Unlike other sorts of electric vehicles the new i3 is a very different type of electric car thanks to a number of innovations. For one thing the BMW comes with a rear wheel drive – something that is quite unusual in the electric vehicle world. However, it does make sense. The car’s rear powered wheels are in the perfect position thanks to the driveline and mean that there is no need to string hefty cables from front to rear or vice versa.
The auto itself has a 230kg battery, which sits underneath the floor of the car and is kept at low temperatures thanks to the cars air conditioning system. This is all well protected thanks to a thoroughly strong chassis and sills made of nothing less than carbon fibre. The motor that drives the car is positioned beneath the boot’s floor.
The car keeps weight down thanks to a suspension made from aluminium and hollow drive shafts. The wheels of the car are made from forged aluminium and all screw, bolts and a whole lot more is made from aluminium.
Weighing in at 1270kg, the BMW is a quite light car, obviously thanks to the use of aluminium and carbon fibre. BMW quotes that a car made with traditional materials of this kind would be around 300kg heavier – which would obviously greatly impact on the fuel consumption and the power to weight ratio, which would affect performance.
Power wise the 22kWh lithium ion battery can produce plenty of it and the electric motor drives 168bhp through the rear wheels of the car – a lot of petrol cars pale in comparison to this figure. Expect the car to go as fast as 93mph and acceleration to be undimmed throughout.
Of course, the other big performance factor is the range of the car and BMW quote this at 140 miles on a charge on combined roads. In realistic terms expect to see around 100 miles to a charge. BMW however has also offered the option of adding a range extender to the vehicle – something we’re interested to see with our experience as BMW specialists Cardiff.
This is essentially a 650cc motorcycle engine that’s added to the car and acts as a generator for the car’s battery. This will charge the car as it goes and pushes its range to 186 miles. This is expected to be added to the vast majority of cars that are bought.
The car comes with rear hinged doors – possibly there just to push the notion of modernity, while inside the car is comfortable enough to accommodate four people at a push. The trim comes in all manner of shapes and forms with wood, plastic and fibres thrown in. However, reports suggest that it doesn’t completely live up to its BMW billing and is a little slacker in terms of quality than usual.
However, one benefit of the motor in the rear is that the noise of the electric power is at the rear and quite quiet. Expect the ride to be better also thanks to the cars lightness and handling is said to be precise, while he car is brisk and agile on B roads – quite similar to a Mini – a car that it utilises plenty of parts from.
The BMW is probably the best attempt at any EV yet and a real step forward in a lot of ways. However, priced at over £25,000, it’s a lot more than the £11,000 tag on a Nissan Leaf. Though, it is a BMW after all.