MEDIA REVIEWS is a compilation of reviews and write-ups of test drives of various e-drive vehicles by the different authors and media. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of EV World. Click the article title to expand the story.
Copenhagen Adds 400 BMW i3 to Carshare
In early September, Arriva's DriveNow carshare program will introduce 400 BMW i3 electric cars in the Danish capital.
EV Worldwire 18 Aug 2015
The already bicycle-friendly city of Copenhagen will soon add some 400 BMW i3 electric cars to its options for more sustainable transportation. Similar DriveNow carshare fleets are in operation in Germany, the UK and the USA. What's unique about the Danish system is that the cars will be integrated into the Arriva public transit bus system, which is 50% owned by British Arriva PLC. According to the company, the I3 is "the world’s first automobile offering 'intermodal routing', i.e. the incorporation of public transport services into the navigation system’s route guidance in the car."
The Copenhagen project may be the first of its kind in what is developing into a transportation system that seeks to seamlessly blend various mobility options for individuals and groups, from bicycles to buses to shared electric cars, allowing people to tailor their travel options to their specific needs.
The 400 vehicle fleet will be commissioned on September 3, 2015. More details on the Copenhagen system can be found on the company website.
BMW i3 Joins DriveNow Carshare Fleets
Electric cars have been part of carshare programs for at least half a decade from Autolib in Paris to Car2Go in San Diego. Now BMW adds the i3 to its DriveNow program in Europe.
EV Worldwire 20 May 2015
In Paris you can join Autolib and have the use of the Bollare Bluecar electric car. In San Diego, similarly, you can use Daimler's electric smart car as part of their Car2Go system. With a swipe of a smart card, you can open the car and drive it anywhere you wish within a definite range around the community, dropping it off either at another Autolib charging station or in the case of the smart car, wherever you can find a parking spot.
It's an idea whose time as come, especially for big city residents where private car ownership is extraordinarily expensive and other options from public transit to bikeshare systems.
BMW launched their own carshare system in Munich in 2011, following with other German cities and spreading to the USA, Austria and the United Kingdom. Most of these systems utilize both gasoline and diesel-powered models, with the exception of San Francisco and now London, where the company has added 30 i3 electric cars to the 240 BMW and Mini models currently available. The purported objective is to offer an cost effective alternative to London's Black Cabs and services like Uber. Locations, availabiilty and pricing are available on the on the DriveNow UK website.
Because the i3 is electric it is exempt from London's congestion charge for driving in the central part of the city. BMW says it plans to add DriveNow programs to an additional 20 global cities in 2015.
Apples V. Oranges? Comparing Tesla Model S and BMW i3
Writing in Green Car Reports, David Noland reports on his comparative test drives of the BMW i3 and the Tesla Model S, a $42k electric against a $70K model and concludes the latter is a more efficient machine.
Green Car Reports 20 Nov 2014
The EPA has dubbed the all-electric 2014 BMW i3 the most efficient production carsold in the U.S., with an impressive 125 MPGe rating--the best of any electric vehicle.
By comparison, my 2013 Tesla Model S with an 85-kilowatt-hour battery is rated at only 89 MPGe.
That's a hefty 39-percent efficiency advantage for the i3, at least on paper.
Even the BMW i3 REx fitted with the optional range-extending engine is rated at 117 MPGe, giving it a 31-percent advantage over the Model S.
What I wanted to know was: How do the two cars stack up in the real world?
I decided to take advantage of BMW's new three-day test-drive program for the i3 to find out.
Familiarity breeds sales
To its credit, BMW understands that electric cars in general--and the i3 in particular--can take a while for new drivers to get used to.
The i3's strong regenerative braking, for example, can be initially off-putting to a novice electric-car driver. And the charging process, both at home and at public stations, can be intimidating to newbies.
But after a few days and a few dozen miles, most people quickly get comfortable with the charging process, and actually come to like the strong regen. (I'm a perfect example of the latter.)
So most BMW dealers now allow potential i3 buyers to take one home and drive it around for as long as three days.
Two days after a phone call to my local dealer, Orange County BMW in Harriman, New York, I pulled out of their parking lot in a shiny new white BMW i3 REx.
While I would have preferred to test the battery-electric version, this was the loaner I got. About 60 percent of the i3s sold to date have been REx models, according to BMW.
I wasted no time getting down to business: The goal was an extended in-use comparison test drive between the i3 and my Model S, with a careful eye on the efficiency readouts of both cars.
To be fair to the i3, and get a true apples-to-apples comparison, I would adjust my test car's efficiency rating upward by 7 percent to correct for the difference between the REx and battery-only versions of the car.
Conditions were identical for both vehicles: I used the same 54-mile route, at the same speed, in the same temperature and wind conditions. Cabin temperature was set at 70 degrees in both cars.
To equalize battery and cabin warm-up conditions, both cars were fully plugged in at the time of departure. (The ambient temperature was a nippy 40 degrees--winter is coming to the Hudson Valley.)
The i3 was set in Normal mode rather than its performance-sapping Eco-plus mode. The Tesla has no such "eco" option.
With my wife Lisa at the wheel of the i3, we left our house and headed out for lunch in Warwick, New York, 27 miles away.
We chose Warwick partly because it has one of the few public charging stations in our neck of the woods.
The route consisted mostly of two-lane suburban roads with occasional stoplights, plus a 9-mile stretch of Interstate highway.
I led the way in the Tesla, driving at my normal slightly-faster-than-average pace and with my usual slightly-more-aggressive-than-normal acceleration. (Hey, it's a Tesla. I'm only human.)
No drag racing, but no hypermiling either.
Lisa followed close behind, precisely mimicking my route, speed, and acceleration profile. The i3 is quite peppy; she said she had no trouble keeping up all the way to Warwick.
After lunch and some i3 recharging at the public station, we retraced our steps home.
The envelope, please
The two cars read out their efficiency in different ways.
The i3 measures miles per kilowatt-hour (more is better), while the Tesla indicates watt-hours per mile (less is better). So it took few clicks on a calculator to convert the units.
At the end of the 54 miles, the i3 was showing that it had traveled 3.4 miles/kWh. Adjusting for the REx factor, the equivalent number for a battery-only i3 would be 3.6 mi/kWh. The Tesla displayed a reading of 322 Wh/mile.
Converting the units, the Tesla traveled 3.1 miles on a kWh (vs. 3.6 for the i3), while the i3 used 277 Wh/mi of energy (vs 322 for the Tesla).
Bottom line: The i3 was only 16 percent more efficient than the Tesla--not the 39 percent the EPA says.
Consider that the Tesla is a ton heavier (4600 lbs vs. 2600 lbs), has more than triple the range (rated ranges of 265 miles vs 81 miles), vastly more rear-seat room and cargospace, and far superior performance.
For all that, only 16 percent more real-world energy use? That's pretty amazing, if you ask me.
For all the i3's high-tech carbon fiber and clean-sheet technology, its efficiency advantage over the much bigger, faster Model S amounts to a piddling $8 a month in electricity costs (assuming 15,000 miles per year and the national average electricity cost of 11 cents per kWh.)
And that's not even counting any free electricity from Tesla Superchargers.
I happen to have driven 21 percent of my Tesla miles on free Supercharger energy--which more than wipes out the money saved by the i3's 16-percent efficiencyadvantage.
So I've actually spent less on my electric "fuel" than an i3 driver would have to cover the same distance.
The ultimate electric efficiency machine?
BMW i3 Faces Its First Serious Competitors in Volkswagen and Mercedes
Mrecedes is rolling out its B-Class EV while Volkswagen just debuted its e-Golf electric car, both priced competitively with the BMW i3.
Green Car Reports 09 Oct 2014
The BMW i3 electric car takes risks, and not just with its plug-in powertrain. A radical design and carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic body shell make the i3 unlike most other cars on the road.
In contrast, other German automakers have taken a more conservative approach with their electric cars; the 2014 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive and 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf are electrified versions of existing models.
Now that the i3 has been on sale for a few months in the U.S.--and almost a year in Europe--both customers and the automotive press are getting a chance to decide which approach they prefer.
In a recent comparison test, British car magazine AutoExpress pitted the 2014 BMW i3 against the 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf.
In the U.K., the i3 and e-Golf cost roughly the same after government incentives are factored in, but they represent radically different approaches to the battery electric car.
The differences in design philosophy are immediately apparent when the two cars are parked next to each other.
The i3 is taller than the e-Golf, but also shorter and narrower. Reviews declared this design better for urban driving, but noted the more-traditional e-Golf has more room for passengers and cargo.
While performance probably isn't on the minds of most electric-car buyers, the i3 also outperformed the e-Golf in all acceleration tests.
In the end, though, AutoExpress chose the BMW over the VW because of its unusual and advanced design.
The writers said the i3's unorthodox exterior and interior styling gives it a "desirability factor" that other comparable electric cars lack.
While the e-Golf was deemed a competent electric car, reviewers also felt it was less exciting.
Similarly, its plainer design also led to the Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive being bested by the i3 in a recent Car and Driver comparison test.
Clearly, the i3 has its fans.
However, it also has some limitations when it comes to practicality, according to CleanTechnica.
The website also compared the BMW to the Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive and claims that, while the Mercedes may be less of a statement, it may also be a better car.
The reviewer said the i3's back seats were uncomfortable--a point also made by Car and Driver--while the Mercedes seats were "luxurious."
The i3's interior was also criticized, particularly the steering-column-mounted shifter and start-stop button and the lack of paddles to control regenerative braking.
Meanwhile, the Mercedes received praise for its comfortable interior and range-charge option--which increases the amount of battery capacity used for a temporary range boost.
So while the i3's design may be new and exciting, some electric-car fans apparently still prioritize practicality--even if it means flying under the radar.
Putting BMW's i3 Electric City Car Through Its Paces
BMW Blog writer reports on extended test drive of the i3, finding it a real crowd pleaser with tons of torque, if a bit 'darty' above 60 mph because of its narrower-than-normal 155mm tires.
BMW Blog 17 Sep 2014
BMW North America has quietly launched an extended test drive program for its i3 and i3 Range Extender. With a small amount of paperwork, a copy of your drivers license, current automobile insurance card, you can be on your way to a three day electrifying driving experience. The i3 is a new way of getting around for most and the extended test drive gives you the opportunity to see if you can live with an electric car before you buy it.
Unfortunately not all dealers are participating, only about a one third actually, so check with your dealership.
The BMW i3 is a whole new way of mobility as BMW likes to say. Truthfully, driving an i3 feels more like feeling you’re being a pioneer. The quietness of being under way with the i3 is striking. When it goes down the street, you can hear a slight electric whine under hard acceleration or deceleration. Otherwise, what one just notices is the booming of the radio. Then there’s the fact that you never have to stop at a gas station, unless you’re driving the i3 REx.
Got Range Anxiety?
The limited range of electric cars is one of the biggest hurdles for most. For my extended drive, my plan was to see if the BMW i3 BEV, pure electric variant, with the shortest range, could fit my daily life. In my case, my local dealer, Baron BMW, set me up with a BEV i3 in Ionic Silver Metallic loaded with tech options. It was fully charged and had a stated 77 mile range in Comfort drive setting.
My plan was simple, go everywhere in town with no intention of changing my driving style.
My longest mileage day with the i3 included a 26 mile round trip to work with mixed city and highway driving where the highway portion included following the flow of traffic up to 75 mph. After I got home from work, I was off on another 23 mile round trip to my daughters soccer practice. I also threw a trip to Coscto run where I loaded the i3 up with four cases of coke, and a bunch of other stuff, adding another 10 miles and a fair amount of weight in the cargo hold. In all, I traveled about 60 miles driving as if I was driving my E92 M3 , and it was a longer distance than I normally drive in one day. At the end, the all electric i3 had about a quarter of a battery charge left.
The Driving Style’s Effect On The Range
Perhaps the most stark realization of living with a BMW i3 was how much driving style impacts the range. Running 75mph on the highway to work into a head wind on my second day of driving the i3, I watched the range drop from 82 miles to 59 miles during the 13 mile trip to work – despite the fact I drove in EcoPro setting and never floored the throttle. Yet, even with this loss of range, I still had no trouble going to and from work. The i3’s range in city lower speed traffic is way better than straight highway driving. InsideEVs lists city driving range at 81 and Hwy at 71.6 miles for the BEV i3.
On Saturday, I drove the BMW i3 to the local cars and coffee event and parked it just behind a stunning yellow 2004 Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale. I was bit surprised that I received as many questions about the i3 as the Ferrari owner as well. The i3 gets tons of looks while you drive and be prepared to answer a litany of questions when people figure out it’s yours. Everyone seems to love it. Parking it at work, I got peppered with questions. At soccer practices, again, tons of questions about the eclectic electric i3. People in my neighborhood were asking for rides. Over the years, I’ve had all manner of cool cars in my garage and none have ever gotten the attention that this i3 attracts.
The Amazing Cabin Tech
The larger 10.2” optional “Professional Navigation” that comes with the Technology Package has a stunning high-resolution LCD display. I liked to split it left side Nav and right side media. Then there’s the battery level indicator, estimated range, miles per kilowatts, PSI of your tires to the tenth., Active Cruise Control, Self Parking and back up cameras. I found myself digging way into the menus, Bluetooth streaming music. Was just having a field day with this high-tech cabin.
My last trip with the BMW i3 was to take my daughter to a soccer game. It was a surprisingly cool fall day and the i3 really stood out in the sea of sport-utes and mini-vans. Overall, I averaged 3.9 miles per kilowatt and wasn’t trying to hyper-mile. I drove as I felt at the moment, merge in traffic – bam – instant torque and no problems. In town and up to about 50 mph, I really liked then handling, but over 60, it felt a bit darty on its narrow 155mm wide tires.
BMW states the pure electric version range is 70-110 miles. The 170 hp electric motor and one speed transmission are good for a 0-60 second time of 7.0 seconds and a top speed of 93 mph. If you need a greater range, the i3 Range Extender with its 1.9 gallon tank for the on board gas electric generator, provides 120-185 miles.
Base price for the i3 is $41,350 and the i3 REX is $45,200, destination $950.
BMW’s extended test drive is a unique way to experience an electric car lifestyle. It’s really important to drive one and then charge it and drive it again. It showed me, that the i3 BEV would meet my needs and allow me to drive my S65 V8 E92 less around town. Plus my M3 hates short trips and it’s important to warm its oil up each trip. An electric car is happy to move twenty feet and be shut off.
So, I’ll take my i3 in the Solar Orange BEV flavor loaded with tech.
BMW's 'Revolutionary' i8 Goes on Sale in Oman
Oman's official news daily reports that as an electric hybrid sports coupe, the BMW i8 offers ' unparalleled fuel efficiency' that 'takes nothing away from the thrill of driving a thoroughbred performance car.'
Muscat Daily/Oman 22 Aug 2014
With its ultra-dynamic proportions, elegantly sporty lines, low-slung silhouette and futuristic design features, BMW’s i8 plug-in hybrid sports car is expected to cause a sensation on the roads when it goes on sale across Oman this month.
The BMW i8 signals the future of sustainable motoring and the BMW Group importer in Oman has opened its doors to customers keen to learn more about this phenomenal vehicle.
Commenting on the arrival of the revolutionary BMW i8, Divyendu Kumar, managing director of Al Jenaibi International Automobiles said, “Demonstrating our commitment in delivering the best technologies and most innovative sustainable solutions, we are thrilled to announce the arrival of BMW’s revolutionary car, the BMW i8. Customers can now learn more about its intelligence as it combines the performance and appeal of a sports car with the fuel consumption of a small car. Globally the car has been well received, and we are confident this will be the case in Oman.“
The BMW i8 is the second model after the BMW i3 to be unveiled by BMW i, the company’s sub-brand focusing solely on developing sustainable products and services, that has helped affirm BMW Group’s leadership as the world’s most sustainable premium car company.
Both the exterior and interior of the emotionally-led 2+2-seater embody a revolutionary, pioneering take on the sheer driving pleasure for which BMW is renowned. The BMW i8 features a completely new, exciting sports car design which includes sophisticated aerodynamic features and environmentally friendly materials.
It comprises BMW LifeDrive architecture, the world’s first body architecture specifically designed and purpose-built for series production of electric and plug-in hybrid cars. The BMW i LifeDrive architecture is made up of two separate units - the upper Life module that consists mainly of a high-strength and extremely lightweight passenger cell made from Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic. The lower drive module consists of a 100 per cent aluminium construction and integrates the battery, electric motor and suspension system. The use of Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic is a first for a volume-production model. It is the lightest available material that can be used in the construction of a car body without compromising on safety.
Powered by a 1.5lt, three-cylinder BMW TwinPower Turbo petrol engine which, in typical BMW sports car fashion, drives through the rear wheels, the BMW i8’s intelligent hybrid system also capitalises on a potent electric motor which sends drive to the front wheels resulting in a combined power output of 362hp delivered to all four wheels.
When united, the dual motors (electric motor at the front and petrol engine at the rear) work in harmony enabling the BMW i8 to accelerate from 0 to 100km/hr in 4.4 seconds while using just 2.1lt of petrol per 100km and emitting just 59g/km of emissions.
The BMW i8 has a top speed electronically limited to 250km/hr, and can be operated solely in all electric drive (zero emissions) for around 37km - and the battery of the plug-in hybrid can be continuously charged by the petrol engine while driving. Due to its lightweight of just 1,485kg, it provides a total drive range of more than 500km.
An all-embracing sustainability concept runs throughout the entire value chain of the BMW i8; carbon fibre production and vehicle assembly using 100 per cent renewable electricity; high proportion of recycled materials; use of materials manufactured and treated in an environmentally friendly manner.
The BMW i8 is the future of sports performance driving, offering unparalleled fuel efficiency in a light Coupé body that takes nothing away from the thrill of driving a thoroughbred performance car.
Former Volt Owner Shifts to BMW i3 REx
Former Chevy Volt and Ford Focus Energi hybrid owner CNicholson, trades for a fully-loaded BMW i3 REx and offers a comparison between it and the Volt.
EV Worldwire 20 Aug 2014
I picked up a fully loaded BMW i3 REX last week. I owned a Chevy Volt for about 18 months ending about a year ago. I subsequently owned a Ford Fusion Energi.
I will try to point out some comparisons to the Volt as best I can.
Looks: Obviously subjective, but the i3 is more “distinctive” looking than the Volt (versus generic ICE cars). I think it is uglier than the Volt, but the boxy shape offers some advantages. I kinda like the suicide doors too. Functional and unique.
Interior: Feels very roomy and spacious inside. Much less dash clutter than Volt. Fit and finish is much better (at least on the top trim model– not sure about base versus base). LCD screens seem bigger and brighter. iDrive system (despite what detractors say) actually feels refined and elegant compared to Volt UI– but does take some getting used to. Seating position feels awkwardly high up, but does provide excellent visibility.
Gadgetronics: Stereo sounds great, but up-optioned Volt system sounds great too. I like the more techie information displays in the Volt in terms of inner workings of EV versus ICE. BMW display is very high-level information only. I really like the i3's adaptive cruise control with start and stop. Very nice in heavy traffic. The i3 will parallel park itself. Pretty cool “wow factor” demo for friends, but that’s about it. Outside the car, but worth mentioning: there is no BMW provided web interface to the car. I really miss the Volt’s website. So much great info there. BMW’s integration with iPhone apps is way better. The eyes-free Siri integration is really handy (perhaps newer Volts have this too).
Overall Comfort: Very compliant ride. Very little road/wind noise. Feels like it is sprung softer than Volt, but higher seating position might be tricking my brain. Can feel a bit twitchy on the highway, which I think is due to skinny front tires and high profile.
Handling: You really feel the lighter weight in fast corners. Big advantage to i3. Much more neutral than Volt. Fun to push the car and get a little four-wheel sliding and then a bit more throttle tucks in the nose to scoot you around the turn. Too much fun! The Volt would understeer under similar abuse. Again perhaps due to higher seating position, but the i3 feels like it takes forever to shift the weight from side to side in the turns. I have not carefully explored limits here, but it doesn’t inspire confidence. Volt may be the better S-turns car, but I suspect the lower CG point would make i3 handle better than first appearances suggest. Definitely more fun on backroads.
Acceleration: Squirts away from red lights much like the Volt in L/Sport @ WOT, but holds the thrust for a bit longer. The Volt seems to lose steam around 35MPH, but the i3 pulls hard through 50MPH-ish and gets to freeway speed much faster. The i3 has no Sport or L mode, so you can’t avoid a heavily dampened/smoothed throttle mapping, making the car feel less responsive than the Volt. But, with an assertive right foot, it will show its superior power/weight ratio. Nonetheless, passing power in the i3 is nothing to write home about.
Range: I have a lead foot and still get about 70 miles of EV range. I am sure >80 miles would be the norm for most drivers. Transition to REX is smooth and full power is available as long as you keep you average speed in the 70-75 MPH range on flat ground. Sustained cruising about 75MPH and/or sustain hill climbs will quickly deplete the SOC reserve and cut power A BUNCH. In an intentional stress test, I drove the car on REX over Highway 17 to Santa Cruz and saw speeds of 25MPH (in 50MPH zone) before pulling over. This car NEEDS a Mountain Mode (long story here). That said, with some planning and self control, I think most moderate grades can be handled even in REX mode. On EV, the car will happily go 85+ up any grade I have encountered.
Charging: charges at 7.4kW on Level 2 (about 20-25 miles of range per hour) or via 50kW SAE Combo DC fast charge at about 60 miles of range in 20 minutes (I’ve tried it, it works). Unfortunately, they are sorting out a thermal failure issue and temporarily patched the SW to reduce max charge rate on Level 2 to about 5.5kW which is a bummer, but still get full charge in 4.5 hours. On L2 it takes about 21kWh to fully charge (18.8kWh usable charge window I think).
Preliminary conclusion: A better car than the Volt for people who rarely drive more than 70-80 miles a day, as you can do that all EV and have more luxury/fun. When the DC fast charge network is built out a bit more (free until 1/1/2016), maybe I would expand that to 100-120 miles a day max. If you need more range freedom, the Volt is better. But this would be if the cars were priced the same. They are not. For now, you pay full MSRP ($55K for mine– a loaded one) with only the Fed/State rebates ($7500 + $2500 in CA) knocked off the price. I think the Volt is a MUCH better value for almost everyone, so net-net will be the better choice for anyone who is price sensitive. The superior performance is noticeable, but not night and day. I paid up to be an early adopter and to try something new, so I am not complaining.
I’d be happy to answer any questions anyone has.
Consumer Reports First Impressions on 'Quick, Quirky' BMW i3
While CR is complementary on the i3 handling, it remains somewhat skeptical of its general acceptance due to its 'price, Playmobil toy shape, and still limited range.'
Consumer Reports 18 Aug 2014
After a nine-month wait, we’ve just taken delivery of the futuristic-looking BMW i3, a tall, rear-drive, electric-powered hatchback. This is a quick-and-quirky little car with a driving experience quite unlike anything else, for better and worse.
