The BMW i3 represents one of the biggest parts of the manufacturer’s Project i series, which is focusing on electric city cars. The i3 is expected to be released in 2013, and converts what has been a long process of developing all electric vehicles at BMW into a reality. The i series cars, which will be marketed separately from other BMW marques, are primarily defined by their all electric drivetrains, zero emissions, and suitability for short distance driving around large cities. As such, the release of the i3 as the entry level model for the i brand is highly anticipated.
An all electric vehicle, the i3 does not have a combustion engine, but instead relies on a lithium-ion battery for its power. The i3 has four doors, and is moulded from carbon fibre plastic and aluminum for a more lightweight, but still highly durable structure. Like BMW’s ActiveE experiments, the i3 is designed to be driven in the city, with access to electric recharging points. The electric motor, which provides 125 kW, and 170 hp, has a peak torque of 250 Nm, and can provide 100 miles of driving between recharging.
The BMW i3’s chassis is built around a LifeDrive model, whereby the rear of the car is opened up for more space as the result of the removed combustion engine, while the Drive section includes the cockpit. The rear wheel drive design of the i3 means that it can still produce a decent level of speed for an all-electric powertrain, with a top speed of around 93 mph, and a 0-62mph potential of 7.9 seconds. Again, the i3 is intended for short drives within the city, rather than hours of motorway and country driving.
In terms of the interior detailing of the i3, the rear seats can fold back to open out what is a relatively small rear trunk – the front trunk can also be opened to include electric charging equipment. LED lights are included on the chassis, as are options for different futuristic colours. The i3’s wheels, which are 19 inches in diameter, are taller and thinner than the average BMW, making the car more aerodynamic. Further compact qualities re found within the cabin, where the vehicle controls and touchscreen sensors are included within a central steering column and dashboard. The interior wood trim for the i3 uses environmentally friendly recycled resources like eucalyptus wood and reclaimed timber wood.
One of the more notable features of the i3 will be the ability to drive with one pedal for most of the time – lifting the pedal will allow for braking, and the storage of energy in the electric motor for regeneration. This light braking is ideal for short city drivers, with harder braking also available. Extra features for the i3 include a Parking Assistant for parallel parks, a Traffic Jam Assistant and cruise control settings, and ECO Pro settings for lowering speeds. BMW are offering a few range extenders for the i3, which effectively extend battery life. For availability, the i series will have a dedicated dealership on Park Lane in London, and will be joined by the sportier i8 model from about 2014.
Article by Rob James, a mechanic and kit car enthusiast. His first car project was a used BMW e46 m3 he bought at an auction and renovated back in 2003. Rob likes to blog about kit cars, general maintenance, and enthusiast rallies.