The BMW i3 is powered by a 168bhp electric motor that sits over the rear axle the electronics systems, transmission and differential, ensuring no cabin encroachment. It produces 170 lb ft of torque from a standstill and a single-speed gearbox delivers power to the rear wheels. BMW claims the i3 will accelerate from 0-37mph in under four seconds and to 62mph in under eight seconds. The i3 has a top speed of 93mph.
Energy comes from lithium ion batteries positioned under floor to ensure the best weight balance. BMW claims that the i3 will achieve a pure electric range of 100 miles and has confirmed that the model will be made available as a range extender model too, which is where BMW sees most potential for growth of sales.
As a pure EV, the car can be fully charged from a standard socket in six hours. An 80 per cent charge can be achieved from a high-power charging socket in just one hour.
Lifting off the throttle provokes regenerative braking forces. A selectable coasting mode disconnects the electric motor from the drive axle. In this mode the i3 is driven only by its own kinetic energy. The i3 also has an Eco Pro mode that minimises air-con power consumption and shuts down other functions such as heated seats and heated door mirrors.
The interior Life module has more space than any conventional car currently on sale, as a result no central tunnel bisecting the cabin. Passengers in the front and rear sit on full length benches. The motor and battery position means the car has more than 200 litres of luggage space.
A free-standing steering column houses the main controls, such as the instrument cluster, start/stop button and gearshift lever. The audio and climate control functions sit within the instrument panel, removing the need for a centre console. Instead, there’s a 6.5 inch display, plus a separate 8.8-inch central information display. A third screen shows functions of the audio system and automatic climate control.
The BMW i3’s interior also points the way to the look of all BMW i models. Materials used include leather, wood and wool, and BMW officials stress there will be a focus on renewable raw materials and natural fibres in all i vehicles. The i3 interior uses eucalyptus wood for the instruments sourced from managed forests in Europe, ensuring delivery distances are short. Leather trim is tanned using a dye from olive leaves.
BMW also revealed it will sell its i brand cars through around ten per cent of its established dealers, a mobile sales team that will travel to customers and through an internet sales hub. All cars sold will also be contracted via BMW itself rather than the dealer, in order to reassure customers.
BMW says it will also help customers install its home charging box, source green energy supplies, access public charging points and offer comprehensive servicing possibilities. Buyers can also select packages that allow them to hire conventionally powered BMWs at times when the range of an electric car is restrictive.