While the base car is a pure EV, the i3 is also available with a range-extending gasoline engine meant to eliminate range anxiety. As with the Chevrolet Volt, the gas engine is only used to generate electricity. The engine only kicks in when the 22-kWh lithium-ion battery is near depletion.
The electric drive produces 170 hp and the REX adds a 34-hp, 650cc two-cylinder motorcycle engine. We opted for the REX in midtrim Giga World version. The EPA rates the electric range at 72 miles, and it estimates that the gas engine will supply another 78, for a combined 150-mile range. The starting price for the gas-assisted car is $45,200, but with options such as heated seats and navigation, our car came in at $50,450. Thankfully, it qualifies for a $7,500 federal tax credit.
The i3’s novel lightweight architecture uses carbon-fiber body structure and roof, plastic body panels, and earth-friendly plastics in the cabin. The leather bits are even "tanned" with olive tree extracts.
We took a brief stint behind the wheel of an i3 in Los Angeles in November but now we’re experiencing it on our home turf, in anticipation of a full test once the break-in miles are complete.
The two-cylinder engine kicks in imperceptibly if you’re at cruising speeds, but when you’re tooling around at about 15 mph, you hear a rather rough thrum emanating from the back. The engine-powered generator maintains about a 20-percent battery charge and ensures uniform performance and instant takeoff, typical of electric cars. The tiny gas tank holds only 1.9 gallons.
Handling is surprisingly agile for a pod as tall as this one. You sit up high, as in a small SUV, but there’s very little body lean when cornering. But the ride is rather stiff. And other than the not-so-pleasant engine noise at low speeds, the cabin remains quiet.
Slowing down or stopping takes getting used to. The regenerative braking system activates as soon as you let your foot off the gas pedal, decelerating the car quite aggressively. It’s entirely possible to come to a dead stop without applying the brakes at all. Uninitiated drivers may not like that very much.
The cabin feels surprisingly spacious, and the flowing matte wood trim evokes nothing so much as a Swedish furniture store. The rear-hinged rear doors swing out to reveal a decent-sized two-person backseat. Controls such as the start button and the shifter have an unusual design, but once we got acclimated, we found them elegantly simple. BMW’s familiar iDrive controller includes a power-source display diagram here, and the navigation system records all the places where the car was charged.
In order to keep the weight down, no sunroof or power seats are offered.
The i3 seems like a perfect urban runabout for the socially conscious and environmentally correct, at least those with money to invest in the cause. Given its price, Playmobil toy shape, and still limited range, it’s natural to be skeptical about the i3’s chances. But judging from the looks and thumbs-ups we’ve been getting, it’s certainly piquing the interest of passersby. We’ll have more details including electric range and charge times as we pile on the miles.
What Is BMW Thinking 'Messing' With Electric Cars?
After driving the i3, Peter Cheney of The Globe and Mail likens BMW's electric car initiative to a beautiful, smart, successful woman marrying a high school dropout.
The Globe and Mail/Canada 22 Jul 2014
To understand why the electric car hasn’t taken over the world yet, imagine this:
A beautiful supermodel enrolls at MIT and earns her doctorate. She adds an MBA from Harvard. She patents a brilliant new technology, founds her own company, and becomes a billionaire. Then she marries a school dropout who watches TV in his underwear, eats fast food every day, and has never held down a job. He gains a lot of weight, and gambles away his wife’s fortune. They move to a trailer park.
This couple represents the technical conundrum that is the electric car. The wife is the electric car’s motor: brilliant, efficient and inspiring. And her corpulent loser of a husband is the electric car’s battery – a deadweight underachiever who drags her down.
With this in mind, let’s look at the BMW i3, a fantastic, game-changing car that is, unfortunately, powered by a battery. Aside from the power source, the i3 is a vehicle you would covet – it has a striking shape, an aluminum chassis and the interior is constructed using carbon-fibre reinforced plastic, an extremely strong yet lightweight material that provides superior protection for the i3’s occupants in the event of a crash. The interior is further crafted using renewable natural resources such as eucalyptus wood, wool and naturally treated leather.
After a life in gas-powered vehicles, driving the i3 is a revelation. It whooshed up to highway speed as if propelled by an invisible force. The stereo is crystal clear, and I realized just how loud a traditional car really is – in the i3, the loudest noise is air rushing over the body.
A wide-screen monitor sits on the dash like a miniaturized high-definition TV, tracking the i3’s functions through advanced software, transporting the driver into the automotive future – at least until the battery runs out.
The i3 is part of a sweeping corporate plan. The transportation world is changing fast, and BMW wants to be on the cutting edge of future vehicle design. The i3 is aimed at a small but critical group of buyers: upscale, urban, environmentally conscious trendsetters who appreciate advanced technology.
On the technology score, it does not disappoint. You don’t just drive the i3. You have a digital relationship with it. Considering the BMW badge and the $44,950 base price, that is to be expected. The car is packed with enough software to run a stock exchange, and it is linked to the web, a small glowing dot on a distant server. The i3 can monitor your driving and compare your energy use with other i3 drivers (which might be dispiriting for some). But even the least-efficient i3 driver will outdo every gas-powered car on the road, and the fuel cost (the electricity loaded into the battery) will be pennies per kilometre.
I enjoyed my time in the i3. It was quick and smooth. The controls were intuitive and well designed. Other drivers stared at the car – they knew they were looking at something new and different.
At the heart of the i3 is its battery, a 500-pound unit that’s flat-packed into the bottom of the car, keeping its weight low for stability. Under optimum conditions, and driven in its most efficient mode, the i3 will do up to 160 kilometres on a single charge. But, as they say, your mileage may vary. I travelled 81 kilometres in a mix of urban and highway driving, and nearly drained the battery. According to the i3’s display, I only had 22 more kilometres of range left.
Here, we come to the electric car’s built-in problem – the low energy density of batteries. Pound for pound, a battery holds only about a tenth as much energy as gasoline. This is unfortunate, given all the advantages of electric power. The electric motor itself is superior to internal combustion, with vast torque, clean running, and excellent packaging – there’s no messy fuel or exhaust systems, and the electric motor can run in forward or reverse, eliminating the need for a transmission. But, like the beautiful billionaire who married the overweight bum, the electric motor must live with the battery.
Weight and low energy density are just two of the battery’s problems. There’s also the matter of recharge time – for drivers used to refilling a gas tank in three minutes, a 15-hour recharge comes as a shock. (That time can be reduced dramatically using a high-output charging station, but it’s still dead slow compared with filling a gas tank.)
Scientists and engineers are working on technologies that will replace the battery, and make the electric car king of the road. Among the possibilities is an ultra-capacitor, a brick-sized device that will store huge amounts of power, and can be recharged almost instantly. But for now, the electric car is shackled to the battery.
BMW’s engineers have invested a lot of effort dealing with problems created by the limitations of battery technology. The i3’s software monitors the state of charge, and does its best to maximize its range. As the charge level runs down, the i3 shuts down functions to preserve its battery, like a downsizing corporation shedding staff.
But there’s more to it than that. The i3 uses BMW’s ConnectedDrive software to link the driver with services that extend the maximum travelling range – like charging stations, for example. But it also includes intermodal routing, which is a fancy way of saying “another way to get there when your car dies.”
The intermodal routing system can connect drivers with public transit and car rental companies. It can locate train and bus stations, and even pulls up schedules and fare information. This is telling. The i3 is only too aware of its limitations – it’s like marrying someone who has their therapist’s number tattooed on their forehead for your convenience.
For those unwilling to pay close to $50,000 for a car that may leave them stranded, BMW offers a small, range-extending gas engine. It will cost about $10,000, and is installed in the tail area. (To understand how it works, imagine a gas-powered generator sitting in the trunk, feeding electrical power to the battery.) The extender motor won’t recharge the battery, but it will keep the i3 going until the gas tank runs empty (which won’t take long, since it only holds a few litres of fuel).
For a certain customer, the i3 will be ideal. That customer’s profile looks something like this: An early adopter with a short commute, rich, and with an appreciation for eco-chic style (it’s hard to beat an interior made out of resin-infused plants). This customer will also have a garage to install a rapid-charging station – and another car with a gas engine.
As I exited the i3, I was impressed. This is a sophisticated, ultra-green car that uses minuscule amounts of energy. If it were a person, the i3 would be that beautiful billionaire scientist. But then I pictured the i3’s massive battery, which had barely made it through my 81-km ride, and a single thought shot through my brain: What’s SHE doing with HIM?
Why BMW Will Win at the Electric Car Game
Contrary to Peter Cheney's views at The Globe & Mail, Travis Hoium thinks BMW's foray into electric cars is a smart, forward-thinking move.
Motley Fool 22 Jul 2014
Electric vehicles are starting to gain steam in the marketplace, highlighted by Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA ) Model S and 2013's best-selling EV in the U.S., General Motors' (NYSE: GM ) Chevy Volt. But the strategies manufacturers follow often differ depending on who they are and where their target market lies.
General Motors has attempted to make electric vehicles for the masses, but has included a gas motor to ease the range anxiety that keeps many consumers from going electric. Tesla Motors, on the other hand, was able to rethink the vehicle from the ground up in designing the Model S as a sports car that can fit a family. As a result, it can command a price that can reach over $100,000 and sell out all the production it can make.
When you look at what EVs can offer the marketplace and where existing manufacturers are positioned, it isn't General Motors who is going to be a dominant player. The company that's set up for success more than GM and even Tesla looks to be BMW (NASDAQOTH: BAMXF ) . Just by the nature of its brand and vehicle lineup, BMW is ready to push the performance of electric vehicles to the next level. It brings a long history of innovation to the road, and its early success with two electric models provides a game plan for the future.
Performance is BMW's game
Everything about the electric vehicle industry screams BMW. Electric motors have higher torque than gasoline engines (i.e. they're quicker off the block), and the center of gravity of a vehicle can be lowered by strategically placing batteries (making it faster in turns). BMW has always pushed the edge of technology innovation in automobiles, so developing EVs is a natural extension for BMW and will fit well with its current customer base.
The plug-in hybrid BMW i8 is the first big step toward the future EVs for BMW, and in some ways can hold its own against Tesla's Model S today. The i8's 0-60 mph time of 4.4 seconds beats the standard Model S (5.4 seconds) and comes close to the Model S Performance (4.2 seconds). Top speed is 30 mph better than the Model S at 155 mph, but that's due to the gas engine that assists with top-end power. Give BMW another generation and further development of EV technology and it could build a rival to Tesla that's focused more on the sporty aspects of EVs than appealing to a wider market, as Tesla appears to be doing with the Model S and eventual Model X SUV.
BMW isn't yet competitive with Tesla on range, because the i8's 22-mile electric range, and even the i3's 100-mile range, can't stack up to the Model S's 265-mile range. But again, the next generation should bring advancements in that regard.
BMW has a chance to challenge Tesla in the high-performance EV market and it's a natural fit for the business. Whereas the performance that BMW can generate from EVs fits naturally with its brand and customer base, a company like GM is making more of a stretch. It's not the performance company that BMW is. Being a performance leader with customers that can afford to pay for a well-designed EV gives BMW a huge advantage.
Don't forget that this is BMW's first foray into EVs, and based on the response of customers it'll be a market the company can do well in. The i8 is sold out for its first-year production run (no word on how many are being produced) and the i3 reportedly sold 10,000 units before officially going on sale.
For BMW, the "i" line of products is also a proving ground for new technology. The i3 frame was built out of carbon fiber; it's expected to lead to the use of more carbon fiber in BMW's line of vehicles -- for example, the M-Series is offered with a carbon fiber roof.
BMW may not be betting its future on EVs but if the i3 and i8 perform as expected, EVS likely will become a growing piece of the company's sales pie. For investors, that opens up a whole new market and a new generation of customers to BMW's driving machine.
The product that could revolutionize the auto industry
A major technological shift is happening in the automotive industry. Most people are skeptical about its impact. Warren Buffett isn't one of them. He recently called it a "real threat" to one of his favorite businesses. An executive at Ford called the technology "fantastic." The beauty for investors is that there is an easy way to invest in this megatrend. Click here to access our exclusive report on this stock.
Travis Hoium has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends BMW, General Motors, and Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Tesla Motors.
My Weekend with BMW's i3 Electric Car
Darrell Etherington has never driven a BMW car, much less the i3 electric car and finds it 'feels like a car mature in both design and execution'.
Tech Crunch 11 Jul 2014
I’ve never driven a BMW, or an electric car, so I might have been an odd choice to test drive the new BMW i3, the German car maker’s all-electric hatchback, which packs the equivalent of 170 HP into its electric engine. But an unexpected reviewer might be the perfect candidate for an unexpected car.
The car, which was on limited display at CES back in January, is on sale as of May in the U.S. and should go on sale shortly in Canada. The version I drove features an optional range extender which adds around 90km of fuel-powered driving via a backup 650cc motor, but the base trim features only the electric motor, with an eight-module battery located along the length of the floor that delivers a maximum of 160km in normal mode, or up to 200km in Eco Pro or Eco Pro+ energy conservation modes.
While BMW had the technical ability to make a car with a 400km range, like those offered by some of its competitors, the company tells me that it wanted to emphasize the driving experience first, rather than squeeze every last little bit of range out of the battery. The result is an engine that doesn’t feel like what you’d expect from an electric car: the i3 can jump from 0 to 60km/h in under four seconds, and leaps to 100km/h in just over 7. Plus, it doesn’t shift like traditional engines, and gives you the full torque of the engine right from the get-go.
The work focused on delivering a premium driving experience really shows – the i3 has a whole lot of pep, with acceleration that will get your blood pumping and actually let you feel the Gs a bit on launch. On the highway, acceleration feels fast and powerful, but passengers claimed to not have even noticed we were going so fast before looking at the speedometer. Handling is tight and tuned as well, and the only time you’ll really remember that you’re in an electric car at all is when you let off the ‘gas’ and you feel the car slow quickly as if you’re braking, because it is.
BMW has included regenerative braking in the i3, so that it immediately begins to recoup charge the moment you take your foot off the accelerator. It takes a little getting used to, but the regenerative braking eventually feels almost better than the usual coasting system, since you don’t have to hammer on the brakes all the time to decelerate the vehicle. Plus, it’s fun hitting a hill and watching the range tick back up rather than go the other way.
Other cool features on the i3 include Park Assistant, which lets you parallel park simply by lining up next to a spot and holding a single button down for the duration of the maneuver, which the car handles on its own, as well as the intelligent cruise control, which will slow down and speed up (to your set maximum) depending on the speed of the car in front of you, to a trailing length you set with the in-car system, too. For this futuristic ride, these automated controls feel only natural, but they’re magic if you’ve never come across them before.
Inside, the BMW i3 is a curious mix of material, all designed to match the tastes of the car’s presumably eco-loving owner. There’s molded paneling created from a relative of the marijuana plant, bamboo wood in the dashboard, and leather tanned with the leftover grapes from the wine making process covering the seats. The entire passenger frame is made of carbon fiber, which offers up weight savings, and the suicide doors remove the need for center columns, saving more precious pounds. All of this benefits efficiency, giving the engine max power and range.
The exterior is made of lightweight polycarbonate panels, which have an eye-catching design. I was a big fan of the look, but others weren’t so sure. Overall, though, it either attracted high praise or only moderate disdain, and it’s definitely designed first and foremost to make an impression. Storage space via the rear hatch was adequate, but don’t look to this car as a major cargo hauler. It’s designed for city jaunts and has enough room for that, with a surprisingly spacious back seat for its size.
Driving an i3 is an interesting experience, one that takes some getting used to and that initially has you paranoid about your remaining charge and where you can get your next fix. BMW includes software that displays the nearest charging locations (most of which are free) on a map, either in-car or on your app, but I found myself mostly plugging into friends’ and family’s houses while visiting instead. Charging from a regular outlet is slower (12 hours vs. 4 or so at a dedicated charging point) but it’s also more convenient, and you can usually top up a decent amount during a fair-sized visit.
BMW knows people are thinking about range when they drive an electric vehicle, so there’s an upgrade feature that provides you with a “spider” diagram on a map, showing your max range, either in normal mode or in Eco Pro+. It’s one-way only, but it’s still better than having no clue where you might lose charge. The spider map mostly made me aware that I could never own an i3 as my sole vehicle – the main reason I have a car is to get out of the city to surrounding destinations up to (and sometimes beyond) 400km away, not to travel within it.
The i3 is perfect for those whose whole lives take place in a single urban environment, however, or for those who want a commuter car to complement another vehicle. It’s fun to drive, compact enough to park most places and yet spacious inside, packs plenty of entertainment options and ecologically friendly.
And at around $44,000 to start, it’s not too much more expensive than the Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt, but it comes with the BMW pedigree and attention to quality. The Tesla S exceeds the i3 in terms of performance and range, but it’s about $25,000 more expensive to start, too.
BMW tells me it’s also designed for longevity – the battery should last 10 years with at least a 70 percent charge capability remaining, and the modular design means individual pieces of it can be swapped out affordably in case of malfunction. There’s no reason the car itself shouldn’t last 20 years or more, also, and its design means it could easily find second life as a taxi or livery vehicle with a simple battery swap after its initial consumer service.
Electric cars are still in a nascent phase, despite having been around for a long time now, but BMW’s i3 feels like a car mature in both design and execution. It isn’t without its trade-offs, to be sure, but for the right driver, this is the perfect car, electric or otherwise.
How the i3 Compares to Tesla Model S
Model S owner David Nolan has chance to test drive the i3 and compares it to his Model S, finding the Germany 2+2 electric city car no competition.
Green Car Reports 11 Jul 2014
There's no way a frumpy-looking little 2+2 city car is going to challenge the mighty Tesla. I can't imagine anyone seriously cross-shopping the i3 and the Model S once the differences between the two cars become apparent.
But as the owner of a Tesla Model S (and a Chevy Volt), I was naturally intrigued by the new electric BMW.
The i3 is truly a landmark car: a serious mass-production offering (not just a "compliance car"), designed from the ground up as an electric vehicle, from one of the world's most highly regarded automobile companies.
But how does the i3 stack up from the point of view of a Model S veteran who's already accustomed to instant torque, regenerative braking, daily plugging-in, and all the other routines of e-car driving?
I took two test drives in new BMW i3 cars, totaling about 25 miles. Not enough for a thorough evaluation, of course, but enough to provide the following thoughts.
My first impression of the car is that it's really ugly. It sure doesn't look like a BMW.
As Nissan did with its Leaf, BMW apparently went out of its way to style the i3 as an oddball alternative car. "I'm different!" it screams.
But ugliness, like beauty, is only skin-deep. What's the i3 like under the skin?
*The i3 is quite peppy off the line.
The official 0-to-60-mph time is 7.1 seconds, and a BMW factory rep told me that, from 0 to 30 mph, the i3 was the quickest car the company makes. (He even talked a little trash to the driver of an M5 who happened to pull up during our discussion.)
But the i3's acceleration isn't in the same ballpark as the Model S. It can't touch the Tesla's effortless ear-flattening surge, which has been measured at just a hair above 4 seconds from 0 to 60 mph by several car magazines.
ALSO SEE: Skeptical German Reviewer Buys BMW i3 Electric Car: Likes The Car, Dislikes The Price
Yes, I know I've been terribly spoiled. When the Model S is your benchmark for acceleration, every other car is bound to disappoint. And the i3 does.
I'd rate the i3's acceleration feel as roughly comparable to my Chevy Volt in Sport mode. It's spritely, but hardly overwhelming.
*Regenerative braking is quite powerful.
It's noticeably stronger than than that of the Tesla Model S, which is saying something. I liked it.
But BMW should offer a choice of regen settings. The Tesla has a choice of "normal" or "low" regen, and the i3 should have at least that--if not more options.
*The i3 lacks a "creep mode."
That's the car's ability to move slowly forward when the driver's foot lifts off the brake, mimicking the behavior of a gasoline car with an automatic transmission.
The Tesla has a creep mode that can be turned on and off, and I've always kept mine on. But I found I liked the i3's complete-stop mode. It's inspired me to turn off the creep mode in the Tesla for a few days. We'll see how I like it.
Still, the i3 should offer drivers a choice of creep mode--as the Tesla does.
*The ride is a little jittery compared to the Model S.
Since the little BMW weighs fully a ton less than the Tesla (2600 pounds versus 4600 pounds), I didn't expect it to have a ride as smooth as the bigger car. And it doesn't.
While the Tesla drives like an ingot on rails, I found the i3's steering slightly nervous, requiring tiny adjustments even on smooth, straight roads.
BMW fans and driving-glove/heel-and-toe types may view this highly sensitive steering feedback as a good thing. I can see their point, but I don't agree.
*The i3 has no battery percentage-state-of-charge indicator.
I was disappointed by this. The i3 has only a vague horizontal bar divided into quarters. At least that's better than the Model S, which has no delineation at all on its battery state-of-charge bar.
*Efficiency was surprisingly mediocre during my two test drives.
With temperature in the 70s and a mix of moderately aggressive driving (60 to 70 mph on four-lane suburban roads, 30 to 40 mph two-lane city streets), I averaged just 3.7 miles per kilowatt-hour, according to the car's panel readout.
(I should note that I drove in "Comfort" mode, which provides full performance and climate control. Two other "Eco Pro" modes restrict these features to improve efficiency.)
A reading of 3.7 mi/kWh is the equivalent of about 270 watt-hours per mile, which is the unit the Tesla uses for its efficiency display.
Just a few days previously, I'd completed a 60-mile round trip in the Tesla, under similar temperature, speed, and road conditions, and averaged 290 kWh/mile.
It is astonishing and disappointing to me that the i3 would be only about 7 percent more efficient than a car that's nearly twice as heavy.
My efficiency number for the i3 correlates exactly with the EPA figure for the car, which is 27 kWh/100 miles. (To compare kWh/100 miles to Wh/mi, multiply by 10.)
But we must remember that the EPA efficiency rating is an out-of-the-wall-plug number that takes into account charging losses, which are typically 10 to 15 percent.
So the EPA number implies that the i3 should use about 240 wH/mile from its battery, on average. My test-drive number of 270 was a bit worse than that.
On the other hand, my real-world results for the Model S after 20,000 miles are better than its EPA number. The Tesla's official rating is 38 kWh/100 miles, or 380 Wh/mi.
That translates to about 340 Wh/mi from the battery. I have used an average of 330 Wh/mi over those 20,000 miles, ranging from roughly 290 in the summer to 370 in the winter.
EPA arcana aside, my brief first-hand experience seems to indicate that the i3 is only slightly more efficient than the much larger and more spacious Tesla.
For a second opinion, Tom Moloughney, a pioneering BMW i3 owner and blogger, has reported an average consumption of about 220 Wh/mi after 1,500 miles of driving his i3--most of those miles apparently in Comfort mode.
I can't explain the discrepancy between his 220 and my 270. Perhaps he's a more conservative driver than I am.
Or perhaps experienced electric-car owners develop a "feel" for driving our cars efficiently that can't be matched during a quick test drive in a new car.
