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The i3 concept shown at Frankfurt featured see-through doors, which have been replaced by a standard design on this test car.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.