BMW isn't entirely new to electric vehicles, or EVs; the company has been testing an electric Mini Cooper for awhile now, and we actually wrote about the i3 two years back, when it seemed like just a concept. But now the i3 is officially seeing a release, and it's the first BMW that was designed from the ground up to be an electric car. The benefits are pretty obvious: it's the lightest EV out there, with one of the quickest charging times and excellent performance. And it looks pretty weird, just like an electric vehicle should.
One of the things we really like about the i3 is that it looks different. Lots of EVs attempt to blend in, to be normal-looking cars that just happen to have a totally different engine system, but that's going to lead to inefficiencies, because EVs have different needs, different strengths and weaknesses, than traditional gas, diesel, or hybrid cars.
The i3 is small, shaped like a hatchback, but it's got four doors, unlike the classic Mini Cooper. The rear doors are suicide-style, with the hinge at the rear of the car rather than the middle. The motor is mounted in the back, like an old VW Beetle, and there's no transmission column at all. Who needs one? That means the floor is completely flat, even right down the middle, where the transmission tunnel usually is.
BMW also took a big leap with the materials, constructing the main chassis from carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic. EVs are typically limited in power and have to lug along lots of batteries, which are super heavy, so it makes sense to lighten the load elsewhere. This reinforced plastic is, according to BMW, just as strong as steel or aluminum, but 50 percent lighter than the former and 30 percent lighter than the latter. The interior materials too are sustainable, with recycled plastic, sustainable woods, and trim from a plant we'd never heard of: the kenaf plant. (Kenaf is a plant in the hibiscus family that looks sort of like bamboo and is used to make super strong, super cheap woven material, sort of like burlap. But you can also process and then harden the pulp, which looks like hardwood and doesn't require the chopping down of rare slow-growing hardwood trees.)
The dashboard is also hyper-modern and weird. Instead of a traditional mounted display for navigation and things like that, there's a pair of what look like Nexus 7s (they aren't actually Nexus 7s, as far as I can tell) propped up on the dash. The one in front of the driver shows your typical dials--RPM, speed, charge level--and the one in the center, which looks almost like it's floating, gives access to navigation, music, and connection to your phone.
Under the hood, so to speak, it's got a 170hp engine delivering 184 pound-feet of torque. The lithium-ion battery delivers 22 kWh, which BMW says will give you a range of about 80-100 miles per charge. For comparison, the Chevy Volt's all-electric range is about 25-50 miles, though it supplements that with gas, and the Nissan Leaf has tested anywhere from about 60 to about 120 miles, though the average is probably closer to 60. The i3 will go from 0-60 in under 7 seconds, which is about average for an EV. More important is the charging time, which BMW says is only three hours over a 220-volt line, thanks to a charger that's the largest of any EV on the road. Using a "fast charger" like the Combo, BMW says that time can be shortened to 30 minutes.
The car weighs only 2,700 pounds, much lighter than the Leaf and the Volt, which both weigh around 3,500 pounds. You can add a small gas engine as well, which will double the range and add 34 hp, but will also bump the weight by over 300 pounds and add a few thousand dollars to the price.
The BMW i3 should be on sale here in the U.S. by early 2014, with a sticker price of $41,350 before any incentives (which include a $7,500 federal rebate). Pretty cheap, compared to other BMWs! You can read more about it on BMW's extremely pretty (and heavy) site.
An automobile is a transport device that gets me from point A to point B at a particular cost.
Yea for technology, woo hoo and all, but when all the cost are addedup the question comes are we truly being cost effective and efficent?
1.) Initial cost of vehical.
2.) Fueling the vehical.
3.) Maintenace of the vehical.
4.) Insurance of the vehical.
5.) Surprise failures and the real world cost of repair of this exotic gadget car.
Exotic new technology always seems WoWzers at first, but
you just have to add up all the real world cost.
This is really the first nice looking, practical and reasonable priced electric car package. Really what you need for mass market appeal. The potential to add an efficient gas range extender for the batteries. The lower cost then the Volt and far longer electric drive range. The reduced charge time's. The better looks and longer range then the Nissan leave. All of it makes it a giant leap forward. Really impressive package.
It will take some years but this proves to me that we are really going to make the shift to mass market electric vehicles. The better the batteries and lighter the materials become over the next decade the more it will destroy the need for being dependent on any Middle eastern or other oil supplies.
These Sheik's can start washing our electric Western cars for a job. Instead of building sky scrappers with Western cash right in the Middle of a giant dessert. With no fresh water sources for a thousand miles near. And with air conditioning costs reaching in the millions. Enough with that madness.
I'd say your comments of nice looking/practical/reasonable price are all subjective at this point. The styling of the i3 is rather polarizing - I for one do not thing it is particularly nice looking. I wouldn't go so far as to call it ugly, but it's certainly not pretty to me (belt line is horrible). Practicle - depends what you want out of it I guess. Reasonably priced - um, it is a BMW, so starting at $41k means over $55k by the time you get the stuff found as standard equipment on a Hyundai, so no, I don't find it to be reasonably priced...