The surprisingly small efficiency advantage I found of the i3 over the Model S may not be quite so surprising once you look at the i3's aerodynamics.
The sleek, low-slung Tesla has a drag coefficient (Cd) of 0.24, the lowest of any production car. The Cd for the shorter, chunkier i3 is 0.29. With its similar frontal area, the narrow-but-high i3 thus has roughly 20 percent more total aerodynamic drag than the Tesla.
The i3's light weight provides a huge efficiency advantage over the Model S in low-speed stop-and-go driving. (Compare its EPA city MPGe rating of 137 to the Tesla's 88.)
But at higher speeds, the super-slick Tesla closes the gap; the i3's highway MPGe rating of 111 is only a bit better better than the Tesla's 90.
So it looks like the faster you drive, the smaller the i3's efficiency advantage over the Tesla. At some point--I'm guessing around 80 mph--it may disappear altogether.
*Driver access is good--a lot better than the Tesla.
At 6'2", my main beef with my Model S is that it's hard to get in and out of. (The problem for me is that the B-pillar between the front and rear doors is about 3 inches too far forward, shrinking the front-door opening.)
The i3 stands higher off the ground and has a wider, taller door opening. Great for tall, creaky guys like me.
*Visibility in all directions is far better than the Model S.
I could actually see what was behind me when I backed up. Amazing. And with the four corners of the car so close, maneuvering in tight spaces was a breeze.
The long, wide-bodied Model S, on the other hand, feels like an aircraft carrier when you're trying to park it.
*Rear seat room is limited.
The Model S has full room for three adults in back, but the i3 is more like a 2+2.
With the driver's seat pushed all the way back, as needed for me to drive it comfortably, there's virtually no space for anyone's knees or feet back there.
And I didn't much like the "suicide" rear doors. It just seems silly that rear passengers can't let themselves out, but must be released from their imprisonment by some standing outside the car.
*Range is, by Model S standards, pathetic.
This is the main factor that keeps the BMW i3 from being any kind of serious competitor to the Tesla Model S.
All of BMW's engineering savvy, a clean sheet of paper, carbon-fiber reinforced plastic for the body shell, and the company comes up with an EPA range of......81 miles? Really?
When my range indicator reads 81 miles, I'm practically running on empty--I'm down to about 30 percent of battery capacity. And I've already driven almost 200 miles.
The bottom line
Overall, I found myself a bit underwhelmed by the 2014 BMW i3.
By no means can it be considered any kind of challenger to the Tesla Model S, which remains the best, most capable, and most capacious electric car sold today.
And in its extended-range i3 REx version, I have to wonder whether it could even stand up to the far-less-expensive Chevy Volt. (I'm currently trying to locate a BMW i3 REx for a side-by-side comparison.)
I'm also looking forward to driving the new Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive sometime soon.
Although it's an adaptation of an existing gasoline-powered vehicle, the battery-electric B-Series has a similar price to the i3, similar performance, far more conventional looks, and a range about 20 percent higher (courtesy of its Tesla-developed powertrain).
Has BMW's clean-sheet design and carbon-fiber technology for the i3 somehow gone for naught?
Sure, the i3 is likely 10 to 20 percent more efficient than the B-Class. But in real terms, that amounts to a "fuel" cost savings of perhaps half a cent per mile. In a typical month's driving, figure five bucks.
It's hard to view that as a big deal.
For now, the Tesla Model S remains secure in its position at the top of the electric-car pantheon. Competition from the i3? Hah!
Eight FAQs About the BMW i3 REx
BMW 'electronaut' Tom Moloughney continues his self-assigned mission of education others about his experiences with the new I3 REx ranged-extended electric car.
PluginCars 06 Jun 2014
Tom Moloughney, long-time EV driver and first owner of a BMW i3 with the range-extender option, answers fundamental questions about the car.
1 How is the BMW i3’s range-extending system different from the Chevrolet Volt and Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid?
The range extender on the BMW i3 works differently than systems on plug-in hybrids (that to varying degrees sometimes power the wheels from the engine). The rear-wheel-drive i3 is the only pure series plug-in hybrid currently available. The i3’s two- cylinder range-extender engine never mechanically drives its wheels. The Fisker Karma worked this way, but that vehicle is no longer in production.
2 Under what conditions does the gas engine come on?
In the United States, the range-extender turns on when the state of charge drops below 6 percent. Unlike the European version, the operator cannot manually turn on the engine to maintain a higher level of charge. In Europe, once the state of charge drops below 75 percent, the range extender can be turned on manually.
BMW eliminated this feature on U.S. models, so the i3 would qualify for the California Air Resources Board’s BEVx designation. While BMW never announced why they chose to eliminate the hold feature in favor of getting the BEVx designation, observers believe BMW took the step in order to get more ZEV credits per REx vehicle sold.
3 How does the driving experience change after the gas engine comes on?
So far, I’ve had the opportunity to drive my i3 for about 100 miles in charge sustaining mode. I intentionally didn’t charge it for a couple days so I could fully test the functionality with the range-extender operating. The power is slightly muted. I’d say maybe 85 percent of how it feels with a full charge.
When the range-extender turns on, you cannot hear it at all from inside the car because it initially runs in the lowest of the three power levels. If you continue to drive at speeds higher than 40 miles per hour, it will kick up to the next power level and you can then hear a low hum from inside the car. If you are driving at highway speeds, it will jump up to its highest (28kW) power output, and then you can definitely hear it. It’s nothing that you can’t overcome with the radio.
The REx turns off when you slow down to less than 15 mph, unless your state-of-charge is lower than 3 percent. I’m impressed by how well the little motor can sustain the charge. I’m convinced it can do whatever I need to do, and I will have no problem driving long distances with it running.
On level ground, the car can continuously sustain speeds up to 75 mph for as long as you need to drive. You have plenty of power to pass cars at that speed, and to climb hills that are a few miles long. There really aren’t any mountains in New Jersey where I live, so I haven’t tested driving up long steep inclines, but there is definitely a point where the range extender will not be able to maintain highway speeds.
If you exceed the range extender’s capability, it will slow down to 40 mph. At that speed, it can maintain just about any climb. I will be taking my i3 on a 230-mile trip to Vermont soon. Hopefully I can do some mountain testing there when I do. I haven’t noticed any difference in the handling when the REx running.
4 What's the top speed for the i3 before, and after use of gas engine?
The i3’s top speed in electronically governed at 93 mph. It pulls strongly all the way up there, with or without the range extender running. As noted above, it’s just slightly less powerful in charge sustaining mode.
5 How did BMW make its decisions about the of the i3’s engine and gas tank?
The i3 was not initially designed to have a range-extender. BMW added the feature after the car was more than a year into development. Perhaps that had something to do with what size motor they could fit, but that is just an educated guess.
The size of the gas tank is another thing entirely. In the United States, the i3 REx has a 1.9-gallon tank, and the European version uses a 2.4-gallon tank. The 1.9-gallon tank for the US was announced only weeks before the i3 launch. The reason for the reduced size is probably tied to the BEVx designation that BMW clearly wanted the car to attain. BMW has not confirmed the reason for the reduced tank size.
One of the qualifications of the BEVx certification is the vehicle’s all-electric range must be greater than its gasoline range. Again, this is speculation, but if the i3’s electric range was certified by CARB at lower than BMW expected, that would explain the need to reduce the range when running on gasoline.
Personally, this isn’t an issue for me. I’ll be using the range-extender only on those rare days when my electric range is just slightly insufficient. It’s a good backup strategy, and allows me to not even think about those times when I’m pushing the limit of the car’s range.
6 Should drivers think of the gas engine as a way to extend range to 160 miles—or only as a backup to an 80-mile EV?
I’m not going to tell anyone how to use his or her car. I don’t think there is one simple answer. I believe there will be people that routinely drive their i3 REx 130 to 160 miles and more, and don’t mind filling up frequently when they need to. I can say this about filling up: with such a small tank, you pull in, fill up and pull out of a gas station in about two minutes.
There will be others that see filling up every 50 or 60 miles as too cumbersome. Perhaps the car isn’t the right choice for them. A Volt may be a better PHEV for some people that frequently need to cover hundreds of miles in a day, or live in a mostly mountainous region. For daily driving of less than 150 miles or so, it works great.
7 Given the unique i3 system, how does it affect incentives and perks like carpool access?
The i3 REx, like the Volt, Plug-in Prius and other PHEVs qualifies for California’s Green HOV access sticker, which is currently not available. The 40,000 allocated green stickers PHEVs have been exhausted. However, AB 2013 proposes to make 45,000 more stickers available, and is currently headed to the California Senate for vote.
Washington State recently announced the i3 REx would qualify as a zero emission vehicle and therefore gets exempt from sales tax there.
BMW i3 sales in New Jersey were also scheduled to be tax-exempt. But just after BMW began selling the i3 in New Jersey, it was announced that the i3 with range-extender would indeed have to pay sales tax. The BEV i3 doesn’t. That essentially doubles the price of the $3,850 REx option, making it nearly an $8,000 option in New Jersey. That is likely to hurt i3 REx sales in the Garden State.
8 Is the i3 REx approach a stopgap measure, or should it be considered a long-term strategy across the EV market?
I believe other manufacturers will adopt the range-extender approach. However I believe it is a short-term measure. (Maybe 10 years?) As battery chemistry advances and energy density improves, electric vehicles will have continually better electric range.
That, combined with increased DC quick charge stations, will make the range-extender unnecessary. Tesla and Nissan are doing the lion’s share of the work getting these fast charge stations installed. It’s about time some of the other carmakers join in.
The i3 is only the first electric vehicle to emerge from the new BMW i brand. More vehicles are already far along in development. It’s my hope that BMW recognizes the need for DCQC infrastructure, and follows Tesla and Nissan. If the combo-cord fast charge standard has any chance of gaining traction in the US, it will be up to BMW to take the lead. It is the only manufacturer currently selling a serious (not a low-volume compliance-only) electric vehicle that uses the combo cord. In my opinion, the proliferation of DC quick charge is absolutely necessary if we are going to get off petroleum, and make a transition to electrified transportation. A small, efficient range-extender like the i3 will work for many people today. It's a great step until battery range grows and more quick charging is installed.
BMW Comes to Environmental Defense of Its Carbon Fiber Strategy
With the launch of the i3 and i8 e-cars, BMW critics complain that is use of carbon fiber is anything buy eco-friendly. Here's the German carmaker's defense.
Wards Auto 27 May 2014
MOSES LAKE, WA – While it’s being hailed as a wonder product for automakers that need to put their performance models on a diet, carbon fiber has its naysayers.
Critics charge the lightweight material’s oftentimes-long supply chain, with the source product usually originating in Japan, is anything but eco-friendly.
But BMW, the auto industry’s leading proponent of carbon fiber, looks at its models containing the material more holistically.
Klaus Draeger, BMW’s head of purchasing, acknowledges the i3 electric vehicle, for instance, does have a higher carbon footprint if one looks only at the elements it takes to bring the car to life.
“If you take together the battery, the carbon fiber, the aluminum and what is on the car, you start slightly worse than a conventional car,” he tells WardsAuto here during an event at BMW supplier SGL’s carbon-fiber plant.
“But by using much less energy during driving, the carbon emissions over the lifetime of an i3 is better than a conventional car…and if you drive the car during the lifespan with renewable energy it is actually much better,” says Draeger, who previously oversaw R&D of BMW’s i electrified models.
Not needing a paint shop for the i3 and i8, whose thermoplastic body panels are infused with color, is another way in which the i3 and i8 are greener than conventional automobiles, a BMW spokesman says.
The German automaker could source carbon fiber from anywhere in the world, Draeger acknowledges, but chose a location here, about three hours east of Seattle for two different green reasons.
Moses Lake is near the Columbia River, whose dams produce cleaner hydropower for the region.
But this electricity also has the benefit of being more affordable than German-made renewable energy, Draeger notes.
A 2013 fact sheet by the Port of Moses Lake cites an average industrial power rate of $0.03 cents per kWh, compared with $0.04-cent average for the state of Washington.
While Germany has one of the most extensive and admired renewable energy infrastructures in the world it comes at a high cost, largely due to taxation.
Those living in Berlin, for instance, paid as much as $0.30 per kWh in April, according to energy think tank VaasaETT, although industries usually enjoy a slightly lower rate than residential customers.
While German renewable energy is pricey, that hasn’t dissuaded BMW from assembling the i models in its home country.
The i3 and i8 both are built in Leipzig, and BMW is using renewable energy there, too.
Draeger says BMW has installed four wind turbines at the plant, and they provide more than 50% of the energy needed for the cars’ production.
Meanwhile, Draeger says the automaker plans to use all 9,000 tons (8,165 t) of carbon fiber annually set to come from SGL in Moses Lake. However, he isn’t unwilling to share.
“Our prognosis currently shows that we will need all this (that) we are producing here,” he says. “But, of course, if there were to be some overcapacity, we could think about (sales to other automakers) as well.”
For now BMW is mum on what models next will see carbon fiber used. The next-generation 7-Series has been reported to be a likely candidate. Draeger says the material is suitable for application in all segments in which BMW currently competes.
“I wouldn’t rule out (anything),” he says.
BMW i3: The Best Worst Car He's Ever Driven
Daily Star reviewer George Fowler reports on his trying week with the BMW i3 electric car and despite early misgivings comes away loving it.
Daily Star/UK 25 May 2014
In fact, if gas-guzzling rocket ships are only going to exist at museums and freak shows - and I strongly suspect that is where they are heading - then the BMW i3 has got to be the best.
It's inevitable that we will run out of oil. Experts predict that it will all be gone in 40 years and that in the next 25 years oil will have become so scarce and expensive that production will have fallen to just a fifth of what it is today.
What happens then? Well, the deserts will be even more barren than they are now and, unless they've invested wisely, the Ferrari set will be swapping their oilfields for sand.
There is hope, however, and it comes with electric cars like the Toyota Prius, the Nissan Leaf, the Honda Insight and the subject of today's star-studded Motormouth column, the BMW i3.
Yep, BMW have seen the scary shape of things to come and like every major car maker they've been investing in the future.
There's still a long way to go, but there is time, and if the i3 is what we've got to look forward to then there's no need to worry.
Let's junk one myth straight away. It is that electric cars will never be fast enough for people used to explosive petrol power. Well, the i3 is astonishingly quick and smooth. Fair enough, its top speed of 98mph may be pathetic compared to most cars, but it's still way above the speed limit in the majority of countries and most drivers don't want to go any faster than that anyway.
However, its 0-60mph time of just 7.0s is quite staggering considering it's no more than a roomy family runabout.
That's thanks to its hugely powerful 170hp electric motor. It really does pin you to the seats as it flies away in complete silence at the same rate as an E-Type Jag back in the 1960s. See where I'm going? If we can progress that much in 55 years how far can we go in the next 20, given the fact that technology has left cars like the E-Type in the dark ages? Sadly, there is still one fact that is anything but a myth, and it is that electric cars just don't have the range to make them more than expensive commuter cars.
Power The i3 I drove would take you just 80 miles before it needed at least four hours back on its fast-charging lead to get you another 80 miles. And it would take all night if you plugged it into a standard socket.
That's not good enough. You don't want to spend 30 grand only to find that you've got to have an old fashioned petrol polluter stuck in the garage for when you need to go more than 40 miles- remember you'd like to get back, too.
Companies are working on power sources such as hydrogen fuel cells, lithium-iron and even liquid metal, and a lot of it is shared technology so new ideas won't be exclusive to just one car maker.
It's generally expected that battery powered cars with a 200-mile range will be on the market by 2020, but for now we've got to do with cars like the i3.
Mine came with a "range extender" - a tiny 650cc, twin cylinder engine that sprang into almost silent life when the batteries ran low to give it enough charge for an extra 80 miles.
It knocked nearly a second of the standard car's 0-60mph time but it's worth every penny for an extra £3,000 and makes the i3 the best electric car on the market.
I hated it at first because unlike other electric cars it's so odd to drive, but once I'd got used to it I loved it.
It jerks forward, then slams on an invisible brake as you try to keep the ride smooth, but once you get used to it you realise there's almost no need whatsoever for that pedal next to the accelerator.
That's because the electric engine slows the car down almost as quickly as it gets it moving.
As for the rest? Well it's so weird looking it reminds you of a Tonka toy, but it's hugely equipped, extremely airy and pleasant to be in.
Despite its good points, though, BMW's marketing morons give buyers a choice of "interior worlds" rather than just interiors. Choose from Standard, Loft, Lodge or Suite.
I'm pretty sure mine came in "Lodge" because it looked like a beaver's bedroom, with lots of grainy woodbark trim.
If there's anything more you need to know about the i3 you'll have to go and see one.
And if you want to know about the future, you'll have to wait.
First Impressions: BMW i3 REx
Tom Moloughney takes delivery of the first BMW i3 REx electric car with a range-extender engine.
Green Car Reports 25 May 2014
This past Wednesday, May 21, I picked up my shiny new 2014 BMW i3 REx range-extended electric car from JMK BMW in Springfield, New Jersey.
The car, in Laurel Grey, was the first range-extended i3 delivered in North America, and I will always appreciate that BMW gave me the honor of being the first delivery. More than two years ago, I had been selected to receive the first BMW ActiveE delivery, also a great honor.
Over the next year, I'll be writing a series of articles that document my experiences and thoughts owning the i3 REx. My goal is to report back about every 5,000 miles. I'm happy to take suggestions for specific tests and pictures that readers here would like to see.
Today, I'll discuss my initial impressions after two whole days of owning the first electric car in the U.S. to be fitted with an optional range extender--unlike the Chevrolet Volt, Fisker Karma, and Cadillac ELR, in which the range-extending engine comes standard.
First, I'd be remiss if I didn't discuss the i3's appearance. It has been called everything from ugly through polarizing to award-winning. In fact, it did indeed win the World Car Design of the Year award--but for many people it is just too "un-BMW-like" for their taste.
I'll acknowledge that it doesn't have the sexy lines of a Ferrari, but I don't think it's ugly at all--and I also believe (as many others have pointed out) that it looks better in person than in pictures.
The interior is a totally different story. I really love what BMW has done with the interior design. The seats are comfortable and the interior seems almost Tardis-like: Somehow the i3 feels as if it has more interior room than its small size should allow. It certainly has much more room than my ActiveE (based on the BMW 1-Series), and the company says its interior volume is nearly as great as that of a 3-Series.
That's surprising when you consider how much shorter an i3 is (157 inches) against a 1-Series (172 inches), let alone the 3-Series (183 inches). No doubt the i3's height and large windows help here. The net result is a feeling that you're driving a much bigger car than you actually are.
Extensive use of carbon fiber and aluminum lets the lightweight i3 run on a relatively small battery (21.6 kilowatt-hours of capacity, with 18.8 kWh usable) and gives it an EPA range rating of 81 miles. My REx version, which is heavier, was rated at 72 miles per charge. And so far, that rating seems pretty accurate.
I got 83 miles on Thursday before the REx turned on, but that required efficient driving and keeping my highway speed down to 65mph.
Later that day, when I was driving normally, it turned on after 69 miles--so I suspect the 72-mile EPA rating is about what I should expect under normal conditions in mild weather. When the winter rolls around, I'll be sure to report how much impact the cold temperatures and snow have on the range.
One positive aspect of having a small battery is that it recharges quickly. The i3 can charge at up to 7.4 kilowatts, and I've observed it charging at my house at a rate of roughly 6.9 kW. Even when fully discharged to the 6-percent level at which the range extender turns on, it will recharge fully in about three and a half hours.
It charged to 90 percent in less than 3 hours, but that last 10 percent takes nearly 40 minutes as the charge rate tapers off to prevent overcharge in any of the cells. This is common in electric cars; I noted the same rate drop on both my BMW ActiveE and the MINI E that preceded it.
So far, the driving experience has lived up to my expectations. The BMW i3 s definitely much quicker than my ActiveE was, and the handling seems very good.
I drove it for about an hour at highway speeds in pelting rains last night, and it felt very well planted on the pavement--and never seemed to lose any grip.
I suspect the i3's tall, narrow tires will perform very well in wet and snowy conditions, but I have yet to really push them on dry pavement. I plan to do just that, soon!
Importantly, I had the opportunity to give the range extender its first workout.
I took my new i3 out on New Jersey's Interstate 80, and drove it west, almost from the George Washington Bridge (connecting to New York City) to the Delaware Water Gap on the other side of the state. I stayed almost entirely at highway speeds--from 65 mph to 80 mph--and most of the time it was raining.
On that trip, the range extender came on after 69 miles--and I didn't even hear it when it did. I actually got worried that it wasn't working, because I hadn't heard it come on, but after a few minutes I realized the bar graph that showed the battery's state of charge had stopped falling. That meant the REx range extender must be holding the battery charge at a steady state.
I drove for about 35 miles with the REx running before I left the highway to test the BMW i3 on secondary roads. I carried my speed from 65 mph to 80 mph, and the car never flinched. Running on the range extender, it felt about 85 percent as powerful as it did in full electric mode--and, crucially, it was easily capable of accelerating and passing even at those speeds.
Once the REx had been on for a few minutes, I started to hear it as it revved up to a higher output. It seems there may be three distinct power levels, and after driving at high speeds for a while, it kicked into its higher speed to generate more electricity. You could then hear it running from inside the cabin--but with the radio on, it is barely noticeable and really only sounds like a slight background hum.
When you slow down to less than 15 mph, the REx shuts off unless battery charge is very low (I would guess less than 3 percent of usable capacity), but you'll have to drive it hard to get the battery that low, because the REx provides enough energy to let the battery hold the minimum charge level well. I tried to overwhelm it with high-speed driving, although I wasn't able to because of the rain and traffic.
All in all, I drove 115 miles (69 miles in all-electric mode, plus 46 miles more with the REx running). The car performed flawlessly, and other than the slight hum you can hear inside when the range extender operates at its high speed, you wouldn't even know the i3 wasn't running all electric.
I'll be testing my new car a lot more, but as far as I'm concerned, this should lessen worries and talk about any kind of "limp mode" from an overwhelmed range extender.
I'm personally convinced the car can do anything in extended-range mode that I need it to do, without compromise. I think customers are going to love the feature, especially in the U.S. where we drive longer distances. That said, I am sure I will be able to overwhelm the REx if I set out to do so--and I plan to do just that in testing soon.
Also, the route I was on had hills and downgrades, but it certainly wasn't severe mountain driving, which may have an effect on what the REx can and can't do. Clearly the range extender will have some limits, but for how I'll use the car, I'm certain it can do what I want without problems--including regular 230-mile journeys to my in-laws in Vermont.
Other than having to stop to fill the 1.9-gallon gas tank three or four times on longer trips like those, I'm sure the i3 will be fine, even if the final portion of that trip is mostly uphill. Filling the tank will likely take me all of three minutes, so once-an-hour stops aren't likely to bother me much.
If I were doing those kinds of trips every day, though, I would likely choose a different plug-in hybrid or range-extended vehicle--a Chevy Volt, for instance--but for long trips that happen every month or two, this will work just fine.
