused on the road. In addition, the Night Vision with pedestrian recognition function allows users to drive safely at night.
Lightweight, safe, comfortable, seats four and is eco friendly
Less than 100-mile driving range