BMW's i3 Electric Car Hits the Ground Running

Munich’s finest joins the all-electric club and is playing for keeps

By Andrew Krok

Web2Carz Staff Writer

This is the first shot fired in the War of Small-But-Luxurious EVs. All we need to do now is wait to see who returns fire.

T

he all-electric arena has a new, German competitor. This week, BMW announced that their i3 electric car will be landing on U.S. shores in the second quarter of 2014, with a MSRP of $41,350, prior to the $925 destination charge and any sort of local or state incentives. This is the first release in BMW’s new i sub-brand, with other electron-powered models coming in the future, as well.

This is no half-assed attempt to shove a fancy powertrain into an existing platform. As BMW said in their press release, “[The i3] is a landmark in BMW’s mission to provide a completely sustainable, electric vehicle that still stays true to the Ultimate Driving Machine moniker.” Driving impressions are still few and far between, but on paper, this car looks to deliver exactly what it promises.

i3 InteriorThe lack of a transmission tunnel gives the i3 a staggering amount of usable interior space.

BMW calls it the LifeDrive architecture concept, which consists of two separate platforms that are combined to form the i3. First, the Life module consists of the passenger cell, which is more-or-less a fancy name for the place you sit while driving. The second module, Drive, contains the lithium-ion batteries and electric motors needed to power the vehicle. It sits directly under the Life module, which keeps the center of gravity as low as possible for better driving dynamics.

The i3 will have the first-ever mass-produced carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) passenger cell, which helps contribute to both its low (roughly 2,700-pound) curb weight as well as its super-rigid construction. The low weight also helps to increase the efficiency and overall range of the vehicle, the latter of which is between 80 and 100 miles on a full charge, more than enough for a city-based commuter.

Affluent, green-thumbed city dwellers are the i3’s ideal customers, as this would be a perfect second car to use solely for local jaunts. For those with range anxiety, BMW is offering an optional range extender – a 650-cc, gasoline-powered motor will recharge the battery on the fly, allowing the owner to go a bit further without constantly staring at the battery level.

Even without the range extender, charging is still hassle-free – the standard 220-volt, 32-amp charger can fill the battery in three hours. If you desire something speedier, an optional SAE DC Combo Fast Charger will get the battery level to 80% of its full capacity within 20 minutes and will top off the battery entirely in roughly half an hour.

BMW plans on releasing three aptly-named trim levels for the i3 – the base Mega, followed by the Giga and Tera trim levels for those who want a bit more luxury. Each stratum comes with unique 19-inch wheels, with the main upgrades consisting of interior appointments and other creature comforts, such as a sunroof and satellite radio. Expect a full options list to be released in the fall of this year.

All in all, BMW is promising a whole lot of car for a (relatively) low cost of entry. This is the first shot fired in the War of Small-But-Luxurious EVs. All we need to do now is wait to see who returns fire.

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About Pedro Heizer

I'm a person of simple taste, all I need is some country music, Batman, Star Wars, sports, coffee, and most importantly Jesus Christ, because what profits a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? View all posts by Pedro Heizer

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