Take a good look at the pictures, because in the next photos you'll see, the car will look totally different: Today, I'm taking it for a full body wrap. That shop is more than 130 miles away, so once again, I'll get to test out the REx.
Stay tuned for my next update, and please post any information you'd like to see in my next installment.
BMW Brings DriveNow Electric Carshare to Bay Area
Using ActiveE electric cars based on BMW 1 Series, DriveNow charges a one-time fee of $39; you then pay $12 for the first half hour and $0.32 for each additional driving minute.
Business Insider 23 May 2014
BMW's car-sharing service, called DriveNow, is adding 80 cars to its fleet in the Bay Area, and starting this month, it will offer street parking spots in the Mission District in San Francisco.
That means that you don't have to drop the car off in a dedicated lot, as you would with, say, Zipcar. Instead, the car will tell you when you're in an approved drop-off zone, which is between Potrero Avenue and Folsom Street and between 16th and 26th streets.
"We're starting in certain streets in the Mission District, and on those streets, we only have to contend with street cleaning," Dana Goldin, DriveNow's chief marketing officer, told Business Insider. "So right now we're avoiding meters and we're avoiding residential permit areas."
After you drop off the car, push the "End Booking" button, and all you have to worry about is avoiding a street cleaning ticket. You can also drop the car off in one of the 17 DriveNow stations, located around the Bay Area, including Palo Alto and both the San Francisco and Oakland airports.
"On the website, in the app, and in the car, you can view the DriveNow drop-off zone," Goldin said.
And one-way dropoffs are allowed, which makes for a way cheaper ride than taking a taxi to the airport.
DriveNow charges a one-time fee of $39; you then pay $12 for the first half hour and $0.32 for each additional driving minute. If you park or charge the car during the rental period, you only pay $0.13 per minute. You can also pay by the day.
Let's all just get along
Although it may seem that DriveNow is gunning after Zipcar, that's not necessarily the case, said Richard Steinberg, CEO of DriveNow USA. With Zipcar, you reserve the car further in advance and it's up to the drivers to return the cars to the appropriate spot when their time is up.
But DriveNow allows you to use the car as you need it: you can book the car just 15 minutes in advance.
"We're not necessarily giving you the same liability or guarantee that Zipcar does, but we give you the spontaneity," Steinberg told Business Insider. "We believe the two services are complementary: their service makes sense in certain instances, and our services makes sense in other instances."
Luxurious, eco-friendly cars
The fleet consists of 70 BMW ActiveE all-electric cars, which are based on the BMW 1 Series Coupe. They have a range of about 100 miles before they need to be charged.
I didn't get a chance to test-drive the ActiveE, but I did get a chance to take the similar i3 out for a spin. The i3 is the next phase in BMW's "Project i" program, which aims to develop a lightweight, eco-friendly electric car for city dwellers. People field tested and gave their feedback on the ActiveE, and BMW followed up with the i3.
The i3 offered a smooth ride and cool looks. The body is made of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic, and the inside is made of recycled and eco-friendly materials.
Looking forward, DriveNow looks to expand its number of cars, so that there could be a DriveNow car on every block. It just added 80 cars to its fleet, bringing the total to 150 in the Bay Area.
DriveNow and its street parking component is already a success in Germany, where they have around 2,350 cars in the fleet.
It wants to extend street parking to include areas of Bernal Heights, Haight Ashbury, Noe Valley, NOPA, Alamo Square, and Potrero Hill in San Francisco by 2014 — all parts of the city that allow DriveNow to stay within parking regulations.
"Street parking has been a challenge for us, because that's our true business model," Goldin says. "So we took a hybrid approach with having stations here first, and then we want to open up more street parking."
DriveNow here in the U.S. is based on how it works in Germany, where there's basically a car on every block. "Pretty much anywhere you are, you're going to find a car," Steinberg said. "And that's the model we're basing it on."
Test Drive: BMW i3 Electric City Car
John Goreham finds the i3 'only practically sized electric car in the US market that actually drives in a way I can call acceptable and enjoyable...'
Torque News 05 May 2014
BMW has created its own space in the EV market in terms of price and content, but does this car actually drive and feel like a BMW? The answer is interesting.
Drive the new BMW i3 for less than a mile and you will understand why the car has a great chance to sell in whatever numbers BMW wants to make it in. Having driven and written about the BMW Active e, Tesla Model S, Honda Fit EV, and Nissan Leaf, I know and understand that EVs need to balance acceleration, cost, range and other factors. Unlike a gasoline powered car, EVs cannot have it all, even with massive financial support from you, the taxpayer. BMW has tipped the scales in an interesting way this author thinks will work.
Unlike the Honda Fit EV and Nissan Leaf, this new BMW i3 accelerates smartly from a stop, and keeps on accelerating if the driver wants it to. BMW is always conservative with performance numbers, but says the car will go from 0-60 in 7.2 seconds. It feels faster. In my opinion, BMW gave this car exactly the right amount of power. It has less dramatic acceleration than a Tesla Model S, but who cares? The Model S in its most commonly purchased form is more car than anyone really needs on public roads. The BMW i3 does not pretend to be more than a great passenger car. On the highway, where torque is the secondary factor to power, the i3 still has the pickup one needs to feel as if they are driving a premium automobile with guts. While on on-ramps it has much more pickup than you will need, and even better, it has as much as you will actually want.
I liked how the car steered. It is light in your hands (like a car with lots of power steering “boost”). The steering is laser sharp around town and on the highway. It is very direct. Let’s remember that this is a passenger car, not a sports car. If you accept that, as the vast majority of real-life drivers do, then this car handles well. I won’t comment on how it feels “at the limit.” People don’t drive passenger cars “at the limit.” I did not perform any emergency maneuvers but it sure felt like it would do fine, and a whole lot better than any truck, SUV, or large affordable car would.
The suspension is OK. I’d give it a B. It seems to handle bumps OK, but it was more harsh than I would expect a luxury car to be. Bumps that it was not able to absorb well rattled the structure more than I like. There is no B pillar in this car. The two side doors open opposite ways and the car is open like a clam shell when both are open. I swear I heard the door rattle over one set of bumps that were typical for this area (Northeast). Try it yourself and decide. One thing is for sure, it is not the mushy bland econobox feel of a Leaf, and it sure as heck is not sport-lux like a Tesla Model S. It is nicely in between.
Most EVs use the “one pedal” driving style. This means when you lift off the accelerator the car slows dramatically. I am not bothered by it. Some may be. You decide. The upside of this is that when you lift, you put energy into the battery. When I used the brakes they felt solid and I liked the pedal feel.
One thing that did bother me a little was the A pillar. Due to the car’s structure it is way out in front of you and seems very thick. It was in my line of sight at intersections and when I turned the car. I found myself trying to look around it. This cannot be helped given the i3’s odd boxy design. I loved the seating position in general, but like the BMW X1 I drove recently, I am too big a human for the seat. I am 6 feet and 195 pounds. If you are smaller this may not be a problem for you. To add some perspective, I tested the Mazda3 last week and it fit me great. It is rare I find myself too big for a car.
To me this car is not at all what I think of as a BMW. The one thing BMW has left now after moving away from perfect small sedans with silky-smooth, in-line 6-cylinder, normally aspirated engines, is that unique solidity. All that unites BMWs now in my mind is that special German “solid as a rock” feel. This BMW does not have that. The only thing I can come up with for you that makes this car “a BMW” is its price point. It has none of the same character, none of that special something that all BMWs present to you when you drive them. It is its own thing. Not a bad thing mind you.
This is a driving impressions review so I will not offer my thoughts or opinions about the i3 in other ways such as safety, looks, value, quality, expected reliability, green credentials, etc. However, I do have to comment on the complete lack of a spare tire. The car uses tires the likes of which you have not seen on a car before now. Very tall, very narrow (see photo), and they are not run-flats. Due to where I live, on the roads I travel, I will not buy a passenger car without a spare of some kind. These completely unique BMW i3 tires will not be in stock anyplace local, with the possible exception of a BMW dealership (maybe). You have been warned.
Before any taxpayer money is given back to you, a base i3 starts at about $41k. That gets you a car with no back-up camera and lots of stuff missing you might expect at that price point. A loaded i3 with range extender runs about $53K. Like Nissan, BMW has a lease program that seems inviting. The BMW sales representative I spoke to says that orders are being taken now, inventory is near zero, and cars are likely to start arriving in June. He did not know for certain, but he thought that BMW would at some future point expect dealerships to stock i3s on their floors. I would not expect that to be any time in 2014.
I drove this car at a public event hosted by BMW. There were throngs of EV and BMW fans in attendance, and some were simply dying to have an i3. Once it gets established in its supply chain, and if BMW wants to produce this vehicle to meet customer demand, I will be shocked if it cannot outsell both the Leaf and Tesla Model S. This is the only practically sized electric car in the US market that actually drives in a way I can call acceptable and enjoyable, other than the two or three times more expensive Tesla Model S.
BMW to Showcase X5 Concept with eDrive at NY Auto Show
BWM Concept X5 eDrive preview slated for 2014 New York International Autoshow
Sports Car Illustrated 13 Apr 2014
BMW is using the New York International Auto Show 2014 to roll out the BMW Concept X5 eDrive.
The BMW Concept X5 eDrive fuses xDrive intelligent all-wheel-drive system and a plug-in hybrid drive system. A conventional combustion engine works together with the BMW eDrive technology to produce a significant reduction in fuel consumption. As a result, the car is able to drive on electric power alone at speeds of up to 120 km/h (75 mph) and for a distance of up to 30 kilometres (approx. 20 miles), while recording average fuel consumption figures of less than 3.8 l/100 kilometres (more than 74.3 mpg imp) in the EU test cycle.
The concept study underwent a series of detailed refinements in preparation for its appearance at the New York International Auto Show and is equipped with a drive system comprising a 180 kW/245 hp four-cylinder petrol engine with BMW TwinPower Turbo technology and a 70 kW/95 hp electric motor likewise developed by the BMW Group.
The motor is supplied with power from a lithium-ion battery that can be charged from any domestic socket and has sufficient capacity to enable all-electric driving with zero local emissions for a range of up to 30 kilometres (approx. 20 miles). To ensure a high level of crash safety, the high-voltage battery developed for the BMW Concept X5 eDrive is housed underneath the luggage compartment, whose everyday usability remains virtually uncompromised thanks to the 40:20:40 split-folding rear backrest and an almost level loading floor.
In addition to the settings that can be activated using the BMW Driving Experience Control switch, three driving modes can be selected according to requirements and the situation at hand: intelligent hybrid drive with an optimal relationship between sportiness and efficiency (AUTO eDrive), pure electric and thus local emission-free driving (MAX eDrive) and SAVE Battery to maintain the current charge level.
In order to capitalize on the efficiency of its electrified powertrain, the Concept X5 eDrive is designed as a plug-in hybrid, allowing its high-voltage battery’s energy levels to be renewed from any domestic power socket, a special Wallbox that can handle higher currents, or at a public high-speed charging station. The Wallbox Pro is designed for installation in the customer’s garage and offers complete ease of use as well as exceptionally short battery recharging times, thanks to a maximum charging rate of 7.4 kW. It is controlled by means of a high-resolution touchscreen including proximity sensor, while LED light strips provide an additional indication of the charge status. The built-in load management facility governs the charging current in accordance with the current draw on the household electricity supply. The Wallbox Pro even makes it possible to use home-generated electricity, such as that obtained from solar panels. There is also a function for creating different user profiles and displaying the respective charging histories. On request, the corresponding data can be sent online for billing purposes.
A number of styling touches have been incorporated into the exterior design to underline the character of the BMW Concept X5 eDrive. The kidney grille bars, air intake bars and the insert in the rear bumper are all finished in the BMW i Blue colour developed for the BMW i brand creating a contrast to the Silverflake metallic exterior paintwork. The BMW Concept X5 eDrive also comes with body-colored wheel arches, specially styled roof rails, a connector for the charging cable which lights up during charging, as well as 21-inch light-alloy wheels in an exclusive design.
Inside, light blue double-felled seams adorn the Ivory White leather upholstery covering the seats, door trim panels and dashboard. Further highlight features of the interior include the Piano Finish Black interior trim with blue accent strips, “eDrive” lettering embossed in the front of the headrests, ambient lighting with a blue hue, and an eDrive button that is also illuminated in blue. In the luggage compartment lined in black velour, a transparent cover, again illuminated in blue, affords a clear view of the high-voltage battery for the electric motor.
'Range Extender' Version of BMW i3 Is 'Electric Dream'
John Simister comes away thoroughly impressed by BMW's i3 electric car, concluding 'if this is the future, it's fine by me.'
Independent/UK 31 Mar 2014
This I had not expected. I am lined up next to a V8-engined BMW M3, 420bhp about to burst forth into its rear wheels, as we wait to be flagged off on a sprint along the longest straight at Brands Hatch. I am in a BMW of a different letter but the same number, an i3. My car is a piece of electric-powered, urban-cool futurism. So what can possibly be the point? To see an i3 on a racetrack seems entirely irrelevant, given that it's all about sustainable transport, zero emissions, intricate schemes gaining you favoured access to charging points, parking spaces. Then the flag drops.
Price: from £28,830
Engine: Electric, 170bhp; petrol, 37bhp
Transmission: Single-speed, clutchless, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 93mph, 0-62 in 7.9 secs, CO2 13g/km
Range: approx 90 miles electric only, 180 miles total
Perhaps the BMW-employed M3 driver isn't trying as hard as he should, but the fact is, the halo-wearing i3 takes off like it's been given an electric shock and all but keeps station with the M3 up to 50mph or so. And it makes practically no noise in the process.
Electric cars are worthy creations, and to be encouraged for the benefit of the planet. But so far they have not been able to go very far without needing a time-consuming recharge. They also tend to be heavy and not very thrilling to drive.
The i3 is different, and might represent the electric watershed. How? For an electric car, it's light: 1,195kg, or 1,315kg for the range-extender version; it makes the most of an electric motor's ability to deliver a punch of power as soon as you press the accelerator; unlike with some rivals, batteries are included in the price; and it looks brilliant.
It sits quite high, for a start, on 19in wheels shod with skinny tyres. Artful flashes of black and blue suggest technical nonconformity, as does the curious rift-valley drop in the waistline as it passes through the rear-hinged rear doors. With all doors open, there's wide, unobstructed access to a roomy cabin, with no central pillars. The interior fittings are lightweight but solid and of good quality, while the floor is flat and the rear seats fold down.
If your i3 has just the 170bhp electric motor, mounted under the rear floor, it will typically go 100 miles before needing a recharge. This lighter i3 will also hit 62mph in just 7.2 seconds. If you have the range-extender version, which adds a 647cc, 37bhp engine that powers a generator to help recharge the battery pack, you'll be able to drive for maybe 180 miles.
The range-extender i3 goes 470.8mpg with 13g/km CO2, but unlike a Vauxhall Ampera, a range-extender with a much bigger engine, you will always have to plug your i3 into the mains when the range is used up. The extra weight also dulls the pace slightly, but it still does a very punchy 7.9 seconds to 62mph.
Perhaps the best thing about the i3, though, is that it's thoroughly good fun to drive once you've learnt its ways. It squirts through traffic with a mere flex of the right ankle, and slows down almost as vigorously when you take your foot off the accelerator to trigger the regenerative braking (and the brake lights). The brake pedal itself is used rarely, but you have to be careful to ease the accelerator precisely when slowing because there's none of the sense of momentum of a normal car.
Beyond that, it steers, rides and handles corners as you would expect of a small BMW, and the pleasure of driving it dismisses notions of self-sacrificing piety. If this is the future, it's fine by me.
BMW Offers i3 Range-Extender As Cure for 'Range Anxiety'
600 CC, 25kW gasoline engine option effectively doubles the driving range of BMW's i3 electric car.
Cosmos Magazine 18 Mar 2014
Sales should rise rapidly thanks to the game-changing series hybrid design recently released to the market. Alan Finkel explains how it works.
1. The car’s body panels are made from a carbon fibre plastic composite, a lightweight alternative to metal that offsets the weight of the battery pack.
2. Tall, skinny tyres have the same sized contact patch with the road as conventional tyres, but lower drag through the air.
3. Lithium batteries under the car’s floor hold 22 kilowatt hours of energy, typically enough to power the car on electricity alone for 150 km, BMW claims.
4. The i3’s 125 kilowatt electric motor, which revs at up to 11,400 rpm, drives the car’s rear wheels. Lifting off the accelerator pedal instantly switches the motor into generator mode, feeding energy back into the battery.
5. The tiny petrol-powered 25 kilowatt range-extender engine is not connected to the wheels. Its sole job is to charge the battery.
In 1900, America’s roads resonated with the sound of whirring electrical cars, only occasionally jolted by the roar of a petrol engine. Fifteen years later the orchestration reversed: electric cars had vanished. A conspiracy by the petroleum trade? No. It was the buyers. They suffered from range anxiety: a fear of being stranded with a flat battery.
But this August, BMW offered the world a cure. The i3 is the first of its kind. It is a fully electric car but can be equipped with a small petrol tank – not for running the motor but for running an electric generator that cuts in as needed to top up a flattening battery.
Today’s electric cars are a dramatic improvement on their forebears – more responsive and faster and, if powered by low-emissions electricity, much greener than petrol or diesel cars. But range anxiety has inhibited sales the same way as it did at the turn of last century.
High-powered, quick-charge recharging stations are an alternative. But the process still takes around an hour.
Numerous cures have been attempted. The now defunct Israeli company “Better Place” came up with the idea of battery swap stations. Three minutes after driving in, your empty battery would be swapped for a fully charged one. Sounds perfect, but carmakers did not come to the party to fit their vehicles with the standard battery required to make this viable. High-powered, quick-charge recharging stations are an alternative. But the process still takes around an hour, far too long for consumers used to two-minute petrol stops. Massive batteries are another approach. Tesla’s Model S can drive 450 km on a single charge. But that still won’t get you from Melbourne to Sydney, and big batteries are heavy and expensive.
Toyota’s Prius and GM’s Volt solved range anxiety but they are not 100% electric cars: they have a hybrid of a petrol engine and an electric motor known as a “parallel hybrid”. A computer toggles between them. At normal cruising speed it’s petrol, at low speeds it’s electric. But because parallel hybrids carry a full-strength petrol engine in addition to the electric motor, plus a gearing system to control which one drives the wheels, this approach is heavy, complex and expensive, and still uses a lot of petrol. Good as it is, the Prius uses 3.9 litres of fuel per 100 km.
By contrast BMW’s i3 is much simpler with only the electric motor ever driving the wheels. This saves weight, complexity and cost.
Because the petrol generator that tops up the battery, the battery itself and the motor that drives the wheels are all connected in line, it is dubbed a “series hybrid”. Most of the time the i3 uses electricity alone. In six months you might drive 10,000 km purely on the energy flowing out of your home charger. But when the open road beckons, with petrol in the tank the battery never runs flat.
The petrol generator, known as an auxiliary power unit (APU), does not need to be big. Although the 125 kilowatt electric motor can launch the i3 from 0 to 100 kph in seven seconds, for most of the time it operates on a fraction of that power, using not more than 20 kilowatts on average during the course of an hour. Since the APU only has to supply the average power, it can be small, quiet and highly efficient.
Series hybrids look like the stuff of revolution. It may not be long until the symphony on our roads returns once more to a resonant whir.
Alan Finkel is an electrical engineer, neuroscientist and the publisher of COSMOS magazine.
Life360 App Integrated with BMW i3 Electric Car
App integration with BMW i3 makes possible for the car to automatically send email notifications when the driver arrives at their destination.
Mashable 10 Mar 2014
AUSTIN, Texas — I have news for you: Electric cars can do donuts. In a recent test drive inside BMW's new i3 electric car, we tested this theory in a small Austin parking lot. To be fair, we never truly "spun" around, but that's only because I was nervous about breaking a law and the driver cautiously held back.
The electric car, a small four-door, five-seater that gets 80 miles to a charge, is finally coming to the United States early this year — and it already has at least one nifty digital integration that could help make this sporty car more attractive to families. It's designed to help you keep track of, find and communicate with family members wherever they are. Life360, the family locator app that set up our test drive, now has dashboard-level integration with the new BMW i3, along with iPhone and Android handsets.
Inside the relatively spacious interior of the car is a rather unusual dashboard covered in leather, plastic and eucalyptus wood. It features a push-button start and a small automatic transmission control that juts out of the steering wheel; the dash itself is a smallish screen above the steering wheel. Adjacent is the main control screen where drivers can access the car's iDrive system (controlled by a button/nob between the seats), which is where you'll also find the Life360 interface.
Life360, which is currently used by 30 million families, according to company executives (and roughly 70 million total users), only works if all family members have it installed. It's really an opt-in program, so don't any ideas about surreptitiously installing it on your teenager's phone. To see it on the BMW i3 screen, we plugged in an iPhone already running the app.
The free app lets you create multiple family circles. On our screen, we could see the faces of the "family" members in our group, as well as their locations. After selecting a person, the app switched to the BMW i3's in-car navigation system and led us to his location.
Life360 can also be more passive. If your teenager is driving the BMW i3 (he should be so lucky) as well as Life 360, you can choose to get notifications when he arrives at his destination or leaves a predefined geofenced area. You can also create calendar-based geofencing that only exists on a schedule: Perhaps your family has to make it to a party but everyone is coming from different locations. You can opt for a notification every time a family member makes it to the destination.
Features like messaging, check-ins, panic buttons and live advisors also extend to the car interface. The advisor, however, is a premium feature. So while Life360 and most of its features are free, the OnStar-like in-car assistant system, which gives you live help wherever you are, costs families $5 per month.
Right now, only a fraction of Life360's members use the feature. When we asked about long-term monetization, our Life360 driver explained that the service is busy collecting a rather large group of people concerned about family and safety — a group that could be interested in other products and services, all of which may offer the app a path to monetization.
Longterm, the company expects to integrate with more "Internet of things" apps and hardware, but for now, the integration with the BMW i3 is pretty smooth and interesting. Now we just have to wait for the car, which should retail for around $42,000, to arrive.
BMW's i3 Could Be the Electric Car To Convert Fossil Fuel Luddites
Mirror columnist Quentin Willson comes away impressed by BMW's all-electric i3 and thinks 'Luddite doubters... have now been permanently silenced.'
Mirror/UK 03 Mar 2014
We shouldn’t be surprised that BMW’s new electric i3 has scooped UK Car of the Year.
Handsome, clever, blissfully easy to drive and good for nearly 200mpg, it’s a revolution.
The exalted driving position, surprising swiftness and intuitive controls win you over in minutes. And, unusually for an electric car, the i3 isn’t just bought by liberal tree-huggers – there’s now a waiting list. If you ordered one today, it wouldn’t be delivered until August.
And how the economic mood has changed. Back in 1986, the top title was won by the 2.9-litre, 20-to-the-gallon Ford Granada Scorpio.
Unbelievably, the i3 goes 10 times further on every gallon than the thirsty old Granada.
