The wraps have come off the production version of BMW's all-new i3 to a public audience for the first time in Frankfurt
10 September 2013

The BMW i3 has made its first public appearance at the Frankfurt motor show today as the part of what the German car maker promises will be a complete range of alternative drive models to be sold under its new i brand. 

The i3 is a contemporary-styled hatchback that remains faithful in basic appearance to the earlier i3 concept revealed at the 2011 Frankfurt motor show but adopts a five door bodystyle in place of the original three door arrangement for added practicality and ease of entry to the rear.

The i3 is priced at £30,680, but with a £5000 electric car rebate it will end up costing buyers £25,680 in the UK. Alternatively, BMW is also offering the i3 on a three year lease scheme with a deposit of £2995 and 36 monthly payments of £369.

Conceived under the working title Mega City Vehicle – a name meant to focus attention on its suitability for urban driving, the i3 represents a number of firsts for BMW, which is reputed to have spent up to €2 billion in research, development, testing and production processes for the new four-seater.

Included among the innovations adopted on the BMW i brand’s initial model is a lightweight inner body structure made entirely out of carbon fibre sourced from US-based SGL Carbon but woven and cured at BMW’s plant in Landshut, Germany.

At 1195kg, the i3 weighs 90kg less than the existing 114i despite using a battery that is claimed to weigh a significant 230kg. The inherent strength of the assembly used to support its carbon fibre reinforced body panels has allowed BMW’s design team to do away conventional B-pillars and provide rear-hinged coach style doors at the rear. 

At 3999mm in length, 1775mm in width and 1578mm in height, the i3 is 326mm shorter, 10mm wider and 158mm taller than the second-generation 1-series hatchback. It rides on a chassis whose wheelbase is 120mm shorter than that of its existing entry level model at 2570mm, providing the new electric car with relatively short 707mm front and 722mm rear overhangs.

The i3 is the first series production BMW to rely purely on electricity for propulsion. But in move harking back to the company’s most illustrious combustion engine models it eschews front-wheel drive for a more traditional rear wheel drive layout in the interests of interior packaging, low speed maneuverability and what officials describe as class leading steering response.

Power is provided by a synchronous electric motor mounted within an aluminium sub-assembly above the rear axle. The in-house produced unit, known under the BMW eDrive banner, provides 168bhp and 184lb ft of torque – some 10bhp less but 5lb ft more than the Mini Cooper S’s turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder direct injection petrol engine. Drive is sent through a single ratio gearbox mounted to the end of the electric motor, offering the choice of three driving modes: Comfort, Eco Pro and Eco Pro+.

Electric energy to run the motor is provided by a 22kWh lithium ion battery produced by Samsung and bearing a warranty valid for up to six years or 100,000 miles. It consists of 96 individual cells mounted within the flat floor structure and has been design to allow the replacement of damaged cells on an individual basis. By packaging the battery as low down in the i3’s carbon fibre body structure as possible, BMW claims to have achieved a centre of gravity lower than that of the X1.

According the EU mandated electric car power consumption test, the i3 requires an average 12.9kWh/100km, providing it with an overall range of 118 miles in comfort mode. BMW also quotes a real world figure of between 81 and 100 miles, depending on ambient temperature in comfort mode.

In its most efficient state in EcoPro+ mode, in which it is limited to a top speed of 50mph, the new BMW is claimed to provide a zero local emission range of up to 124 miles. In studies with the earlier limited production Mini E and BMW 1-series ActiveE, BMW identified a global average range of 25 miles with participating customers.

A range extender (REX) option that acts as a generator to provide electricity to the battery whilst on the run will be available from the start of UK sales at a premium of around £2000, providing a more than 60 per cent increase to the i3’s theoretical range in Eco-Pro+ mode at a claimed 211 miles.

The range extender uses a 650cc two-cylinder petrol engine borrowed from BMW’s C650 CT maxi-scooter producing 25bhp and 41lb ft of toque and mounted longitudinally at the rear next to the electric motor and a nine litre fuel tank sited within the floor at the base of the front bulkhead. There is no direct drive to the wheels, merely the generation of electricity. So configured, the i3 weighs an added 120kg at 1315kg and is claimed to require an average 13.5kWh/100km, with the petrol engine rated at 471mpg for average CO2 emissions of 13g/km on the EU test procedure.