Dan, when you compared the driving range with other electric cars, did you not know about Tesla Model S's 265 mile range per charge?
BMW is lying or they dont know math!
220V at 10A is 2.2kW
In 3 hours that amounts to 6.6kw/h, that is nowhere near what they claim the batterys capacity is!
The article says 22kW/h battery capacity and a standard European 220V socket is typically 10A rated so charging takes 10 hours just like any other electric car.
On your bike BMW for such a claim!
Oh and 30min charging, lets see:
22kW in 30min is 44kW/h or 3x400V at @37A.
You wont find that kind of outlet in any standard family home!
And bear in mind that i have not included any losses in charger or batteries. Wich only makes matters worse.
Well, we can't keep pouring gasoline into our cars and trucks. Is this tech really green or not? Ideally we could improve on the motors that run them. We also are kind of betting on super/ultra capacitors to replace batteries or vastly better batteries. Also the helper engines used could maybe one day be replaces with smallish fuel cells. Today we only have a path to green by building these types of cars. Ideally we'd be able to use wind or power from the sun or oceans to charge up these.
With all things added up, this is an exotic technology car that is not cheap or cost effective to justify the reason for buying an electric car.
The $7,500 federal rebate is really just a perk the BMW in helping quantity of sales who would other wise not buy a BMW.
A 3 cylinder gasoline 1 liter car could be made for 1/3 the price and have all the same options as this car, which would then be more economically practical. My Chevy Sprint cost 10k and got 52mpg with the air on.
I am very sure BMW could make a very pretty copper color car like the Chevy Sprint at 1/3 $41k offered 2013 price, without a $7,500 federal rebate.
Current up and coming 3 cylinder engine cars:
Ford's 3-cylinder repeats as Engine of the Year, headed to U.S.
G.M. Enters the 3-Cylinder Engine Arms Race
Automakers say 3 cylinders are enough for small cars, plug-ins
There’s a new Mini Cooper on the horizon, and our crystal ball is vibrating to the tune of three cylinders. Expect an announcement that base Mini Cooper models will soon be powered by a 1.5-liter turbo three-pot with Valvetronic infinitely variable valve lift.
GM confirms 3-cylinder engine, 8-speed automatic for future models
Chevy Volt and Cadillac ELR could get downsized 3-cylinder engines
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Haha. That tesla you mentioned costs $72,400. Even with government discounts that is way out of range for mass market appeal.
Apparently Tesla doesn`t even have dealerships like normal car companies.
How are you going to let many cars drive without components to repair and dealerships who fully understand the car close by to maintain it. Lets be realistic. The Tesla roadster sold only 2400 cars in 5 years time. Even small car companies like the bankrupt Saab had to sell over 100.000 cars per year to prevent bankruptcy.
Tesla is a long term hold your breath company. Before they can compete with the large car companies. Any new electric car is a hold your breath development. Sales are not going to be big for some years to come. At least not compared to the big brand regular gasoline cars. Not even close.
A 3 cylinder 1.0 liter is the wave of the future and can also operate with different fuels or compress air powered vehicals.
This car appeals to my love of gadgets. However when I start thinking practically, it doesn't cut it. If I'm only ever using it for commuting to work and making trips to the grocery store, then it would be great. Alright, so how about a road trip? This car would make for a terribly inconvenient road trip vehicle since you would need to try and find a place to plug in after 80-100 miles, and then you'd need to wait a few hours assuming you could find a 220v outlet to plug into. "But Duke," you say, "how often do we REALLY go on roadtrips?" Good point. Maybe you could just rent a car or borrow a car if you want to go on a roadtrip. But then you have a car you paid 40K+ for that has already become an inconvenience. And when it comes down to it, a car or any other automobile exists to make life more convenient. It keeps us from having to walk everywhere that we want to go.
Also, I live in the northeast. How would running the heater, defroster, seat warmers, etc. affect the battery life and therefore the range? Using a heater takes a lot of energy. Until battery technology improves by an order of magnitude, I just don't think electric cars are going to cut it.
For the life of me, I don't know why hydrogen fuel cell cars have not become mainstream yet. They are electric, but their power comes from a hydrogen fuel cell rather than a battery. They take no longer to fuel up than a gasoline or diesel car. Yes, you'd be carrying a big tank of hydrogen wherever you go, but the alternatives are carrying a big tank of gasoline/diesel or a giant battery that is prone to overheating and bursting into flames. Hydrogen is also very easy to come by: run a current through water and you've got hydrogen. If hydrogen fuel cell cars became mainstream, the technology could easy be developed to create home refueling stations (run a current through the water, draw off the hydrogen and pump it into the car).
Ugly, it is like a Mini Cooper/Pontiac Aztec love child. I would much prefer a Volt at that price point.
hydrogen cells are very expensive to convert to electricity, they need expensive mettels for conversion.
Electric cars are a joke! Cost to much and are not any better for the planet when you look at the true foot print. Best thing we could do now is go with natural gas, the cleanest burning fuel and the ability to fill up is already nationwide. That is right every town in the us has natural gas lines. We could even fill up at home. Wow, simple always works.