So when politicians criticise car companies for not being green, here’s proof that they are.
BMW’s greatest achievement with the i3 is to turn the EV into an acceptable only car. The range-extender model with the little generator will keep the battery topped up and you’ll pass 150 miles before having to recharge.
Throw in an impressive seven seconds to 60, a top speed of 93mph and the interior ambience of a 3-Series and all those electric car compromises evaporate in your slipstream.
It’s not impossibly expensive either, starting at £25,680 or £369 a month. But more than that, the i3 looks deeply special and upmarket.
Unconventional but not weird, it turns heads wherever it goes. Crowds gather when it’s parked and everybody wants to know what it’s like to drive.
Winning Car of the Year is a just reward for the billion BMW spent developing its first EV. But the real feat is the seismic shift it will bring to the electric car market.
The Luddite doubters who say they hate EVs, never having even sat in one, have now been permanently silenced.
Engine 125 kW
Price from £25,680
Who'd drive it Even EV doubters
How BMW Plans to Spread its eDrive Technology Across Its Production Lineup
By the end of 2014 the company will offer one pure electric car and four different plug-in hybrid models
Ecomento 23 Feb 2014
Having arrived a little late to the game of selling electric cars, BMW is now set to become a leader in the field.
By the end of 2014 the company will offer one pure electric car and four different plug-in hybrid models – more electrified vehicles than any other automaker – with plans to expand the range quickly if the need arises.
Sales of plug-in hybrid vehicles now seem likely to increase at faster rate than pure electric vehicles, and the key to offering a wide range of plug-in hybrids is a to have a powertrain that can easily and cost-effectively be installed into different models.
BMW’s powertrain is called ‘eDrive’.
Two different sources of power
Plug-in hybrid eDrive powertrains comprise of a powerful electric motor and a turbocharged gasoline engine. The exact configuration can change – for example the i8 sportscar has a three-cylinder engine while the X5 eDrive SUV has a four cylinder engine – but the basic recipe remains the same.
The size of the battery that supplies the electric motor is also variable, although as space is at a premium in all cars the scope for change is limited. The carbon fiber i8, for example, has an electric range of 22 miles from its 7.2kWh battery pack while the heavier X5 eDrive reportedly needs a 9.0kWh battery pack for a lesser zero emissions range of 18 miles. Top speed in electric mode will be around 75mph for all eDrive models.
The i8's electric motor is also considerably more powerful than the one in the X5 eDrive, highlighting another area where BMW will be able to differentiate between models and, perhaps in the future, trim levels. Just like we currently pay a premium for the same model with a more powerful engine, buyers will be able to spec the electric motor in their BMW eDrive.
Drivers will refuel an eDrive plug-in hybrid’s gasoline tank like they would any other car, but will also need to plug-in to the grid to replenish the battery to get the most from their vehicles.
Why is plug-in hybrid tech so effective?
The simple answer is because it means the car can behave like a pure electric car or a solely gas-powered car depending on circumstance. With a 22-mile range and charge time of 3.5 hours, when the i8 goes on sale many owners will be able to commute during the week using electricity alone, charging up overnight at home and at work during the day.
The same applies to the X5 eDrive and almost any other hybrid vehicle on the market. Volvo’s V60 PHEV has an electric range of 30 miles, increasing the potential for zero emissions commuting and the Chevrolet Volt’s 38-mile electric range even more so.
The flip side is that once the lithium-ion battery is depleted the engine awakens to give owners an overall range comparable to conventional cars – there are no drawbacks when it comes to convenience. BMW’s turbocharged engines are also among the most efficient of any car, so drivers will return decent gas mileage even when the battery is completely out of charge.
eDrive BMWs will also have a performance benefit over standard models, as the electric motor and gasoline engine can combine to deliver maximum power. In the X5 eDrive this means 270hp and razor sharp throttle response thanks to the near-immediate torque from the electric motor.
Which BMW models will get eDrive?
The BMW i8 and i3 Range Extender already use plug-in hybrid technology, although its configured quite differently to meet the differing expectations of owners.
The X5 eDrive SUV is due this year, at least in Europe, and a 3 Series eDrive was recently spotted cold-weather testing, suggesting that it will be the second ‘normal’ BMW eDrive model.
BMW has recently said that it intends to have a plug-in hybrid in each and every model line, which seems ever more likely given the impressive performance and economy gains on offer and ever-tightening European Union emissions regulations.
While the technology helps larger cars like the X5 become a little more responsive and economical, it’s smaller cars such as the new 2 Series that will really benefit from electrification, with longer zero emissions range and greater performance benefits because of their relative lack of weight.
Lessons I Learned From Driving BMW's i3 Electric Car
Irish Independent columnist Eddie Cunningham drives the i3 around Amsterdam for a couple days and comes away impressed but still not sold.
Independent/Ireland 05 Feb 2014
I HAVE learned a few things with this.
The first is that I wouldn't buy an electric car without a little petrol engine on board to charge the batter and extend my range.
The second is that would be really costly.
The third is how well organised you have to be to make the likes of the BMW i3 worth your while.
Twice I nearly emptied the petrol tank and twice I left only a few kilometres of charge in the battery. And that was without going too far from base.
I drove the i3 REX (range extender) quite quickly sometimes, to Kildare and to south Wicklow on a couple of separate expeditions – as well as flitting around suburbia.
I could not have done that with the purely electric version. It was only possible because the 650cc 2cyl petrol engine kept the battery charge up. The engine does NOT drive the wheels. It acts as a generator.
I have driven the pure electric version around Amsterdam for a couple of days but this was different. It was raining, windy, miserable and, while I could call people if I ran out of fuel (electric or petrol), I didn't want to waste anyone's time.
I kept a close watch on the small screen behind the steering wheel which updated me on how many kilometres were left in the battery pack and fuel tank (nine litres).
I became exceptionally sensitive to the little blue line shrinking before my eyes.
In the centre was a bigger screen with sat nav – it was excellent at telling me where I could get a battery charge and fuel if needed.
It also had a big range of 'connected driving' smart apps.
I used the button that let me save what was in the battery – that meant the engine kicking in to keep its charge from dropping. Clever.
Obviously just how far I could travel was all down to how harshly or sedately I drove.
My goodness the 'tanks' emptied quickly when I pushed it to near its limit on the motorway but was reassuringly conservative when I drove sensibly around town.
It was so easy to drive and in electric mode I quickly reacquainted myself with how these cars slow so dramatically when you lift the foot off the accelerator. I seldom had to use the brakes.
I'd expected the combined resources to give me more than my projected 250km after a few minutes out on the road. I must say the 'pure' electric element really used up the power when I had lights and air conditioning on.
But let's be really generous and say you'll get 300km.
That's not bad is it? Especially, if you drive nice and easy. It means you can expand your horizons - and with some ease.
Could you survive without needing a second car?
Well, this costs €41,040 after official grants and that's a lot – even if you are getting a radically different looking car with an unusual cabin and a lot of space.
But the boot is tiny. Too small and sort of defeats the purpose of having a city run-around.
Yet, it is so different it appeals. With a carbon-fibre passenger cell, the i3 weighs just 1.3 tonnes and has low centre of gravity as the battery is in the aluminium chassis.
And it was quiet.
And lively – you get all the pulling power from the start as is the nature of electric cars (170bhp, 0-100km in 7.2 seconds).
Realistically for the vast majority of us it just doesn't do enough. But . . . . the real running costs are small – a lot less than the most frugal of small diesels, the cabin is both eco and fun.
And did I mention it drives so well? No matter how hard I tried to sell it to myself I had to admit I would always feel the need to have another car for the longer journeys.
That is my lesson from driving this. It can't do what a conventional car can do – yet.
I don't know when electric cars will, but I reckon this, despite its drawbacks, is a significant step along the way.
Even if in my case it needed a little help from the motorbike engine.
Maybe the pure electric version is a better proposition for an urban run-around.
You can charge it at home, at work, at special charging points and cover 100km for 30pc to 40pc less than it would cost you in a conventional car.
I suppose the real lesson I've learned is that we as motorists have to extend our range too – by thinking differently about how we want to get around and organising our journeys accordingly.
It's a tough lesson and one I think we'll take a good while to learn.e
BMW i3 Key facts
Cost: REX €41,040 on-the-road; electric only version: €34,010.
Charging: 3-6 hours with standard AC fast charge. Eight to 10 hours on standard domestic full charge.
Eight-year battery warranty.
BMW 'Pushes the Envelope' with i3 Electric City Car
Canadian Danny Geraghty gets to spend a couple hours behind the wheel of BMW's new i3 electric city car and came away wanting more.
The Car Guide 27 Dec 2013
BMW invited journalists to attend the i3 press drive event in Los Angeles one day prior to the opening of the Los Angeles Auto Show. I was excited to learn I’d be able to participate, not having yet driven an electric vehicle. The i3 - and quite frankly the entire i series strategy - represents a huge risk for BMW. The manufacturer has invested over $4 billion to bring the electric cars to fruition, having built them entirely from scratch.
The i3 has a unique modular architecture BMW calls LifeDrive. Passengers sit in the Life Module which is a CFRP (carbon fiber reinforced plastic) ultra-lightweight structure. The aluminum drive module encompasses the powertrain and chassis. By locating the battery in the floor of the Life module, the usual divider in the floor is done away with, leaving the passengers with more space.
BMW greeted us at the L.A.-area hotel with a fleet of about twenty Solar Orange i3s in the parking lot. After a walk around and in-depth description of the features from the BMW I series specialist, I was ready to get behind the wheel. My partner for this journey was the only other Canadian journalist invited by BMW, Mr. Michael Smith of Toronto-based Corporate Knights Magazine.
My first impression upon seeing the i3 was that it’s bigger in real life than I was expecting. It’s not a tiny car by any means and this is even more apparent when the rear half-suicide doors are opened. Adults won’t have any trouble getting in and out of the backseat.
Looks-wise, it’s certainly not your everyday vehicle. Exterior styling pushes the envelope and will stand out quite a bit. While it won’t’ be everyone’s cup of tea, I much prefer something out of the mainstream rather than a bland-looking car for the masses.
The extensive use of lightweight material such as carbon fiber is readily apparent along the edges of the door frame and other parts of the vehicle. Entering the cockpit, I was greeted with a familiar BMW feel with an undoubtedly “fresh” look, though Michael actually use the term “organic” which suits it even better. The top of the dash is made of open-pore eucalyptus wood and makes for a high-end natural look and feel. The seats are a combination of naturally-colored leather and environmentally friendly textiles made from recycled material.
Dual LCD screens are used to display the vehicle’s information to the driver. The new “shifter” is actually just a thick nob like your turn signal but on the opposite side of the wheel. It’s different but took no time at all to get used to. What does take time to get used to is that the car needs to be “turned on” rather than started. You reply on the gauges to inform you if the vehicle is operational.
After a brief familiarization we hit the road for our 2 hour cruise through the Hollywood Hills and back to downtown Los Angeles. Being all-electric, 100% of the torque is available right away. If you’ve ever driven a golf cart, it’s a similar feel. The i3 accelerates seamlessly and quickly when you need it. Even uphill we had no issues and to be honest, it yielded pretty incredible acceleration. The best part was that acceleration came without the financial and environmental guilt I usually get after opening the throttle in my gasoline-powered vehicle.
An aspect that concerned me while driving was how quickly the car decelerates when you take your foot off the gas. In many instances I didn’t even need to use the brake to come to a stop. I thought that this might represent a security issue for drivers behind me who might not have realized the car was slowing down. BMW thinks of everything, it seems, because the tech people confirmed to me that the brake lights do light up even if the brake pedal is not depressed if the car is slowing down.
I found the car very responsive in the twists and turns when we were in the mountains. The turning circle was extremely small (it helped because we missed a few turnoffs and had to u-turn to get back on track.) The tester came with the optional 20-inch wheels which helped plant the car firmly to the ground and the i3 did everything I wanted and more. It’s not surprising considering the i3 weights a mere 1195 kg. BMW lists the 0-100 km/h time as 7.2 seconds.
The range of the vehicle for everyday driving is between 130-150 kilometers which is not Tesla Model S good but it’s sufficient for the vast majority of daily commutes. For those who might have range anxiety, BMW has a range extender option where a small gasoline motorcycle engine is installed in the rear of the vehicle to generate power for the electric motor. The best part is the gasoline engine will never actually drive the i3. It simply serves to recharge the battery should you use up its entire capacity.
The Canadian base price for the BMW i3 before tax incentives is $44,950, and it will go into production likely in the second quarter of 2014.
I only had the car for two hours as opposed to the week-long periods that journalists usually get to test vehicles. The thrill of driving something totally new for the industry was quite pleasing and I left wanting more from this electric wonder.
BMW i3: One Small Drive for Man...
Wall Street Journal's Dan Neil discovers BMW's i3 urban electric car is 'one small drive for a man, one giant leap for mankind," in Manhattan test drive.
Wall Street Journal 22 Dec 2013
With a snowstorm on my tail, I finally found my way to the all-new, all-electric BMW last week in Manhattan, where holiday gridlock was in full swing. I located the Start button on the compound-switch nacelle behind the steering wheel (this is a car so different we are going to have to create new vernacular). The display graphics lit up. Twenty-one miles of range. Merry Christmas.
OK, electric car. You are making me look bad. As an advocate of EVs I know that these machines are the future of urban personal transportation. But you do occasionally have to plug them in. Also, it was bitter cold, which wasn't helping the car's 22 kwh lithium-ion battery pack, recently exercised from speeding the 2,700-pound car in from New Jersey.
Then, a miracle on West 59th Street: a city cop who was so excited to see the car he waved us through the cones in Central Park. We drove off with the LED e-flashers going, the park pretty much to ourselves. I spent some loving minutes nipping around and shooting video before slogging back toward the garage in Chelsea.
Fortunately, the i3 has two range-extending drive modes, Eco Pro and Eco Pro +. The latter is the Apollo 13 option, shutting everything else down, even seat heaters, to extend range by as much as 24%. Me and m'cold bum returned the car without incident.
I was looking forward to putting some serious miles on BMW's new wunder-wagon, but perhaps it is all for the best: At my age I don't know how much radical and new I can take at one time.
The i3 is to driving cars what the first iPhone was to yakking with mom. A perfectly reasonable, perfectly visionary way to deliver function. The "i" brand emerges out of BMW's multiyear project researching problems and solutions in mass mobility. This is by no means an abstract exercise for European auto makers, with dozens of cities across the Continent establishing Low Emission Zones to help meet EU air-quality standards. BMW's largest foreign market, the U.S., also incentivizes/coerces zero-emission vehicle production, through California's clean-air credit system and the feds' steady tightening of fleet mileage standards.
At the risk of being reductive, the design problem of a four-passenger, zero-emission city car comes down to an equation involving mass: Weight. Batteries don't have anything like the energy density of gasoline or diesel and so, as night follows day, you have to shed vehicle mass to do the same work.
BMW is taking innovative steps in order to achieve this lighter vehicle weight. The i3's powertrain, the so-called Drive module, is a sort of aluminum dolly, a low-deck unitized chassis, with the liquid-cooled battery assembly (450 pounds) inside the deck, between the wheels. The Drive module also integrates the MacPherson-strut front/multilink rear suspension, the traction motor, assorted plumbing and power electronics. A 170-hp, 184-pound-foot electric motor sits in back on the passenger side, driving the rear wheels (0-60 mph in 7.2 seconds, 93 mph e-limited top speed) and spinning up to its very blender-y 11,400 rpm.
Here is something my test car didn't have, quel dommage: a range-extending two-cylinder gas engine (an optional $3,850). This repurposed BMW motorcycle engine, crammed where the sun don't shine behind the rear seat, maintains battery charge for extended operation (150-190 miles), though it doesn't mechanically drive the rear wheels.
A carbon-fiber cabin structure, which BMW calls the Life module, is then epoxy-bonded onto the chassis. Because the Life and Drive modules are married on the assembly line (in Leipzig, Germany), it is body-on-frame construction, but the technology is less like car production and more like how the Empire builds clone armies.
The assembled car weighs about 2,700 pounds, which I estimate to be 1,000 pounds or so lighter than a comparable conventional vehicle. The enabling technology is the process BMW uses to produce the Life cell with carbon-fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP), the first such automotive structure to be mass produced. First, CFRP is a good thing: 50% lighter than steel and just as strong, with lots of other desirable properties (the weave can be aligned to bear loads in precise directions, for example). CFRP is also tough and crashworthy. They make race cars of the stuff.
The problem has been the cost, complication and cycle time of producing carbon parts. This involves hand-laying the fabric in piece molds, investing them with resin, sealing them in vacuum bags and autoclaving them for hours. That is why carbon-composite "tubs" are typically confined to low-volume exotica like Ferraris, Lamborghinis and race cars.
The i3's enveloping body shell emerges rather miraculously from a highly automated process in a matter of hours, not days, with minimal hand finishing. BMW has invested heavily in this technology, joining with the U.S. firm SGL Group for a thread manufacturing facility in Moses Lake, Wash. Thread cost, apparently, is a key driver and BMW researchers have been saying since the Frankfurt auto show in 2011 that carbon-fiber used for aerospace was over-engineered for automotive applications and needlessly expensive.
The promise is—setting aside for the moment, the profitability—that one day many kinds of cars could be made with these fuel-saving composites, which would move all sorts of needles in the right direction. In fact, the LifeDrive architecture isn't a new idea. GM spit-balled a fuel-cell concept car with a skateboard chassis in 2000. The positives of such a layout probably occur to every automotive engineer at some point. But BMW got there first. I predict that in the timelines of technological history, the i3 will prove to be a significant event.
Many in the splendid company of women jogging in Central Park—moms, I judged many of them—practically fell over themselves to get a look at the i3. Why? Car seats. By virtue of its superstrong carbon cell construction and robust aluminum undercarriage, the i3 can get away with not having a fixed B-pillar between the front and rear. These rear doors are hinged at the back (coach doors, like those of Rolls-Royce), so they can be thrown open for maximum access to the interior.
And because no driveline tunnel consumes cabin space, the floor plan is open and Tomorrowland-spacious. Thanks to the dedicated EV packaging, BMW notes, the i3 casts a shadow the size of a 1-series but has more interior room than a 3 series. The i3's seats, dash assembly and door panels are carved out of space-saving lightweight materials with profiles limned in strong geometric lines. The wood trim is sustainable eucalyptus, the upholstery is made from recylced plastic bottles, the plastic is made from some sort of bean, the owners manual is made of recycled paper, the very factory that makes the thread uses only sustainable hydroelectric power. Hey hippie, get off my lawn!
BMW is surprisingly serious about making the i3 a sporty car, considering it looks like it should dispense hand towels. But here is the evidence: a 50-50 weight distribution (a brand verity); rear-wheel drive; 0-30 in 3.5 seconds (pretty punchy, all right); strut-front/multi-link rear suspension; low center of gravity; big wheels.
Well, interesting wheels anyway. The tires are super-narrow 19-inch, 155/70 all-season radials. But, these narrow-section tires (with lower rolling and aero resistance) provide additional clearance in the wheel wells, allowing the i3 to turn in a tight 32.3-foot circle, a fine quality in a city car.
Like BMW's previous EV research projects—the Mini E and 1 series-based EfficientDrive—the i3 exhibits the strong regenerative braking effect when you lift the throttle, making the car essentially a one-pedal operation. This is BMW's idea of EV sportiness, with the retarding tug of regen up front and hydraulic braking well in the background. The i3's powertrain software has evolved from the earlier projects. There is now a palpable neutral position in the accelerator/rheostat. If you feather it just right, the car goes into a free wheeling, or coasting, mode, which can add precious miles of range in extremis.
One small drive for a man, one giant leap for mankind.
BMW i3 Rated Four-Stars for Safety in EU Crash Tests
A score of four stars places the i3 in the same category as Mitsubishi's i-MiEV electric car.
EV Worldwire 01 Dec 2013
Euro NCAP, the European equivalent of the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), recently released the results of its crash tests for a number of electric-drive vehicles, among them BMW's i3, which scored four-out-of-five stars. While a commendable score, it is not as good as that given the Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid. The Swedish carmaker has long been known for its safe vehicle design and the electric hybrid version of the V60 crossover 'wagon' maintained that tradition.
A four-star rating puts the i3 in the same class as the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Renault Fluence ZE.
In terms of both adult passenger and child protection inside the vehicle during a crash, the i3 actually scored higher than the Chevrolet Volt. Where the i3 fell down was in the 'Safety Assist' category, scoring just 55. Safety assist is an amalgam of various safety features, including Intelligent Seat Belt Reminders, Electronic Stability Control and Speed Assistance systems. It scored thirty points below the all the other cars in the category.
While scoring well in most other respects, the overall rating has to come as a disappointment to BMW, which has been touting the benefits of its carbon fiber LIFE module design of its passenger cabin for its strength and light weight. While carbon fiber has been used extensively in Formula One race cars and crash tested with real human beings aboard during races, its use in mass manufactured consumer vehicles is very much still in its infancy with much yet to be learned about its strengths and weaknesses. EV World's Tech Editor is an expert in aerospace composites and notes that companies are still learning about the properties of the material and working to upgrade their computer design programs to better utilize it in designing everything from aircraft parts to automobiles.
Clearly this situation also appears to apply to the i3, though on close inspection, the problem with the car is more related to its onboard electronics, then its passenger crash protection.
Euro NCAP has not rated the Tesla Model S, which scored a perfect five stars in NHTSA crash tests.
Driving the BMW i3 With Range Extender
Telegraph's Chris Knapman drives the BWM i3 electric car with the range extender motor option to Folkestone, England in this text and video review.
Telegraph/UK 19 Nov 2013
I’m travelling along the motorway in a BMW i3 electric car on a return journey of 140 miles. In any other battery-electric vehicle this side of a Vauxhall Ampera or Tesla Model S, I’d need the AA on speed dial, but not today.
So is this electric BMW i3 the car that will change the face of motoring as we know it? Many of the press reviews have been euphoric, with five-star ratings given out like they’re on special offer. In fact, it’s only really here at the Telegraph that any real caution has been exercised, when in his review of the all-electric version of the i3 Andrew English questioned some areas of interior build quality, as well as pointing out that this is still no replacement for a traditional family car. He gave it three stars. [TEXT CONTINUED BELOW VIDEO]
Whatever your stance, one thing you can’t accuse BMW of is a lack of research. It started work on its “i” project for a new sub-brand of electric cars in 2007, and between then and the launch of the i3 has had more than 1,500 prototype battery-powered cars, clothed in Mini and 1-series bodywork, cover more than 200 million miles in the hands of paying customers around the world.
Among the findings were that on average people drive less than 30 miles per day, and that with current battery technology they were only therefore charging their cars two or three times per week. Understandably, 81 per cent of those in the trial preferred plugging in at home to going to a petrol station.
All very convenient if you plan to build an electric car, but don’t forget that BMW is also continuing with its development of internal combustion engines. Indeed, it freely admits it is a horses for courses approach, and so if you’re an early adopter then an i3 with BMW’s 360-degree ownership package (which includes access to 85 per cent of the UK’s public charging points and preferential rates for BMW car hire schemes), might well have enough ingredients to appeal.
