The year is 2013 and the BMW i3 has just been launched.
Cast your mind back: the world was mercifully free of Covid, we were still three years away from teenagers TikToking, Prince Harry was mates with his brother and no one had yet thought that chucking a bucket of iced water over your head would lead to millions in charity donations.
It feels like a lifetime ago, and in car terms it was. Nine years is a life cycle and a half in most model runs, yet here we are today, still looking at a new i3 and still marvelling at it. And mourning it, because production will end in July.
It has been tipped as a future classic, no less than in our recent Autocar-Beaulieu Future Classics competition, and little wonder. There were other EVs before the i3 (heck, BMW itself had one with the Mini E trial fleet), but the i3 is the one that felt – and still feels – like it defined an era. A movement, even.
Why? I think it’s due to the integrity of the idea: the i3 was born electric.
In 2010, BMW unveiled the Megacity concept (and later used it at the London Olympics) as a radical carbonfibre-reinforced-plastic (CFRP) passenger cell atop an aluminium chassis – a system that was so structurally strong it didn’t need B-pillars. Hence the amazing rear-hinged rear doors were possible.
The key thing is that the production car stuck to that mantra, with the same focus on sustainability, recycled materials and those doors, which had made the original concept such a head-turner.
The CFRP passenger cell remained, so the i3 is a featherweight by EV standards: just 1290kg, even with the bigger, modern battery on board. The Renault Zoe from 2012 weighed 1465kg – 300kg more than the i3 from the same period.
Two powertrains were available back then: fully electric with 168bhp and a claimed 80- to 100-mile range, and a range extender with the same motor plus a 647cc two-cylinder petrol motorbike engine to charge the battery on the move.