With a power-to-weight ratio of 151bhp/tonne in EV (electric vehicle) configuration, the i3 boasts official 0-37mph and 0-62mph acceleration times of 3.7sec and 7.2sec together with a 50-75mph split of 4.9sec. In REX (range extender) configuration with 128bhp/tonne, the times are put at 3.9sec, 7.9sec and 5.5sec.  Both variants boast a top speed limited to 93mph.

Recharging of the battery is through plug in means. BMW claims it takes less than 30mins to achieve an 80 per cent charge on a 50kW charger – as found at many public recharging stations in the UK, and a rather less impressive eight hours on a domestic power socket, which typically operates at 9kW. A tub underneath the short front bonnet provides stowage space for the recharging cable. Aggressive recuperation of kinetic electricity in EcoPro+ mode is claimed to generate up to 50kW.

The i3 rides on a bespoke aluminium chassis with a MacPherson strut front and five-link rear suspension. The steering, shared with the upcoming new-generation Mini, is a power assisted electro-mechanical arrangement that with a nominal 2.5 turns lock to lock give the new BMW a relatively tight 9.9 metre turning circle. As with its more traditional models, the German car maker claims a perfect 50:50 weight distribution.

The standard cast aluminium wheels are 19-inch in diameter and come shod with ultra narrow 155/70 profile tyres – a combination BMW claims provides a significant reduction in both air and rolling resistance together with greater side wall compliance and similar grip levels to more conventional 16-inch wheels with 225/55 rubber. Buyers will also be able to specify larger 20-inch wheels with 155/60 front and 175/50 profile tyres.

Inside, the i3 provides dedicated seating for four on manually adjustable seats within a highly contemporary styled cabin close in appearance to the i3 concept. The front seats are mounted 170mm higher than those in the 1-series at 670mm, with the rear seats mounted even higher still. Boot capacity is hampered by the rear mounted drive system and high floor; with a nominal 260 litres the i3 offers 100 litres less than the 1-series. 

The i3 will be produced on a dedicated production line at BMW’s Leipzig plant in Germany in both left- and right-hand drive guises. Sales already underway, with the first UK deliveries slated to begin in November. Along with the new car, BMW has also developed a wide range of multi-media applications available through its ConnectedDrive suite dedicated to taking the electric car to a whole new level of efficiency while providing a new facet to everyday motoring via connectivity solutions that allows the i3 to be networked with other forms of public transport as part of a broader mobility initiative.

Speaking at the reveal event in July, head of sales and marketing Ian Robertson said: "The global electric car market has gone from 7000 sales three years ago to around 150,000 to 160,000 today. It's too early to put a number on it but we aiming to be a significant player in this segment. From day one we will make a profit on these vehicles.

"We enjoy good profitability levels. We will make a profit from day one. It's not just a car, it is a revolutionary step forward in sustainable mobility". 

Head of research and development for the BMW Group Herbert Diess said: "The i3 is only the first of a range of car that we will offer under the BMW i brand. Next year we will also have the plug-in hybrid i8 - a sportscar of the future."

Our Verdict

BMW i3

BMW made waves with Europe’s first premium-brand compact EV, and continued development means the i3 keeps upping the ante

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Comments
34

29 July 2013

Excellent car and another pointer, if one was needed, to the future.

Anyhow, why would you buy the electric only version for £25,000 when for £2000 more you could have the ER (extended range) version?  I'm sure BMW have got the pricing structure all wrong.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

Myk

29 July 2013

xxxx wrote:

Anyhow, why would you buy the electric only version for £25,000 when for £2000 more you could have the ER (extended range) version? 

The ER version was originally supposed to be at a "significant" premium, so £2,000 seems rather cheap.  I was thinking £5k.  At less than £28k it looks like a bit of a bargain (when compared with the rivals), and I would wonder why anyone would go for the pure EV version.

I'm interested to see if the cache that comes with the BMW name can make the i3 successful where cars like the Volt/Ampera aren't.

PS I still think - as this car is roughly 1-series sized - it should have been called i1. i3 implies that it's a 3-series sized car and skews the naming convention.

30 July 2013

Why is no-one mentioning the "interesting" side glass treatment?

 

29 July 2013

My Audi A2 weighed just a tiny bit less than this BMW and was roughly the same size.  Amazing for BMW to manage that weight WITH a 230kg battery!