As other car manufacturers have discovered, however, no matter how short somebody’s daily commute might be, they are still going to get range anxiety when told they can only drive 80-100 miles between eight-hour recharges (reduced to four hours if you use a 32A BMW wallbox).
Which is why, for an additional £3,150, BMW will sell you a range extender for your i3 in the shape of a 650cc, 34bhp motorcycle engine mounted in the rear of the car along with the electric motor, and acting as a generator to maintain (but not add to) the battery’s state of charge. The theory is that it doubles the i3’s range, and should you need to go further still then you can keep topping up the nine-litre fuel tank (CO2 emissions climb from zero to 13g/km).
Back to that motorway journey. The idea was to drive a return trip from London to Folkestone, which at 70 miles each away would be impossible in most other electric cars. Even so, I was slightly surprised to have run the lithium-ion battery flat not on the return leg, but five miles before even reaching the coast, meaning the i3 had made it just 65 miles on a full charge. Still, the range extender kicked in and, with what sounded like a lawnmower humming away in the boot, I reached my destination.
This being a connected car, I used one of its two tablet-style screens to search for a charging station, figuring it would be good to get a little juice back into the eight battery modules before setting off for London again. Only there aren’t any public charging stations in Folkestone, or at least none that our car recognised. This, I thought, is exactly the kind of situation the range extender was invented for.
However, it soon became evident that, thanks to its tiny fuel tank, driving in range extender mode isn’t unlike driving on a petrol or diesel car’s reserve light - i.e. uncomfortable. Even a precautionary pre-motorway top up (5.1 litres and a day-before-payday-esque transaction of £6.57) only gave a range of 60 miles.
I thrummed along at 70mph, but it soon became clear that at this kind of speed our comfortable range between fill-ups was more like 40-50 miles. Still, it was impressive how, even when it says it’s flat, the car maintains enough battery power to give an instant shove of torque. Only if you really run it down, which you’ll have to try pretty hard to do (or so I’d been told), would you compromise the performance. Which is what happened next.
I’d just come through a heavy but localised rain storm on the M20 when the i3 started to slow. It was a gradual process, from motorway cruising speed all the way down to 44mph. By this time I was travelling up a slight incline and had effectively become a slow-moving obstacle. Lorries were catching me with quite frankly terrifying closing speeds. It was three or four minutes - which was long enough to make me consider pulling over - before the i3 recovered; just as slowly as it had lost speed, so it crept up.
“It’s not a limp-home mode as such,” a BMW spokesman later told me, “but once the charge runs down to five or six per cent and the range extender cuts in, if you keep driving at 75-80mph it can’t maintain the charge.” Rather than damage the battery by running it completely flat, the i3 had restricted our performance.
What I should have done, it transpired, was engange the range extender when there was still 30-40 per cent charge in the battery. Still, the car had covered my mistake, albeit in a slightly alarming fashion, and the remainder of our journey back into London went without a hitch (save needing to add another 7.5 litres of petrol).
Putting aside the loss of power, the i3 was a delight to drive. Thanks to its carbon-fibre passenger cell, it weighs just 1.3 tons, which means that 168bhp from the electric motor is enough to give it strong performance (evidenced by a sub 8sec 0-60mph time). It is also very refined, rides well enough and handles beautifully, thanks to its even weight distribution and low centre of gravity (the battery is mounted in the aluminium chassis).
As for niggles, a boot that’s too small to carry a child’s buggy, thus removing some of the i3’s usefulness as a second car for many people, blots the i3’s copybook, as do a couple of small inconsistencies in interior build quality.
But you counter that with the thought BMW has put into this project, right down to the use of sustainable power sources for the factories where the carbon-fibre and the cars themselves are made. Throw in the tiny running costs of an electric car and it is a true feel-good proposition. Amazingly, even the £34,000 price (from which you can deduct the £5,000 plug-in grant) seems almost justifiable when you look at the supercar-style construction technology.
What it is not, however, is a five-star car. How could it be when, user error or not, it can’t guarantee it’ll be able to maintain a safe motorway cruise even when it’s got a full tank of fuel?
No, what this i3 Range Extender represents is a big step forward for electric cars, and an extremely desirable urban runabout. If it suits your lifestyle and you like the design, then you’ll almost certainly love the i3. But even in this Range Extender guise, it is not the panacea some are suggesting.
BMW i3 Range Extender
Tested: 22kWh lithium-ion battery driving an AC electric motor, plus 650cc Range Extender, rear-wheel drive
Price/on sale: From £28,830 including plug-in car grant/now
Power/torque: Electric motor: 168bhp/184lb ft. Range Extender engine: 34bhp/39lb ft
Top speed: 93mph<
Acceleration: 0-62mph 7.9sec
Range: 100-180 for Range Extender)
CO2 emissions: 13g/km
> VED band: A (£0)
Verdict: Great fun to drive and a big step forward for electric cars, but even with the range-extender option this is not a car for those who regularly undertake long journeys. Early adopters will love it, but the cynics will remain.
BMW's i3 Electric Car Goes the Distance
Petrina Gentile offers a female perspective on BMW's new electric city car after driving it around Amsterdam.
Globe and Mail/Canada 02 Nov 2013
All-electric emission-free cars are in fashion. The latest to hit the road is the i3, BMW’s first electric car under the “i” umbrella.
Two years after the i3 concept debuted at the Frankfurt motor show, reviewers finally had a chance to take the car for a spin in Amsterdam.
Powering the i3 is a rear-mounted electric motor, which generates 170 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque, and drives the rear wheels via a single-speed transmission.
The 22 kWh lithium-ion battery pack provides a range of up to 160 kilometres while driving in Comfort mode. But that number can be improved with brake energy regeneration as well as two other driving modes: EcoPro and EcoPro+, which increases the electric range by about 30 per cent to nearly 200 kilometres.
Performance wise, the 2014 i3 isn’t a typical electric car. It’s sporty and fun, true to BMW’s roots. Off-the-line acceleration is instant and quick, launching this little four-seater hatchback from 0-100 km/h in 7.2 seconds.
Lift your foot off the throttle and it immediately slows down. I didn’t have to use the brake often – it was one-pedal driving much of the time. A bizarre sensation, but you quickly get used to it. Comfort mode is more spirited and lively than EcoPro and EcoPro+, but I switched over to extend the range.
Inside, the cabin is eerily quiet. On the road, I worry about driving in Amsterdam’s bustling downtown core littered with pedestrians and cyclists as far as the eye can see. I wonder if they can hear me coming or whether they just don’t care as they defy death and cut off cars from every direction. A makeshift driving course in a closed parking lot lets me test the i3’s manoeuvrability. On the slalom, its weight is evenly distributed with little body roll despite its tall frame and skinny 19-inch wheels. A low centre of gravity and compact size give it a tight turning radius.
What’s most impressive is the i3’s range – it actually corresponds to your real-life driving distance, which isn’t the case with most electric cars. In the past, I have suffered serious range anxiety driving electric cars, which displayed a 140-kilometre range that quickly dropped to 80 km after a five kilometres on the highway listening to the radio. That wasn’t the case with the i3. We started off with a 133-kilometre range, drove two hours and still had about 30 kilometres to spare when we reached our destination thanks to the EcoPro+ mode, regenerative braking and coasting down hills.
There’s no denying driving an electric car in cold Canadian weather has its challenges – using the heater, windshield wipers, seat warmers – all deplete the battery and driving range. If you run out of juice, you’re out of luck. CAA isn’t going to come and bail you out with a can of electricity. But BMW has a solution: an optional range-extender model. It adds a 34-hp, two-cylinder, 650-cc, gas-powered engine to relieve range anxiety. The combustion engine drives a generator to produce electricity, increasing the maximum range by about 300 kilometres.
Charging the i3 is simple – plug into a standard 110-volt outlet for eight to 11 hours for a full charge. You can cut that time to three hours with a wall-mounted charging port installed in your home by BMW.
Visually, designers tried to retain some of BMW’s halo characteristics at the front end, while adding distinct features to distinguish the “i” sub brand. The BMW badge is surrounded by a blue ring specific to the i. The i3 has a long wheelbase, short overhangs on the front and rear, and a so-called “black belt” that runs from the hood over the roof to the rear of the vehicle to create a unique look.
Opposing suicide doors create a large opening to enter the rear seats, but it’s not as easy as it looks to get inside. The roofline is low and it’s easy to hit your head every time you enter the rear – at least, I did. Once inside, there’s sufficient head and legroom for two.
Inside, the i3 isn’t as upscale as other BMWs – cloth seats made of natural fibres and materials made from recycled items are everywhere – all in keeping with the environmental image of the i. Still, the interior is well laid out and well equipped with BMW’s ConnectedDrive tailor-made for EVs, navigation with range assistant and a display of charging stations, cruise control, heated seats, and steering wheel audio controls. BMW’s i Remote app also brings vital driver info about your i3 right to your smartphone.
The i3 will go on sale in the spring of 2014, starting at $44,950. Add another $4,000 for the range-extender engine, which is a must-have in Canada. Thankfully, provincial subsidies are available to offset the high price tag. In Ontario, you can qualify for $8,500 in rebates, $8,000 in British Columbia and up to $5,000 in Quebec.
BMW to Use 360 Degrees Interactive Film App to 'Become Electric'
Using state-of-the-art technology, BMW's new 'Become Electric' App will provide users with an exciting, Hollywood chase film-like virtual test drive of the i3 electric car.
EV Worldwire 10 Sep 2013
WCRS, as part of EngineDare, has teamed with Mustard Films and Tool to create the world’s first interactive 360° film for the launch of BMW’s first electric car, the BMW i3.
The BMW i3 is the first model within the BMW i range and combines intelligent lightweight engineering and premium sustainable materials, with the pure pleasure and thrill of fully-electric driving.
And to advertise the arrival of the world’s most innovative electric car, BMW commissioned an equally innovative mobile experience. This takes the form of the ‘virtual test-drive’, an interactive film for smartphone and tablets shot by Emmy Award-winning Director, Jason Zada.
The unique short film invites users to assume the position of driver and supporting actor in a dramatic, fast-paced race to save the world. Shot in 360 degrees and using 360 degree sound, the film allows the user to explore a fully immersive environment and interact with the action.
To achieve 360° interactivity, Tool’s developers used OpenGL to project the film on a sphere. OpenAL was leveraged to integrate multiple layers of audio – including background music, ambient sounds and dialogue – into an immersive sound experience that changes dynamically based on the user's directional interaction.
Standing at the intersection of film, advertising, gaming and digital marketing, the app delivers an experience unlike any other, placing consumers at the very heart of the BMW i3 product and BMW i brand.
Throughout the film hotspots allow people to find out more about the BMW i3. At the end viewers are prompted to Become Electric and sign up to experience a real test drive.
The new smartphone and tablet app was developed as a native app and will be available on the Apple platform from 9th September with an Android version to follow.
The new BMW i3 is the first model within the BMW i range. Built from the ground up, the BMW i3 combines intelligent lightweight engineering and premium sustainable materials with the pure pleasure and thrill of fully-electric driving.
Download the app here: http://bit.ly/18P6kM2
Nicola Green, BMW i Communications Manager said: “It was very important for us that our marketing activities reflected the innovative nature of the BMW i3. This is just one of a number of bold steps we have taken in our communications approach to support the launch of this car and we really wanted to push the boundaries with this interactive film, to provide users with a truly unique, exciting and innovative experience which ultimately would encourage them to test drive the car.”
Ross Neil, Creative Director at WCRS said: “The BMW i3 is a truly amazing car that is right at the cutting edge of innovation and so we wanted to create communications that reflected this. Our idea was to create the first ever 360° virtual test drive film. By producing it as an App for mobile and tablets we were able to put the viewer in control and give them a unique, personalised experience that would entertain as well as allow them to experience the car, ultimately helping them on their own journey to Become Electric.”
Matt Hichens, Executive Producer at Mustard said: “The BMW i3 film and app has been an amazing, forward thinking, creative project. Director Jason Zada worked closely with the creative team Dan, Rachel and Ross during pre-production to bring the first, 360° all-action car narrative to life. It was innovative and technically demanding in respect to managing the live action logistics, the car chase and storyline within the 360 degree filming techniques but an enjoyable ride. Overall it’s been great to see this ground breaking, digital production come together so smoothly and to finish with a brilliant piece of communication.”
Jason Zada, Director at Mustard/Tool said: “Become Electric is a step in the evolution of storytelling and brand engagement. It's an interactive film that puts you in complete control of saving the world. You are at the wheel of the new BMW i3 electric car for almost the entire film, all while being immersed in a big Hollywood-style movie. ”
BMW Aims to Expand DriveNow Carshare Program in US
Currently limited to the San Francisco Bay area, BMW plans to expand the system to other U.S. cities and eventually switch to the i3 electric car.
Auto News 02 Sep 2013
BMW wants to expand its DriveNow car-sharing program to U.S. cities that will allow its electric vehicles to be picked up and dropped off on public streets.
DriveNow was launched in June 2012 in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the program has a fleet of 70 1-series coupe-based ActiveE EVs and 2,000 registered users. The Bay Area is DriveNow’s only U.S. location.
BMW started the program in San Francisco because the area is a car-sharing hotbed, said Richard Steinberg, CEO of DriveNow USA. Competitors include Zipcar, City CarShare and taxi and limousine services accessible via the Internet, he said.
But unlike in Europe, where BMW runs DriveNow in four cities that allow the vehicles to be left on the street, San Francisco “hasn’t embraced A to B car sharing,” Steinberg said.
In the Bay Area, BMW must use parking garages and other privately owned areas for its DriveNow vehicles. It has installed chargers at each of the 18 locations, including Stevens Creek BMW in Santa Clara, Calif.
“One of the main drivers of success is the street access,” Steinberg said. “Wherever you want to be, there have to be arrangements made with municipalities.”
Having cars on the street in Europe has created buzz and drawn new customers. “The big difference is the visibility — the vehicles market themselves,” he said. “They have big decals on the side.”
Steinberg said DriveNow got off to a slow start in the United States so he approached two companies in Silicon Valley several months ago, asking to have DriveNow cars on their corporate campuses. Now, the program leaves cars on four corporate campuses where company employees have access to the vehicles, he said. The companies, which Steinberg wouldn’t name, pay no fee and get no share of the rental income.
“We had a limited footprint in the city,” he said. “It was tough to compete, but now we are flying.”
About 50 percent of DriveNow’s business is corporate, he said.
DriveNow also added pickup and drop-off locations at the San Francisco and Oakland airports. Trips to or from the airports usually cost $12 to $15 from downtown, depending on traffic, and are considerably cheaper than taxis or limos, Steinberg said.
DriveNow members pay $39 for a lifetime membership. They are issued a card with a radio frequency identification chip that also serves as a key. Cars can be booked via a DriveNow app available on Apple and Android phones.
Members pay $12 for the first 30 minutes they use the car and 32 cents for every additional minute. An hour costs $20. If the car is parked, the rate drops to 13 cents a minute.
The average rental in the United States is more than an hour, unlike in Europe where it is 30 minutes, Steinberg said.
The DriveNow cars in the Bay Area are part of a 700-vehicle fleet of ActiveE electric cars in a two-year trial with lessees in key U.S. cities. BMW says those leases begin to expire before U.S. sales of the i3 electric car begin in the second quarter of 2014, but the leases can be extended until the i3 is available. DriveNow likely will switch to the i3 and add internal combustion vehicles to its fleet, but “none of those decisions have been made,” Steinberg said.
In Europe, DriveNow offers the Mini Cooper coupe and convertible, the BMW X1 compact crossover and the BMW 1 series. There are 10,000 registered users. DriveNow is offered in partnership with the European car rental company Sixt in Munich, Berlin, Dusseldorf and Cologne.
So far, BMW says only the Berlin DriveNow program is profitable.
Did BMW Blow It's Electric Car Launch?
Will Oremus reports on the launch of the BMW i3 electric city car for Slate and finds himself - for now - disappointed by the results of this ground-up design and engineering effort.
Slate 31 Jul 2013
I was ready to love BMW’s new electric car, the i3. Maybe I will, once I get the chance to drive it. I'd really like to love it, if only so I can stop raving about the Tesla Model S all the time and rave about a different car for once. But at first glance: yeesh. It has the range of a Chevy Volt and the looks of a Pontiac Aztek. And those aren’t even the most disappointing things about it.
The i3 is a big deal, or at least it was supposed to be, because it was designed from scratch to be an electric car, like Tesla’s Model S was—and because it’s a BMW, which implies that it’s well-built. It had been hailed, in fact, as BMW’s answer to the Model S. But it does not seem to be that.
The major statement that Tesla made with the Model S was that an electric motor doesn’t have to mean compromise. With a range approaching 300 miles, knockout styling, seating for seven, and head-snapping acceleration, the Model S said to gas-guzzlers, “Anything you can do, I can do better.” BMW’s effort says just the opposite. Its range is 80 to 100 miles, commensurate with pre-Tesla efforts like the Volt and the Nissan Leaf. Its styling shouts “novelty vehicle.” It seats just four. And it goes zero to 60 in seven seconds—which, to be fair, is not bad for an electric car.
The problem is that “not bad for an electric car” is precisely the epithet that had always dogged electric cars prior to the Model S. What made the Tesla different was that it refused to apologize for being electric. It turned the tables and forced competitors, BMW included, to apologize for the relative shortcomings of their gas-powered offerings. Why don’t they accelerate as smoothly? Why are they so noisy? Why do they have such a high center of gravity? Why can’t you put anything in the frunk?
BMW, in contrast, is apologizing for the i3’s shortcomings in the most obsequious way possible: by offering buyers access to a gas-guzzling, full-size SUV as a backup. You know, for those times when you need a real vehicle, because your electric buggy just won’t cut it. Oh, and there’s also an optional 34-horsepower motorcycle engine that you can have installed alongside the electric motor, because clearly electric motors on their own are not to be trusted. The bike motor’s 2.4-gallon tank effectively doubles the car’s range, which sounds helpful if also a little sad.
Add that internal-combustion engine, though, and you’re subtracting from one of the car’s genuine virtues. Thanks to lightweight materials and thoughtful design, it weighs just 2,700 pounds without the optional engine. The Model S, in contrast, checks in at a hulking 4,650 pounds, which limits its agility.
The other way in which the i3 beats the Model S is on price. The i3 will start at $41,350 without the engine or the SUV, making it far more realistic for most drivers than the $70,000 Model S, if still not exactly a steal. Provided that it drives like a BMW, then, the i3 has a good chance of conquering the currently hot “electric cars for people who are quite well-off but not rich enough to afford a Tesla” market. That alone would make it a success, considering how well the Volt and the Leaf are selling these days.
But, perhaps unfairly, I had hoped for more. I had hoped that BMW could do at a lower price point what the Tesla’s Model S did to the $75,000-luxury-car class—that is, beat its competitors on performance while matching them on price. Instead, it set for itself a lower bar: the “not bad for an electric car” bar. Whether it clears that bar, time will tell. All I can say for now is, let's hope it drives better than it looks.
Has BMW Just Built the Most Popular Electric Car Yet?
Time's Brad Tuttle thinks BMW may have 'nailed it' with the creation of the i3 electric city car, pricing it within reach of more people than can afford the Tesla Model S.
Times of India/India 31 Jul 2013
On Monday, BMW streamed video of the world premiere of the company’s first mass-production electric car. The i3 is a funky-looking four-seater that Wired is calling “the most innovative thing to come out of Munich in a decade.”
Here are a few of the reasons why it’s so innovative — and why it may prove to be more practical and appealing than its battery-powered peers:
Extended driving range. The fact that a typical electric vehicle (EV) can only be driven 75 miles to 80 miles (120 km to 130 km) before requiring a recharge — which takes up a lot more time than a gas-station pit stop — is a deal breaker for many consumers. Using electric power, the BMW i3 can be driven out 80 miles (130 km), perhaps 100 miles (160 km). That’s fine for many commuters, but insufficient for longer journeys.
Extending the driving range of the i3 is as simple as purchasing the optional two-cylinder, 34-horsepower rear engine that runs on gasoline — and that basically doubles the vehicle’s range. BMW is also expected to give i3 owners access to gas-powered loaner cars during the days when they need a vehicle with longer driving range — on, say, a weekend road trip.
It’s not too-too expensive. One of the most common arguments against EVs is that the math doesn’t add up: whatever money you’d save on gas is negated by the premium you pay compared with a traditional gas-powered car. Prices have already dropped significantly on electric cars, with abundant cheap lease deals and thousands of dollars slashed off the sticker prices of the Ford Focus EV, Nissan Leaf and others.
In the U.S., the BMW i3 will start at $41,350, or $45,200 for the version with the backup gasoline engine, before factoring in federal and state rebates and tax incentives. That’s not cheap, but it’s less expensive than what many anticipated for an electric-powered BMW. It’s also a lot less pricey than the Tesla Model S, the premium that has already set the standard for electric cars — and that starts at around $70,000.
This is no glorified golf cart. The i3 has a 170-horsepower engine and 184 lb.-ft. of torque, and goes 0 to 60 m.p.h. (97 km/h) in seven seconds. That’s not particularly fast, but quite peppy by EV standards; the Nissan Leaf does 0 to 60 in about 10 seconds.
Fast charging. The vehicle can be fully recharged with a 220-volt charger in three hours, and BMW says a special fast-charging system can get the i3 fully juiced up in just 30 minutes.
It will supposedly be profitable. While Tesla is said to be making money on sales of its cars, for the time being the typical EV is a money loser. It’s been reported that Fiat, for instance, loses about $10,000 on each 500e that’s sold.
But BMW certainly doesn’t plan on its EVs losing money. The Wall Street Journal quoted BMW global sales and marketing chief Ian Robertson declaring on Monday that the i3 “would be profitable from Day One on each vehicle it made.”
BMW Plugs In The Ultimate 'Rechargable Machine'
Consumer Report's Gabe Shenhar shares his impressions on the BMW i3 electric car, revealed this week in New York City.
Consumer Reports 31 Jul 2013
The much-hyped BMW i3 four-seat hatchback was unveiled yesterday New York City, where we got up close and personal with this promising electric car. Among other things, the i3 is distinguished by being offered with a small, motorcycle engine that acts as a generator to extend the range. When it goes on sale next May, the price will start at $41,350 for the pure electric version and $45,200 for the one equipped with the range extender.
Unlike BMW’s experimental EV, the Mini E, and the 1-series Active E, the i3 is an electric car from the ground up, not a conversion. BMW emphasized the use of aluminum space frame and carbon-fiber structure in an effort to reduce weight. The carbon fiber will be sourced from Washington state, but the i3 will be built in Germany.
