The new BMW i3 urban electric car has been spied during testing in Munich
23 March 2012

The lightweight technology that underpins the new BMW i3 urban electric car, spied here during testing in Munich, has the potential to be transferred to other brands.

Now close to production form, the design of the BMW i3 has been toned down from the original concept, which was unveiled at the Frankfurt motor show last year. The i3’s sister car, the all-wheel-drive petrol-electric hybrid i8 sports car, has undergone the same process as it moves towards production.

The i3 concept shown at Frankfurt featured see-through doors, which have been replaced by a standard design on this test car. It now seems that the doors were merely for impact at the concept’s motor show appearances, and it was always BMW’s intention to fit more conventional doors.

As with the i8, the i3 is based around a light but highly resilient CFRP (carbonfibre reinforced plastic) body structure – dubbed the ‘Life Module’ – and rides on a predominantly aluminium chassis.

It is the i3’s Life Module underpinnings that could be applied to other brands – opening up the possibility for the BMW Group to use the technology on a future Mini, for example.

The i3’s construction will bring it close to the conventionally constructed Mini One in terms of stature.The production version of the i3 weighs 1270kg, some 265kg above the Mini One. At 3845mm in length, 2011mm in width and 1537mm in height, the five-door i3 is 120mm longer, 326mm wider and 132mm higher than the Mini One. It rides on a platform boasting a 105mm longer wheelbase at 2570mm and wider tracks.

Therefore the i3 has a larger footprint than its Mini stablemate, yet it’s still smaller than any existing BMW model. There is a nominal 200 litres of luggage space behind the rear seats.

BMW claims the i3 boasts a “comparatively small turning circle” and keenly describes its handling as being “agile at typical city speeds”, both in keeping with its urban driving brief. By mounting the new car’s liquid-cooled battery – a lithium-ion unit of unspecified weight and capacity – within the central section of the floor, BMW claims the i3’s centre of gravity is lower than all current 1-series models.

The i3 will be offered with standard plug-in electric or optional range extender-assisted, electric-drive powertrains when it goes on sale next year.

Unlike the petrol-electric, hybrid-powered BMW i8, the i3 relies on a pure electric driveline currently undergoing durability testing in a fleet of 1-series Active-E prototypes.

At the heart of the new plug-in system is a compact electric motor mounted over the rear axle. It draws energy from the battery to provide drive to the rear wheels via a single-speed transmission.

With 168bhp and gutsy 184lb ft of torque, the brushless motor is claimed to propel the i3 from 0-37mph in 3.9sec and from 0-62mph in 7.9sec – acceleration roughly equivalent to the 118d. It is also claimed to possess 50-75mph rolling acceleration of just 6.0sec.

Maximum speed is limited to 93mph to protect the charge of the battery. BMW claims a total recharge time of the battery pack in six hours on a conventional 220-volt mains charge. An ‘80 per cent capacity in one-hour’ fast charge is also available. A heavy-acting brake-energy recuperation system also features, as does a ‘coast mode’ that can be used for periods of energy-neutral freewheeling.

An overall range of between 80-100miles is expected for the i3, which BMW believes is sufficient for 90 per cent of journeys. But BMW has revealed for the first time, the i3 will be offered with an optional range extender powertrain (called REx by BMW) to satisfy those wanting to undertake longer journeys.

Our Verdict

BMW i3
Two versions of the BMW i3 are on sale: a pure electric model or a range-extender variant

BMW makes waves with Europe’s first premium-brand compact EV

Join the debate


28 February 2012

Why do 'eco' cars all have naff- and hideous-looking wheels?

28 February 2012

Please forgive - nothing to say, just a massive urge to beat TegTypeR


28 February 2012

[quote 6th.replicant]Why do 'eco' cars all have naff- and hideous-looking wheels?[/quote] To increase aerodynamic efficiency. Larger wheels with big gaps between spokes causes drag.

28 February 2012

So the i3 comes in at 1250kg,with light weight technology,thats

not light !.

The T27 comes in at 680kgs , also it will do 80 to 100 miles per charge,

i understand the T27 does 100 to 130 miles per charge,sorry this BMW

does not seem to be that good to me.

Also,we are not told what the price of this car will be,i wonder why.

28 February 2012

Good to see BMW making good use of the Toyota tie-up to gain battery knowledge. Hopefully seen sense and given up on the draft Hydrogen 'bomb' power method.


Hydrogen cars just went POP

29 February 2012

[quote kdwilcox]

So the i3 comes in at 1250kg,with light weight technology,thats

not light !.

The T27 comes in at 680kgs , also it will do 80 to 100 miles per charge,

[/quote] Without knowing the interior and equipment specification of both vehicles it is difficult to gauge where the extra weight goes. I would guess some could be justified by a higher specification but certainly not all of it. [quote kdwilcox]Also,we are not told what the price of this car will be,i wonder why[/quote] Perhaps they haven't settled on a target price for various markets yet. Looking at other hybrids on the market it clearly isn't going to be cheap, we only have to look at the £30,990 list price for the Nissan Leaf to know that. Though I'm sure they'll still be plenty of gasps and faux shock on here when it turns out to cost more than a diesel Focus.

29 February 2012

Sounds like this could be an interesting proposition, if the price is right! Something tells me the new construction materials are going to carry a heavy cost! :(

I also hope the range extended version will have a nice clean efficient and light engine, rather than an off the shelf engine that wont be economical or light enough.

Whilst the T27 is lighter its also much smaller and requires a little more of a mindset change which may well be more difficult pill to swallow...

23 March 2012

Well that all sounds just dandy. BMW quality, small size, economical, uber trendy, adequate performance, decent range, quickish charging, comparable with a 118d, it all seems sorted out. BUT, as with all the examples that have gone before it, at a price that renders it utterly irrelevant. As others have pointed out, no mention of price! Same price as a 118d, probably not. Same price as a Nissan Leaf, no certainly more. Same as an Ampera, unlikely. So how much do we expect it to be? Whats your best guess as a minimum OTR price in British pounds! For what its worth, I will go for 39k. maybe the question should be, at what price does it become relevant?

23 March 2012

The silhouette looks like an Audi A2, which weighed in at 899kg in petrol form. Anyone know if they will make an efficient diesel engined version with the inherent packaging benefits over batteries.

23 March 2012

[quote PhilM4000]The silhouette looks like an Audi A2, which weighed in at 899kg in petrol form. Anyone know if they will make an efficient diesel engined version with the inherent packaging benefits over batteries. [/quote] An electric car weights more, but has packaging benefits over an internal combustion engine. The i3 has been designed around electric power, so may not fit a full size diesel engine, although it will be offered with a range extender, so it may do. Some websites have suggested a 1.5 litre diesel engine for the range extender, while others have said a 600cc motorbike engine, which seems more plausible for packaging.


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