The Dawning Of A New Age?
On November 6 2013, the long-awaited new BMW i3 finally became available in the UK. This has excited a lot of people, but are BMW justified in describing its launch as the beginning of “a new era of premium car ownership”?
Maybe. Maybe not. But regardless of its legacy, there is certainly some weight to their description of the BMW i3 as “revolutionary”.
BMW i3 – A Revolution In Motion
Why is the BMW i3 revolutionary? Let me count the ways.
First of all, it's a low-cost, zero-emission vehicle that offers the sort of premium features you might expect from a BMW. There's a choice of four different interior “worlds”: Standard, Loft, Lodge and Suite, each of which evoke a different mood using a classy combination of sustainable materials including responsibly sourced wood, natural fibres and tanned leather. Rarely has electric motoring been this refined, or premium motoring been this cost-effective.
Second of all, the BMW i3 is the world's first premium car to have been designed, from the outset, to be powered by an electric drive system. Of course, luxury cars have been kitted out with hybrid engines or electric powertrains before, but everything about the BMW i3, from the ground up, has been designed to optimise efficiency.
To compensate for the extra weight of the battery, the cabin is constructed using lightweight CFRP, resulting in a reduced weight overall. Meanwhile, the low, central location of the battery pack results in a perfectly balanced 50:50 weight distribution and an ideal centre of gravity, making for such supreme agility that you might wonder why you ever doubted electric cars.
Indeed, the BMW i3 might finally put an end to the false notion that, to enjoy the benefits of an electric car, you have to compromise on power and performance.
The electric motor has an output of 170hp and a peak torque of 250Nm, which, being generated electrically, is on demand instantly. As a result, the BMW i3 can achieve 0-62mph in just 7.2 seconds, or 0-37mph in as little as 3.7 seconds – all without a single emission.
On a full charge and when subjected to everyday driving, the BMW i3 has a range of between 80-100 miles, which can be increased by 15% in ECO PRO mode and 30% in ECO PRO+ mode. That should be more than enough for your day to day needs (the vast majority of journeys in the UK are estimated to be around 10 miles), but BMW are more than aware that “range anxiety” is a major obstacle for many who might otherwise have tried electric.
As a result, the BMW i3 is also available as a hybrid, with a range extender engine. This powers a generator to maintain the charge of the lithium-ion battery at a constant level whilst on the road. The 650cc two-cylinder 34hp petrol engine doubles your range to 160-186 miles whilst only emitting a barely-there 13g/km CO2.
So does the launch of the BMW i3 usher in a new era of premium motoring? Only time will tell. But even when judged on its own terms, this is surely a landmark of green motoring.