BMW claims the range to be between 80 and 100 miles. If you get the Range Extender (REX) version, the total range becomes 160 to 180 miles—still far short of the Tesla Model S, let alone the Chevrolet Volt. REX uses a 34-hp, 650 cc two-cylinder motorcycle engine that acts as a generator to keep the battery at a 20 percent state of charge. Unlike the Volt, or Toyota Prius Plug-In, you won’t be able to preserve the electric drive for later use. The 2.4 gallon gas tank is apparently small enough that the car still benefits from the full $7,500 EV federal tax credit, as well as the additional $2,500 break for Californians.
This rear-wheel-drive hatchback sits on a flat 22-kWh lithium ion battery that’s tucked under the floor between the axles. Charge times are said to be 3 hours on 240-volt circuit through the 7.4-kWh onboard charger. A fast DC charging port will be optional and enable the car to be charged to 80 percent in 20 minutes. The battery alone weighs 450 pounds and the i3, at least in European specs, weighs a mere 2,700 pounds (same as a Mini Cooper) and just over 3,000 pounds for the REX—less than a BMW Z4. Despite the car’s tall stance, the center of gravity should be low thanks to the battery pack placement. BMW reps that have driven it attest that handling is super agile, something that allowed the choice of tall, narrow and more aerodynamic tires (195/60R20 on the top trim). The electric drive produces the equivalent of 170 horsepower and the 0-60 mph acceleration time is claimed to be 7.2 seconds—a full three seconds quicker than a Nissan Leaf. We couldn't confirm that because the event did not include test drives.
The car has four doors, with the second-row doors hinged to the rear. (This arrangement is commonly referred to as “suicide doors,” although the rear door cannot open until the front door opens.) Thanks to a flat floor and the elevated roof height, there is more room in the back than the pictures show. Tall stance, large front doors and no B-pillar afford easy access, although step-in height is a bit high due to the battery placement.
Interior fit and finish follows BMW’s high standard with some emphasis given to the sustainability theme in the form of visible fiber at the door sill and matte wood finish. A large flat screen houses the navigation system, which can point you to nearby public charging station, as well as display a radius of how far you can go based on your current range.
Three trim levels will be offered: Mega, Giga, and Tera. The Mega is well equipped but you have to opt for the Giga for sunroof and full leather comes only in the Tera. As such, it’s easy to see the price hovering around the $50,000 mark before incentives for popularly equipped examples. All three trim levels will be available for the EV, as well as the REX. BMW expects about 60 percent of the i3s sold to have the range-extending capability.
The i3 is undoubtedly distinctive and will be seared in the public perception as BMW’s electric car. Before driving it, our concerns revolve around the EV range which doesn’t up the game over existing EVs and the car’s distinct appearance. Is a tall Euro-centric hatchback with narrow tires sexy enough to command such a price premium? Will most eco-lux buyers be drawn to the i3 if parked against the sleek Cadillac ELR?
Share your thoughts in our forums.
Regardless, we will buy our own i3 when the time comes and see if this is the ultimate recharging machine.
Motor Trend Urges BMW to Sport-Up i3 Electric Car Performance
Despite its critique of the i3's overall performance, Motor Trend's Ken Reynolds thinks the BMW's electric car offers serious competition for Tesla.
Motor Trend 24 Jul 2013
If BMW's grand ambition for electric drive cars were an image, it might be one of those magnificent Hubble Space Telescope photos of a cloud-like galaxy punctuated by sparkling white dots. In BMW's case, the dots are ideas -- many of them utterly brilliant -- with the whole, delicate structure held together by gravities of imagination and logic that complement the company's boldness.
But after briefly driving the i3 at BMW's Maisach Driver Academy, I have to take out my fine-tipped marker and add a small detail to that image. Right at the spot around which this whole galaxy of ideas revolves, I'd draw a small circle and fill it in with a black scribble. It's a black hole, precisely where BMW needed a nice dose of its behind-the-wheel driving sizzle.
No, I'm not comparing the i3 to one. But I'm mentioning those two panic-button words to get BMW's attention. With all the challenges electric cars are facing -- expensive batteries, slow recharging, limited range -- they absolutely cannot afford to also be saddled with a vacuous driving experience like this. I would have fretted about the car's vanilla EV-feel if it were a Toyota. Coming from a BMW, it's baffling.
At Maisach's converted airstrips, which BMW had punctuated with cone-marked lane changes and slaloms, the car lolled through corners. Yes, its steering re-aimed the car, but observed a monk-like vow of silence about the particulars. Front-end grip washed away the instant I pressed it, and under acceleration (0-60 mph in about 7 seconds) there was a weird, warbling electronic sound that's exactly like a ray gun in an old black-and-white, 1950s sci-fi movie. I felt like ducking. It was almost comical. About the best thing you can say is that its short wheelbase and hyper-angling front wheels give it a heck of a turning circle, though the pan-like Bridgestone EP500 155/70R19 tires make it look a bit like an Automoblox toy while doing it. As it rolls, the i3 is a transportation zombie that might as well be an autonomous car. In fact, it'll be a great one once the technology's available. Until then, we expect more of a BMW, and so should the company. Let's call this first drive a Mulligan. Tee up the car's driving dynamics again, please.
But the minute you put the i3 into park (via a button on a stubby stalk to the right of the wheel; there are ones for Drive and Reverse, too) and look around, you realize how hard BMW really is trying to break out of its traditional thinking and design language.
The interior isn't the usual dark, brooding, uber-serious German hunting cabin, but a place of bright, playful fun. Atop its wave-shaped dash are twin, freestanding displays. They essentially perform the same duties as BMW's current two dash-imbedded ones, but perch airily like a couple Kindle Fires on little stands. Neat. And why not? When you open the doors, portions of its naked carbon-fiber passenger cocoon are risquely displayed - there, right up front, to be oohed and aahed at. This enclosure is one of the i3 bright spots. That such a thing can be produced -- even in this car's limited-production quantities, and at a price that'll probably be in the low $40K range -- is astonishing. Gosh, it didn't seem that long ago that money's-no-object McLaren introduced carbon structures like this to F1. It's solid as heck, a side benefit of its strength being that it can feature four clamshell-style doors (the impact-absorbing B pillar is carried in the outward edge of the front pair). The carbon-fiber fabrics (and occasionally, braidings) are woven for their specific, directional-load duties, with the waste from the trimmings recycled into a mulch that's formed into the rear seat buckets, for example.
Covered in edgily modern and aerodynamic plastic body panels, the carbon passenger cell sits atop an aluminum assemblage of castings and extrusions embracing the suspension, power train, and battery package. Some of these castings are simply spectacular -- literal artworks of soaring, almost baroque, aluminum filigree. Two very ornate ones function as the mounting plates on the chassis for the multi-link rear suspension.
Another bit of casting flamboyance is the truss that gaps the open space between the motor (behind the driver's side rear passenger) and the right-side rear-suspension mounting plate. It's gorgeous -- but it's also kind of strange that this cavity (where the optional 60-mile-adding, 34-hp 650-cc twin-cylinder engine and generator goes) isn't better utilized when the i3 is spec'd as a pure battery electric vehicle. More weight is subtracted by casting the entire dash and steering column support in magnesium. All told, the car weighs 2650 pounds -- remarkable for a car with a battery this size. For comparison, the steel-chassis Nissan leaf weighs 3380 pounds.
A la Tesla, the liquid-cooled battery sits, slab-like, below the floor. But it's more conventionally constructed of fewer, larger cells (96 total), sourced from Samsung. Energy capacity is 22 kW-hrs, from which BMW claims a range between 80 and 100 miles, about 12 percent more than that in EcoPro mode, and another 12 in EcoPro+, which is essentially a limp-home mode. Typical home charging rate will be 7.2 kW with available fast (DC) charging via the SAE Combo receptacle. This is a seriously efficient vehicle; remember that the Fisker Karma had a battery of just about the same size and could only travel 32 miles.
Two notable details about the car's acceleration and deceleration: Power from the i3's 170-hp motor doesn't taper off quite so drastically at higher revs because of a self-energizing phenomenon called "reluctance." That sounds counterproductive, but isn't. Another interesting detail has to do with regeneration while slowing. Tesla now offers the option to switch off the Model S's heavy level of regen, allowing it to simply glide (or "sail" as the Germans say) as an alternative. Here, the i3 blends both ends of the spectrum, with heavy regen at low speeds that smoothly morphs to sailing at higher ones.
Going beyond the cleverness within the i3 itself, BMW is thinking large about the big-picture infrastructure of the automobile's electrification. Examples: The range estimates and charging options depicted on the nav screen consider traffic along all of your plausible routes, outside temperature, and topological considerations. The result is an irregular boundary on its nav system's visual depiction of range, unlike the simple circles of the Nissan Leaf. Another example is BMW's creation of a single payment card (ChargeNow) that lets you recharge at virtually any private or public charging station regardless of its brand without needing multiple cards and memberships. And another fascinating concept (though horrifying to car guys, I know) is a feature of ConnectedDrive that can plan a trip through multiple forms of transport. Start off in your car, park it in a reserved space when traffic stops (the ParkMe service), be directed to a bus or subway, and ultimately even be guided to your final destination on foot. All from one real-time route planner. Finally, a bit of interesting speculation from BMW about what could be done with the battery at its "end-of-life" (about 60 percent for automotive use): It might be permanently located to your home, where it would charged at night to defray daytime power rates. As I said, BMW is thinking very big here.
Expect all of this to be available in the second quarter of 2014. That gives Tesla some time to calibrate its mid-priced third car. Frankly, the i3 ought to give the folks in Fremont pause -- it's a premium-brand EV with similar pricing; it features that giant carbon structure that Tesla can't duplicate; and it benefits from that constellation of cloud services that only a giant like BMW can stitch together. And yet it still doesn't have half the range Tesla has committed itself to achieving (200 miles). Elon Musk and company have shown they can build an entertaining car to drive (in contrast to the i3 so far) with a super-cool infotainment system and great style. But if BMW, with all its resources, has to reach for a gasoline-powered range-extender for drives farther than 100 miles, how will Tesla achieve 200 miles at the same or even a lower price? The i3 offers lots to ponder here.
BWM i3 Electric Car Is 'Agile, Engaging Drive'
NBC News reports the "final price" of the BMW i3 is $42,275 that will be offset by a $7,500 U.S. government tax credit.
NBC News Bay Area 23 Jul 2013
Although it’s still a year from reaching U.S. showrooms, BMW has set a price of $42,275 for the new i3 electric vehicle that will serve as the launch platform for its all-new battery-car brand-within-a-brand, BMW i.
The little battery-electric vehicle will primarily target urban commuters who are nonetheless looking for more than just basic transportation. The BMW i3 will not only offer more up-market attributes but also will be notable as the auto industry’s first mass-produced vehicle to make extensive use of super-light carbon fiber.
“The BMW i3 heralds the dawn of a new era for individual mobility and for the BMW Group,” said Ian Robertson, Member of the Board of Management, Sales and Marketing BMW. “True to a genuine BMW, the BMW i3 has strong emotional appeal, outstanding product substance and a guarantee of sheer driving pleasure. With this leading-edge vehicle and attractive price, we will provide customers with a compelling offer for electro-mobility.”
An official unveiling of the production i3 set for next Monday, underscores the global reach BMW expects for the new i3 battery-car, with simultaneous events scheduled in New York City, London and Beijing. The electric city car will reach U.S. showrooms during the second quarter of 2014.
The BMW i3 will offer interior space, the maker promises, similar to that of a more conventional 3-Series model, albeit on a shorter overall body with a turning circle of just 32.3 feet – something that could prove appealing to urban dwellers, especially those in older European or Asian cities.
The German automaker promises, in a statement, that the new battery-car will be “agile and engaging to drive, yet ideally suited to driving in dense urban areas.”
The BMW i3 will be powered by a 170-horsepower, 184 lb-ft hybrid-synchronous electric motor developed by BMW. It will draw power from a 22 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery. And though final EPA testing has not been completed, the maker expects the city car will yield between 80 and 100 miles per charge.
BMW has not revealed charging times using a Level 2 charger, though a completely drained battery would likely require something between 5 to 7 hours using 220 volts depending upon the hardware built into the vehicle, TheDetroitBureau.com estimates. The carmaker did note that a Level 3, 480-volt quick charger will provide an 80 percent recharge in 20 minutes.
BMW is the latest among a growing list of manufacturers to reveal plans for entering the electric vehicle market. The German maker’s move is significant in several ways, however:
• Like the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S, the BMW i3 will be one of the few battery cars to adopt a completely unique platform and body optimized for electric propulsion;
• BMW plans to launch an entirely new battery-based sub-brand, BMW i, and will follow the i3 model with a sportier plug-in hybrid, the BMW i8;
• The i3 will adopt a carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic, or CFRP passenger cell mounted on an aluminum chassis.
Many in the auto industry see super-light carbon fiber as the material of the future. The challenge is bringing down costs that have, until now, largely limited CFRP’s use to Formula One race cars and super-exotic sports cars. The Bavarian maker is pushing to bring down production costs and has set up new CFRP manufacturing facilities in both Moses Lake, Washington and Leipzig, Germany.
The final price of $42,275 will be offset by a $7,500 U.S. government tax credit. Buyers also will be eligible for various state incentives, such as the $2,500 credit in California. For comparison, the Nissan Leaf starts at $29,650 without shipping costs for the stripped-down model and the upper SL i spriced at $35,690. The Ford Focus Electric has a $39,995 list price.
100,000 People Signed Up For BMW i3 Test Drives
The i3 electric car will be priced in Germany in the same range as BMW 3-series models.
Automotive News 13 Jun 2013
PARIS -- BMW has about 100,000 reservations from around the world from people who want to test its first electric vehicle, sales boss Ian Robertson said, adding that the automaker has "significant numbers of deposits" for the car.
Based on this high interest, Robertson believes the i3 will be a game-changer in the sector.
"We are confident that with the i3 and i8 we will shift the [customer demand] needle because we will shape some of this technology" in the EV sector, Robertson said at the Automotive News Europe Congress here today.
The production version of the i3 compact car will be unveiled at the Frankfurt auto show in September and go on sale before the end of the year. Robertson said the i3 differs from many of the EVs on the road today because it was developed as an EV from the start, rather than being conventional car with an electric powertrain dropped in.
When asked for the car's starting price, Robertson said that it would be in the same range as the 3 series, which in Germany is priced between 28,800 and 38,800 euros for base versions.
The car's Frankfurt arrival will come about 30 months after BMW announced the creation of its "i" subbrand, which will also includes the i8 plug-in hybrid supercar.
Despite the financial struggles at luxury plug-in hybrid maker Fisker Automotive and charging infrastructure supplier Better Place, Robertson remains confident the i3 and i8 will be profitable during their life cycles.
When asked if BMW was making a big gamble by entering the segment, Robertson said: "It is an investment in a future agenda, and it's an agenda where we think zero-emission vehicles have a very, very key part to play."
He also believes that the future looks promising because of the huge amount of r&d going into EVs, particularly with regard to the batteries.
"In the next three to four years we'll see more development of the batteries than we have in the last 100," he said, adding that the prospects for lithium air batteries are particularly positive because they charge faster and provide a range more in line with what people believe they need.
Car Magazine Test Drives BMW i3 Electric Car
Test drive of BMW's i3 finds it is 'shaping up to be a breakthrough electric car. It delivers dynamic thrills like no electric car before it. '
Car Magazine 25 Feb 2013
BMW’s pioneering i3 electric car is one of the most exciting cars of 2013. It employs BMW’s trademark, sporty rear-wheel drive, which marks it out from the front-drive electric cars from Nissan and Renault. It’s a clean-sheet design, using exotic lightweight materials to save weight and maximise the electric range. So, an aluminium chassis housing the batteries and rear-mounted, 170bhp electric motor is paired with a carbonfibre bodyshell; with the i3, materials typically the preserve of luxury cars and supercars are being used on a small hatchback.
When the i3 goes on sale in November, the standard electric i3 will cost around €40,000. To eliminate the i3’s vulnerability to running out of juice, buyers will be able to specify a range extender hybrid version for an extra €3000. This employs a 35bhp two-cylinder motorbike engine to act as on-board generator: it’s mounted close to the rear wheels and accompanied by a 9-litre fuel tank wedged behind the front axle.
BMW has tooled up initially to produce 30,000 cars a year, but this can be extended to 50,000 units if the i3 takes off. But with electric cars so far proving commercial flops, there’s a lot riding on this car, the most radical BMW ever conceived. And today we’re riding in it at BMW’s Munich-Ismaning proving ground, with project i chief Ulrich Kranz.
How big is the i3 and what’s it like inside?
Everything about this car is unusual – and not just the swirly camouflage to confuse spy photographers. For a start, the i3 is shorter than a Suzuki Swift, wider than a 7-series and lower than a Hyundai i10. It weighs 1250kg – significantly lighter than the 1567kg Nissan Leaf, but a couple of hundred kilos more than the conventional Swift. In production form, the ground-breaking low-drag shape blends these stand-out proportions with a unique silver, blue and black colour combo. Unhindered by B-posts, the roomy cabin is accessed through front-hinged front doors and rear-hinged rear doors. A two-door coupé may follow in 2015.
The cockpit is dominated by a sweeping dark-grey composite sculpture which blends conventional buttons and switches with two colour displays. The 6.5-inch one in front of the driver accommodates the digital speedometer, the charge and range indicators, a selection of warning lights and an analogue eco-meter. It’s colour coded according to your driving style: red signals what BMW describes as debit driving mode, the blue one lights up when you’re in credit mode. The bigger 8.8-inch screen on top of the centre console looks as if came straight out of the iDrive parts shelf.
The four seats are comfortable, height-adjustable in the front and either trimmed in natural leather or in a new fabric made from recycled natural fibres. Thanks to the absence of a transmission tunnel, the driver can slide through and exit or enter through the passenger door in a confined parking situation. The gear selector, positioned behind the wheel in a two o-clock position, has been designed from scratch. The black stub with the matte chrome ring fulfills two functions: it starts the motor at the push of a button, and it selects a gear when you twist the quadratic end piece. Although the backlit readout suggests that one can choose from P, R, N and D, neutral cannot be dialled in manually. The i3 will coast whenever it makes sense, but it does so automatically or when you keep the throttle consciously this side of a deterrent. Let’s hit Start, wait for the Ready sign, twist the gear knob into Drive, and off we go.
Flat out in the i3
While I reach for the grabhandle, Ulrich Kranz is already grinning widely. After all, the plastic panel-clad BMW takes off like a miniature tram on steroids, with instant maximum torque threatening to scalp the narrow-scale 19-inch Bridgestones. The sprint from standstill to 40mph requires only a brisk 4.0sec. Around 3.3sec later we pass the 60mph mark. This is Mini Cooper S performance but it feels even faster, because the silence allows you to focus more on the sensation of full-throttle acceleration. In comparison, 0-62mph in a Leaf takes 11.9sec, and the car is restricted to 90mph.
Wafting down the main straight, the four-seat i3 slows down a little at 70mph, but after a mile or so the speedo reads 90mph. ‘That’s it for the time being,’ says Kranz. ‘Eventually, we’ll go with a 100mph speed limit.’ Surely, the range must suffer when an i3 is driven the way most owners would drive their fossil-fueled BMW. ‘Yes and no,’ is the answer. ‘When you push her really hard, you will have to find a charge point after about 80 miles. But when you go with the flow, 100 miles are a realistic target. On the [US urban driving test cycle], the car recorded an even more impressive if somewhat theoretical 140 miles.’
Although a minimum range of 80 miles may sound marginal, it should suffice for nine out of ten customers. European drivers typically drive 64 miles per day, stopping 33 times; Americans travel 39 miles stopping 97 times, and the Chinese average 26 miles and 228 stops. In all three cases, the car is left parked for roughly 22 hours per day, which should provide ample time to plug her in. While a full 100% charge takes between three and six hours, the available fast charging kit will restore 80% of the energy in only 60 minutes.
A left-hander beckons. The sign says 120kph max, but we barely lift off. The car turns in, the wheels grab the drenched tarmac with vigour, and the i3 carves through, dancing along its ambitious slip angle yet remaining flat and nicely balanced. No, not a single warning light flashed in the process. No momentary brake intervention, no ESP interaction, no tug at the steering. Is the system not working, or am I missing something here? ‘On snow or gravel, ESP will reel you in and keep the vehicle on a relatively short leash,’ explains Ulrich Kranz. ‘In the wet, we don’t really depend on the electronics. That’s the beauty of this set-up. Its natural limits are very high, so you have to be going wild to overstep the mark.’
Weight distribution and the centre of gravity are critical to the i3’s dynamics. The batteries and motor are mounted low in the chassis, with the energy cells evenly spread out between the axles, to make the chassis grounded and balanced.
Onto the handling circuit
After a few high-speed laps, we turn off to explore the handling circuit. The 1.2mile loop contains the full works: fast corners, slow corners, gradients, surface variations. Novices who encounter BMW’s baby Ring for the first time next to a pro are bound to reach for the sickbag halfway through the course. The blue and white psychedelic i3 stops at the gate, waits for the striped bar to go up, silently drives through, then points its stubby nose towards the first bend.
All 184lb ft of maximum torque grabs the rear rubber at the word go, and again there is not even the faintest trace of wheelspin. ‘Just like the VW Beetle back in the old days,’ murmurs Kranz. ‘That’s what dynamic weight distribution will do for you.’ The i3 threads through the blind S as if it was guided by an invisible rail. A tight right-hand kink approaches rapidly, but the confident Kranz brakes so late and hard enough to cause whiplash. The car zooms towards the apex, kisses the cobbles and flies out onto the short straight. This is extraordinary.
The i3’s most awesome dynamic talent is its incredible grip. The made to measure tyres are about as narrow as those of a 125cc motorbike, yet they hang on almost as tenaciously as BMW’s latest DTM racer. ‘It’s not rocket science,’ says Kranz. ‘All that matters is the size of the contact patch.’ The 19-inch tyres may be skinny, but their tall height generates the same contact patch as a low-section 16-inch Mini tyre, says Kranz.
Although the snow keeps falling, it does not take long to establish a racing line which widens a fraction with every lap. Even at ten tenths, the i3 remains calm and composed. Try eleven tenths, and you’ll experience some understeer as the front wheels try to scrub off excessive energy. Go for twelve tenths and lift off in the middle of a tightening bend, and you will encounter a nudge of oversteer accompanied by that familiar faint ESP snarl. Since the handling is as neutral as a good referee, you can open up the steering quite early and put the power down accordingly. There is very little lean considering the considerable pace, and I don’t recollect more than a faint trace of front end pitch and no yaw at all. This i3 appears to handle like the best BMWs.
The i3’s steering is an unassisted rack-and-pinion device, but it’s by no means slow, heavy or indifferent. At 2.5 turns from lock to lock, it is unexpectedly quick, with a commendably tight turning circle. BMW quotes just under 10 metres, but in traffic the incredible manoeuvrability feels more like eight metres, which would equal a London black cab. Since the front wheels have no propulsion duties, the steering - devoid of wind-up, shock and fight - is commendably tactile and communicative. Watching Ulrich Kranz at the helm is a revelation. If his sparse and well-timed inputs are anything to go by, this BMW is every bit as entertaining to drive as any of its front-engined sister models. And what about its stability during an emergency lane change? Stupid question: the i3 zig-zags past an imaginary obstacle with such determination that the delicate measuring equipment in the boot bangs together in loud mechanical protest. ‘No problem at all,’ chuckles Herr Kranz: ‘This car learned to cope with every elk in our simulator early in its life.’