As to the previous comment about "hydrogen cars going pop".  Laughable.  No matter what the price of an EV you cannot get 100% range in 5 minutes as you can with a petrol/diesel/hydrogen car.  THAT is why hydrogen will always rule over EVs.  But alas we need the infrastructure at ALL fuel stations first.

29 July 2013

NeufNeuf wrote:

As to the previous comment about "hydrogen cars going pop".  Laughable.  No matter what the price of an EV you cannot get 100% range in 5 minutes as you can with a petrol/diesel/hydrogen car.  THAT is why hydrogen will always rule over EVs.  But alas we need the infrastructure at ALL fuel stations first.

Unless there's a hydrogen station near you the range is about 0%, I've got a socket on my outside wall have you got a hydrogen supply on your wall?? This is why the plug-in and plug in range extender has beaten it. 

By the way your last comment was funny in the way it argued against itself!

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

30 July 2013

xxxx wrote:

Unless there's a hydrogen station near you the range is about 0%, I've got a socket on my outside wall have you got a hydrogen supply on your wall?? This is why the plug-in and plug in range extender has beaten it. 

By the way your last comment was funny in the way it argued against itself!

 

Bless...  Do you have a fuel pump outside your house too, to fill your car with petrol or diesel on your driveway?  Thought not.  The infrastructure to provide cars with fuel was built over some time after it was decided that's the way to go.

There is no decent EV infrastructure at present to drive from London to Edinburgh. And even if there was you won't be able to do it in a day since charging takes so long. Had we thought about our options decades ago and bothered to install a hydrogen infrastructure, you would be able to drive from London to Edinburgh in a day - since a hydrogen car takes about the same time to fill as a fossil fueled one.  THAT was my point.  

Arguing about the current infrastructure is a moot point.  The powers that be decided not to invest in hydrogen and now we have to make this ancient (and coal fired) business of EVs work. Really sad.

29 July 2013

The reason plug-in EVs (hydrogen cars are EVs as well) will be the future of transportation is that those who own them realize something that petrol and diesel users don't realize at first blush.  That is that you leave home everyday with a full charge.  A 5 minute fill up is meaningless as you'll rarely, if  ever, need it.  This make them even more convenient then any vehicle you need to "fill" at a service station.

The common analogy is comparing EVs to your iPhone.  What would you consider more convenient - plugging your iPhone in when you get home and simply having it charge overnight, or having to make a stop at your local Apple store once a week to "fill it up"?  The fill up time becomes irrelevant when you look at the scenario in this light.

This car is the first real answer to Tesla's Model S.  Not as a direct competitor, but as a well executed EV.  Petrol is on it's way out as a means of propulsion.  It may take 10 to 15 years, but it's days are numbered.

 

29 July 2013

Charles b wrote:

The reason plug-in EVs (hydrogen cars are EVs as well) will be the future of transportation is that those who own them realize something that petrol and diesel users don't realize at first blush.  That is that you leave home everyday with a full charge.  A 5 minute fill up is meaningless as you'll rarely, if  ever, need it.  This make them even more convenient then any vehicle you need to "fill" at a service station....

You make an interesting and very EV-friendly point. Some of my friends who drive low miles do not ever fill up the tank to the brim. A gallon or two is enough and gives them a very EV-like range.

I however am in the habit of filling up the tank once a fortnight. To go EV, I'll have to kick a life-time habit. Range anxiety is less of an issue as I could use the ICE car for longer journeys.

30 July 2013

Charles b wrote:

The common analogy is comparing EVs to your iPhone.  What would you consider more convenient - plugging your iPhone in when you get home and simply having it charge overnight,

 

Never really thought about it in that light. In 30 years of driving, never once have I been left stranded at the road side due to running out of fuel. My smartphone on the otherhand...  that died on me last night. 

Who can claim their phone has never ran out of power? Even if it hasn't, when the battery runs low you'll find yourself limiting your calls and taking other restrictive measures.

Comparing EV's to your Iphone? If there was ever a reason not to buy an EV that's surely it. 

289

29 July 2013

If anyone in the UK buys this Frankenstein monster,(looks as if it has been designed by either someone on a massive acid trip or a primary school think tank), then we have real evidence that BMW could retail a Turd with wheels on it and its loyal customers (sheep) would stump up too much money for it.

Given that EV's are practically dead in the water, I am amazed that BMW have clinbed on-board this sinking ship.

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