The All-Electric BMW i3 was named Green Car of the Year Award 2015 by Green Car Journal at the Los Angeles Auto Show 2014 and more than 12,000 BMW i3s have already been sold since 2013. So what is the i3? I was invited to a preview of the i3 in Vancouver for a short info session hosted by BMW a few months ago. As a starting point, the BMW i3 is unique in many ways; offering an exotic carbon-fibre (CFRP) passenger cell, renewable interior materials, cutting edge engineering, state-of-the-art connectivity, and styling that is very distinct. The i3 is powered by an all- electric drive system incorporating a 125 kW/170 horsepower electric motor mated to lithium ion batteries and regenerative brakes. The i3 is made from carbon fibre-based plastic and has a sleek, futuristic “capsule” design ethos with two large front doors and two smaller rear doors. It looks chunky and modular, but most unlike a BMW! The i3’s batteries can be charged on a 220-volt circuit at home or work and the lithium ion battery pack reaches full charge in about three hours.
The interior is just as unique with feature such as a genuine eucalyptus wood -clad dash, “holistic loft design” interior styling cues and lots of bare carbon fibre on display. The i3 starts at $44,950, but qualifies for rebates from $5000 to $8,500 rebate under various Canadian provincial Electric Vehicle Incentive Programs. The i3 offers three interior design versions: loft, lodge or suite and finishes include Solaric leather, Cassia upholstery and Andesite silver metallic paint. The roomy, airy interior is an intriguing mix of high-tech and organic surfaces. The first thing that strikes you is the huge windscreen and wonderful curving Eucalyptus wood panel that mysteriously floats over the top of the dash. Seats, doors, carpets and the roof all contain recycled and renewable raw materials. Even the leather is treated naturally with extract from olive trees instead of harsh chemicals to fix the dye.
BMW say they have tackled the commonly brought up problem of road rage by doing extensive research that reveals the average commute of urbanists is 47 kilometres – well within the range of the i3, which BMW says will go 130 to 160 kilometres under pure electric power. BMW also say their research has revealed that potential BMW i3 owners were largely urban drivers and were likely to charge the lithium-ion battery overnight, at home. However BMW does offer a two-cylinder gas-powered range extender for $4,000 that doubles range to about 300 kilometres. In addition, the i3 is fully connected to computer and smartphone apps and can use BMW’s ConnectedDrive and the i Remote apps to work with the navigation system to maximise the most efficient way to use battery power – such as suggesting alternate routes to destinations, changing driving methods and finding a charging station.
On our short test drive, the first impression was very good. Acceleration is very fast and the low enter of gravity with batteries positioned way down low in the i3 make it superbly stable and roll free in the corners. Taking the i3 for a short spin proved to be a revelation. With its 125 kW/170 horsepower electric motor, it’s a quiet, smooth, utterly vibration free driving sensation. The i3’s carbon fibre-based plastic and aluminum offers light weight and an impressive 0-100 km/h in 7.2 seconds. The brakes are something to write home about – very powerful, quick and smooth acting.
The i3 pricing is quiet a bargain really when you factor in the technology, design and the manner in which the cabin is finished and the level of quality. It all typically BMW, but with a lighter airy look inside. The all-electric i3 starts at $44,950, while the i3 with the special range-extending technology adds $4,000 to that base price. The BMW i3 isn’t the first all-electric vehicle on the market, but is the first truly premium model. For under $50,000, it is a game changer by offering a level of quality, luxury and class that is typically BMW. Well worth considering.
2015 BMW i3 Priced from $44,950