A punishing ride and refinement test
Next on the agenda is the torture track. That’s torture as in about twenty different attempts to upset a vehicle’s composure, to kick it off course, to push the suspension to the brink. We get thrown about in the cabin as the road starts to attack the i3’s aluminium chassis or ‘drive module’. But despite all sorts of irritations - lateral, vertical, horizontal, diabolical - the four-seater stays firmly planted. And while there is the odd groan (all well as noticeable windnoise) from the bolted on camouflage cladding, the body itself remains eerily quiet. No undue resonance, no rattle or scuttle shake, no protesting seals and joints, no suspension thump, only a distant tyre hum and that faint e-motor whir which actually sounds quite sporty under full acceleration.
The upper ‘life module’ is so stiff that, with doors closed, it resembles an oyster on wheels. Although the body connects to the drive module primarily via nuts and bolts, the tight fusion between the two clamshell elements ensures the i3 is quiet as a whisper. And it possesses a truly compliant, occasionally even cushy ride that a Mini or a 1-series can only dream about. Kranz says it’s due to generous wheel travel, and low unsprung weight. ‘The large wheels tend not to drop into potholes the way smaller-diameter rims do, and the tall sidewalls contribute a special suspension effect of their own,’ he adds.
Just before the sun sets, we go play on the skidpad. There are various radii and surfaces to choose from, and we try them all. The goose-pimple growing 60mph low-friction circle is ideal to simulate high-speed cornering at the limit. Like an M3, the i3 can be easily controlled by steering and throttle. When you give it stick, the typical attitude is a subdued four-wheel drift which becomes a little wavy as you begin to modulate the torque flow and the steering angle. And guess what: the ESP tell-tale does not light up once. On the smaller-diameter 45mph track covered with freshly fallen wet snow, it’s a different story altogether. Here you get enough momentary power oversteer to frighten the passengers, here stability control is indeed required to quash lift-off drama before it begins.
Speaking of lift-off, it is worth noting that you can step off the accelerator even in the middle of a fast corner. ‘Lift-off is essential in a car like this,’ reveals Ulrich Kranz. ‘After all, energy recuperation largely depends on it.’ In city traffic, the secret is to avoid touching the brakes: merely lifting off generates enough deceleration, and helps recharge the batteries. The i3 has three driving modes, including a hypermiling Eco Pro Plus, which caps the peak power output, restricts the maximum speed to 55mph, adjusts the transmission algorithm, recalibrates the accelerator action and reduces electric loads to a minimum. The other two drive programmes are Comfort and Eco Pro.
Time to wrap up the late afternoon session, time to head for the dry and warm garage for a closer inspection of the car. Unlike other BMW models, this one is made almost entirely in-house. The fully packaged battery stack, the 170bhp electric motor, the single-speed transmission and the performance electronics are manufactured by BMW. The same is true of the carbonfibre body (the raw material is shipped from Moses Lake, USA, to Wackersdorf, Bavaria) and the aluminium chassis assembled in Regensburg. Unusually, just 20% of the components (by value) come from outside suppliers. Among these items are the energy cells from mobile ‘phone giant Samsung, the Fuchs aluminium wheels and the special compound Bridgestone tyres. LED headlights and a Bang & Olufsen sound system are among the options.
The first ride verdict
The i3 is shaping up to be a breakthrough electric car. It delivers dynamic thrills like no electric car before it. The steering seems highly involving, the drivetrain’s punch would flatten a Leaf, and the handling and road-holding seem up there with BMW’s best. Ulrich Kranz and his team appear to have succeeded in bringing pure driving pleasure to the environmentally friendly car. We’ll know for sure when we drive the car in summer 2013.
i3 Concept Coupe Expands BMW's Electric Car Line
i3 Concept Coupe offers 100 miles of driving range powered by a sporty 170 hp electric drive that can be selected to offer three driving modes.
BMW 05 Dec 2012
The world premiere of the BMW i3 Concept Coupe sees the BMW Group unveil a particularly nimble and emotive version of its concept for sustainable premium-class motoring with zero local emissions. The study presented at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show has been brought out in parallel to the ongoing development process for getting the first ever all-electric model from the BMW i brand ready for series production, and demonstrates the potential for conceivably extending the model range. The state-of-the-art, clean-cut and open design showcased by the BMW i3 Concept Coupe represents a pioneering form of urban mobility that makes sustainability awareness an intrinsic part of the premium profile. Beyond this, the three-door model employs the design idiom that has been created especially for the BMW i cars to convey an undeniable sense of dynamism and driving pleasure.
The carbon-fibre body's visual impact is largely shaped by the gracefully flowing coupe roof line and the fresh interpretation of the BMW i "stream flow" design that can be seen in the side window styling, and gives an instant impression of lightness, transparency and streamlined aerodynamic qualities. On the inside, the sense of spaciousness typical of the BMW i brand is combined with an exclusive lounge-style ambience in the two individual rear seats. The BMW i3 Concept Coupe furthermore assumes the title of the world's first fully networked electric vehicle. Thanks to the inclusion of innovative BMW ConnectedDrive functions that have been devised by BMW i for use in production vehicles, operation of the navigation system as well as the information transfer between the vehicle, the outside world and the driver's smartphone has been geared towards the specific requirements of e-mobility.
The BMW i3 Concept Coupe sharply focuses the spotlight on the dynamic performance that can be achieved with the purely electric version of the BMW eDrive technology. Like the BMW i3 Concept, the Coupe is also propelled by an electric motor developed by the BMW Group, which develops a maximum output of 125 kW/170 hp and peak torque of 250 Newton metres (184 lb-ft), and channels its instantaneous power delivery to the rear wheels via a single-speed transmission. The electric motor draws its energy from the lithium-ion storage cells under the floor. Positioning the battery units here has the effect of lowering the centre of gravity considerably, which further adds to the vehicle's sensationally agile handling.
The LifeDrive concept for the BMW i vehicle architecture is instrumental in enabling a brand new vehicle character to be married so harmoniously with BMW eDrive, a technology that is already nearing production standard. The horizontally split construction consisting of two self-contained elements intrinsically focuses on the technical requirements of the electric drive train, and helps to produce a design concept, sense of spaciousness and driving experience that are unique to BMW i cars.
The passenger cell forms the core of the Life module, which is built from carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP). BMW i is scaling new heights for automotive engineering by making such extensive use of this high-tech material. Because it is extremely light yet very strong too, CFRP opens up tremendous scope for design and therefore has all the right credentials for translating the inimitable and unmistakable BMW i design idiom into a wide array of variants. On the BMW i3 Concept Coupé, the drive system, chassis and energy storage unit, along with the structural and crash functions, are once again incorporated into the Drive module that is made chiefly of aluminium.
Measuring 3,964 millimetres in length, 1,768 wide and 1,555 high, the BMW i3 Concept Coupe can be noted for its highly individual proportions. When compared directly to the BMW i3 Concept, the new study has a broader, lower-slung look that serves to highlight its agile nature at first glance. The wheelbase, on the other hand, is unchanged from that of the standard BMW i3 at 2,570 millimetres.
Body design: LifeDrive architecture sporting new look and colour scheme.
Transferring the design idiom developed specifically for BMW i cars to a coupe concept has resulted in a body whose styling smacks of fun at the wheel while still plainly signalling sustainable mobility. The BMW i3 Concept Coupe's looks let the brand values of efficiency, lightness, safety and premium quality clearly shine through, along with the study's distinctly dynamic bias. The exterior surfaces and colour scheme are structured in such a way as to visualise the basic construction defined by the LifeDrive architecture. The principle of overlapping levels known as "layering" serves to symbolise the harmonious interaction between the striking construction and design elements of the Life and Drive modules, as well as providing the basis for a transparency in the vehicle design that reinforces the concept's sustainability. For instance, the structure of the carbon-fibre material employed in the Life module can be clearly seen in the entrance area and the roof pillars when the door is opened. It is here, as the two-dimensional CFRP laminate typically used for load-bearing elements comes into view, that the material's composition becomes particularly apparent.
The bodywork panels around the wheel arches, doors and rear sidewalls are painted in Solar Orange metallic, a warm shade bursting with energy that was created especially for the BMW i3 Concept Coupe. It forms an electrifying contrast with the high-gloss black finish on the bonnet, roof and boot lid, as well as with the body's black lower edge.
The front apron includes black embedded elements designed to create an air curtain effect that carefully directs the airflow in the vicinity of the wheel arches. The rear apron's lower section incorporates a diffuser component to optimise flow conditions towards the rear of the vehicle's underside. The licence plate holder features a narrow border in Solar Orange, while the U-shaped rear light clusters are integrated into the rear window, just as they are on the BMW i3 Concept. Contrasting touches of Frozen Grey matt for the BMW kidney grille and the sill lines along the sides are specific to this model and add to its visual appearance. The brand emblems in Stream Blue at the front and rear and on the wheel hubs are characteristic BMW i features.
Innovative coupe lines spell pure driving pleasure.
A steeply raked windscreen that extends a long way forward and a roof line that descends gently into the vehicle's tail are the defining features of the BMW i3 Concept Coupe silhouette. The long doors with frameless windows also have a typical coupe feel to them. The specific way in which a CFRP passenger cell is constructed means there is no need for a B-pillar. Not only does this facilitate access to the rear seats, it gives extra impact to the dynamic flow of lines visible in the window styling.
The BMW i3 Concept Coupe includes a fresh interpretation of the brand's hallmark "stream flow" design for the side window contours between the doors and the C-pillars. As a result of the enclosed body concept around the doors and the rear sidewalls, the ratio between the body's basic structure and the window area is clearly marked by the shoulder line. The latest version of the window outline tapers sharply towards the rear, once again putting clear emphasis on the vehicle's excellent aerodynamic properties. The upper and lower edges are spaced particularly far apart on the BMW i3 Concept Coupe, producing an enlarged window area at the rear. This means that, in contrast to conventional coupes, passengers in the rear compartment are able to enjoy a remarkable sense of spaciousness and feel far more involved in the driving experience.
The highly distinctive and dynamic view of the BMW i3 Concept Coupe in profile is completed by the gently rising swage line on a level with the door openers, as well as a striking character line that produces an intriguing interplay between light and shade just above the side sills. The exterior mirrors also sport a design that's specific to this model, with black mirror bases and caps in Solar Orange metallic that pick up on the body's overall colour scheme. 20-inch light-alloy wheels in double-spoke design further intensify the car's sporting aura. As is customary for BMW i models, they are shod with comparatively narrow, reduced rolling-resistance tyres measuring 155/60 R20 at the front and 175/55 R20 at the rear.
All in all, the even more purist interpretation of the design idiom compared to the BMW i3 Concept, coupled with the more horizontal focus of the exterior's styling, highlights the car's enhanced aerodynamic properties. The BMW i3 Concept Coupe therefore epitomises the future of urban mobility, at the same time as instilling it with a distinct sense of sportiness and emotional appeal.
Interior: inviting, spacious, clear-cut and inspiring.
Individual styling and material selection ensure that the brand's trademark principles of sustainability, lightness and transparency are applied to genuine effect in the interior design of BMW i models, too. The interior of the BMW i3 Concept Coupe illustrates how the cockpit design has evolved as it is readied for series production, while at the same time creating an individual ambience that fits in with the concept of a sporty three-door car. The layering structure employed for the exterior once again underpins the arrangement of the function elements and controls, while a mixture of leather, wood, wool and other renewable raw materials ensures that the car's premium characteristics, including the new aspect of sustainability, can be both plainly seen and felt.
The freestanding steering column's two-part design with its light and graceful feel is further accentuated by the colour scheme. All supporting elements are finished in a light grey colour, whereas the steering wheel's outer grip areas and all controls are coloured black. Besides the display that acts as the instrument cluster and the control stalks for the direction indicators and windscreen wipers, the steering column is also home to the electronic gearshift lever and the Start-Stop button.
Above the steering column and behind the instrument cluster, there is a horizontally mounted wooden panel that spans the full width of the interior in a dynamic sweep. Sourced from certified sustainably managed European forests and treated using natural materials, the light eucalyptus wood adds a real touch of class, and is made all the more noticeable by the contrast with the black, three dimensionally shaped controls. The control panels on either side of the steering column are bordered by brushed aluminium accent strips. The sweeping design of the eucalyptus wood panel is echoed by the contour of the armrests in the doors, meaning that the driver and front passenger are encircled by a series of harmoniously styled surfaces.
At the cockpit's centre, the bottom of the dashboard terminates in a flat control panel that is angled slightly towards the driver and is used to operate the climate control and audio functions as well as housing the favourite buttons for the iDrive system. The iDrive Controller and direct menu control buttons are located on the centre console between the driver and front passenger on a level with the seat cushions. The BMW i3 Concept Coupe has also kept the area between the dashboard and seat cushions completely clear across the cockpit's entire width. Its particular drive concept, furthermore, dispenses with the need for the transmission tunnel normally found on conventional vehicles, resulting in a completely open space connecting the left and right footwells. Not only does this create an impression of roominess, it can be of practical benefit, too, as it allows the driver to easily swap to the front passenger seat and get out on that side – a real boon, for example, when using city-centre parking spots so tight that the driver's door cannot be opened.
Sustainability blended with sophistication: surfaces made from renewable resources and naturally treated materials.
The manually adjustable seats with integrated head restraints that were specially designed for the BMW i3 Concept Coupe are upholstered in a blend of warm-toned textured wool yarn and a cool-looking monofilament material. The elegant, sporty colour scheme's light grey tones also reflect the sustainable character of the natural materials. The door support panels made from anthracite-coloured kenaf fibre are perfectly in keeping with this, and also blend harmoniously with the doors' leather trim panels. The leather adorning the interior of the BMW i3 Concept Coupe is treated using natural products exclusively, with an extract from the leaves of the olive tree serving as the tanning agent.
There are two individual seats in the rear of the BMW i3 Concept Coupe where passengers are able to savour a whole new form of motoring comfort in a lounge-style ambience. The seat backrests both curve outwards prominently to form a seamless connection with the rear panelling. Whereas the seating position engenders a feeling of security, the windows – which are exceptionally large for the rear of a coupe – make passengers there feel more part of the driving experience. After tilting the front seat backrests forwards, getting in and out of the rear is facilitated by leather-trimmed grab handles that double as belt feeders for the driver and front passenger.
Display and control concept featuring the very latest display technology.
The BMW i3 Concept Coupe comes with two top-class displays, which provide the interfaces for the exchange of information between vehicle and driver and for operating the infotainment and communications functions. Information that can help to make driving a more comfortable, efficient and safe experience is flashed up in the displays. The navigation system, meanwhile, is networked with the outside world via BMW i ConnectedDrive.
Information is visualised in the form of three-dimensional, high-resolution graphics depicted in the reduced style typical of the BMW i brand. The task of the instrument cluster is assumed by a 6.5 inch (16.5 centimetre) screen positioned on the steering column, where all driving-related information appears in digital form. The second display in the centre of the dashboard is positioned at exactly the same height for perfect legibility. With a screen diagonal of 8.8 inches (22.4 centimetres), it enables detailed graphics to be reproduced, just like the central information display in BMW production cars. This screen is used, for instance, to display the functions of the navigation system including the BMW i ConnectedDrive services. The information provided by the functions familiar from BMW ConnectedDrive is likewise shown here. This central information display also serves to keep the driver and front passenger fully informed of the vehicle's status and the drive system's operating mode.
The two displays have been designed to interact in such a way that the information shown is distributed between the two screens as the situation dictates. In the case of the BMW i3 Concept Coupe, their interaction is best illustrated by a typical urban mobility scenario. When the car is started, the instrument cluster springs to life first. It signals that the vehicle is ready to start with a welcome sequence whose animation spreads to the central information display. In the meantime, the system has already connected to the drive's smartphone and is showing current calendar entries. Shortly afterwards the driver receives a text message with the agreed venue for his meeting. The address data are automatically used to generate a navigation destination, which then appears on the central information display. The driver learns that his destination is within the vehicle's range and he is advised to recharge the car there. Shortly before arrival at the destination, various charging stations in the vicinity are displayed and the driver is offered the option of booking one of them. He confirms and books the nearest one. During the journey the driver can also find out about the restaurant he is heading for as well as listening to personal playlists. On arrival, the driver hooks the vehicle up to the charging station. The illustration of the different functions is rounded off by an animated charging graphic that appears on both displays when recharging the battery.
COMFORT, ECO PRO and ECO PRO+: three driving modes for the ideal mix of driving pleasure and efficiency.
The range covered by vehicles with an all-electric drive is very much dependent on driving style, just as fuel consumption is in conventionally powered cars. The BMW i3 Concept Coupe helps the driver to optimise efficiency by choosing an appropriate vehicle set-up. The Driving Experience Control switch on the centre console can be used to select the three driving modes, COMFORT, ECO PRO and ECO PRO+. The sportiness and comfort of the BMW i3 Concept Coupe can be best experienced in the standard COMFORT setting. ECO PRO mode places the focus more on economical energy management for an increased range and even cleaner performance. The accelerator mapping is modified, for example, so that the same pedal travel delivers less power. At the same time, the heating and air conditioning are switched into a more energy-efficient operating mode. Changing from COMFORT to ECO PRO mode can extend the vehicle's range by as much as 20 per cent.
Efficiency can be boosted yet further in ECO PRO+ mode, which is designed to do everything possible to maximise driving range. So, not only is the accelerator mapping modified, maximum speed is also limited to 90 km/h (56 mph). Comfort functions such as the heating and air conditioning are furthermore run at the minimum level required to prevent the windows from misting up, for instance. Electrical consumers like the seat heating, mirror heating and non-essential components of the daytime running lights are even switched off completely. As a result of all this, more miles can be added to the vehicle's range.
Total networking thanks to BMW i ConnectedDrive with specific functions.
The BMW eDrive system fitted in the BMW i3 Concept Coupe is designed to allow the vehicle to cover a distance of around 160 kilometres (100 miles) on a full battery charge before it has to be plugged into a charging station again. This range comfortably allows it to be used for more than just urban mobility.
Thanks to the BMW i ConnectedDrive services that were purpose-developed for electric mobility applications powered by BMW eDrive technology, the driver receives realistic estimates of his vehicle's current range, which can be viewed even before setting off. The BMW i3 Concept Coupe therefore assumes the title of the world's first fully networked electric vehicle.
Precise, reliable, realistic: driving range display in the navigation system with BMW i ConnectedDrive services.
The BMW i3 Concept Coupe is equipped with a navigation system featuring BMW i ConnectedDrive services. Both the navigation system and the BMW i ConnectedDrive services have been carefully tailored to the specific demands of electric mobility. Apart from the route guidance function, the system also offers drivers assistance with their mobility requirements that extends beyond just the journey planning. One of the key elements of the networked navigation unit is a dynamic range display, which delivers precise, reliable readings by factoring in all relevant variables.
The battery's charge status, driving style, activity of electric comfort functions and the selected driving mode are all taken into account for the calculation, along with the route's topography and current traffic levels. The system is therefore able to make allowance for the extra energy used up for both an upcoming climb and stop/start traffic or traffic jams, and lowers its range calculation accordingly. Up-to-the-minute and detailed real-time traffic data is also added to the equation. The information is analysed and evaluated centrally by the BMW ConnectedDrive server that stays in permanent communication with the vehicle thanks to its built-in SIM card. The SIM card's fixed installation ensures an optimum connection at all times throughout the vehicle's life.
The dynamic range display is visualised on the vehicle's central information display not only as a figure but also as a peripheral contour within the navigation map. Taking the vehicle's current location as a starting point, all points that can be reached with the available energy reserves are joined up to form a peripheral contour. Since the driver is able to actively influence the vehicle's energy consumption and therefore its range by switching the driving mode, the graphical representation of the range calculation is always made available in two variants, allowing the driver to view the relevant current range regardless of whether the COMFORT, ECO PRO or ECO PRO+ mode is selected.
When route guidance is activated, the driver is given a precise and true-to-reality indication of whether the destination is within range and how much energy he has to spare. The most efficient route is also shown as an alternative to the fastest. If necessary, the Range Assistant will even recommend changing to ECO PRO or ECO PRO+ mode in order to increase the range. This function clearly demonstrates the interaction between the tailored route guidance for electric vehicles from BMW i ConnectedDrive and the special energy management from Efficient Dynamics.
If desired, the driver is able to call up a charging station near to his destination and reserve it with another push of a button. The system additionally notifies him of the charging time required before commencing the return journey or the onward journey to the next destination. The wealth of functions offered by the navigation system with BMW i ConnectedDrive services makes it possible to plan out journeys using electric power alone with supreme precision, reliability and convenience.
Intelligent networking simplifies mobility planning: a smartphone app with eRemote function developed by BMW ConnectedDrive for BMW i.
The mobility planning information provided is made available on the customer's smartphone as well as in the vehicle courtesy of a smartphone app for the iOS and Android operating systems which was specially developed for BMW i. The app is a further development of the eRemote functions from BMW ConnectedDrive and offers the driver constant access to the vehicle data and relevant route planning information. Thanks to this intelligent networking, customers are able to check the vehicle's status or plan out upcoming journeys in the BMW i3 Concept Coupe from the comfort of their office or even over breakfast.
If the vehicle is plugged into a public charging station or the BMW i wallbox, the charging procedure can be controlled both remotely and via a timer function. The range display shown in the BMW i navigation system can also be viewed on the smartphone in exactly the same format as in the vehicle. The BMW i app can additionally be used to search for and select either a navigation destination or a free charging station and then import it to the vehicle's system. Available charging stations are indicated in both the navigation unit and the BMW i app, which also show whether the stations are currently free.
When the customer leaves the vehicle at the journey's end, he can furthermore use the pedestrian navigation function built into the BMW i app to guide him to his final destination. For this, the navigation destination selected by the driver in the vehicle is automatically transferred to the BMW i app via the BMW ConnectedDrive server.
The route planning function that was specially developed for BMW i and the specific requirements of urban centres also includes local public transport networks, allowing the available transport connections to be taken into account if required. This gives the driver the option of selecting an intermodal route in his BMW i car, whereupon he is first directed to a public car park by the navigation system. After leaving his vehicle, he now uses the BMW i app to guide him first to the correct bus or tram stop and then on to his destination while completing the final leg of the journey on foot.
In addition to this, BMW i also offers pioneering mobility services that can be incorporated into the customer's mobility planning. These include the premium car-sharing service DriveNow, which has been available in Germany since 2011 and, since September 2012, in San Francisco as well. It was here that the ParkNow facility was also introduced as a world first, enabling parking spaces to be booked via a smartphone app. ParkNow and other services are provided to the customer via BMW ConnectedDrive and made available to use in the navigation system.
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