BMW i3: Can an eco-focused car still be the ultimate driving machine?BMW are joining the eco party with the i3, the first in their eco focused "i" sub-brand. XCAR take a look at how BMW see the future of electric cars.
This is a first from BMW, the company that professed to make the ultimate driving machines. It's a lightweight mass-produced electric car that you can go out and buy today. You have witnessed its development. The electric Mini E was the first stage towards 2012's 1 Series Coupe based. ActiveE was the second. It's called the i3. And it's the first car from the eco-focused i sub-brand. The best place to start is with its name, the i3. There's no Apple tie up here. i is BMW's name for all things eco. BMWs tend to stand out due to their design usually it's because they're quite handsome cars. The [unk] 1 series aside, but the i3 is certainly different. Because the electro-engine doesn't need [unk] because of the space, it doesn't have a maximum [unk] it has. And because the i3 needs to be efficient and it needs to be as aerodynamics as possible and BMW has made no attempts to hide [unk]. Check out the [unk] grill that's been sealed off to make sure the car is as slippery as possible. Same goes for the tires. These skinny, low-rolling resistance job hidden known for display. And they're much, much smaller get on things even as small as a Mini. If you're i3 doesn't need it, don't have it. Because it's an electric car you can't have too much by way of chunk on board. Its 167 break horsepower motor has propel not only by the bank of batteries but also seats, toys and old the garbage that people leave in their cars. And they have to do that for a decent distance. You got 80 to a 100 miles of range. And to the i3, that is if you go for the pure AV version. However, you can get a range extended version which adds to 650 cc motorcycle engine in to the mix. What that does is it generates a little bit more electricity if you run out of power battery power say, in the middle of nowhere or you forgot to charge overnight, that kind of thing. Now, the extra engine does add a little bit more weight. A 120 kilos on top of the pure AV's 1,195. But, that's still less than a Nissan Leaf. Notice 62 takes 7.9 seconds, where the EV takes just 7.2. You may be wondering just how BMW get the i3's weight down. And there also is four little letters CFRP, carbon fiber reinforced plastic. The passenger compartment is made out this stuff, and it keeps the weight nice and low. Now, that means you can get further of a fewer batteries and the acceleration as I mentioned before, is pretty good. The entire car though isn't made out of this stuff. The underbody bear or the AV cabin is kept. Well, that's made out of aluminum which in the context of the car seems a little weighty. BMW has done a lot to make sure the i3 handles on real roads rather than the silky smooth ones found in Europe, which is a bonus. As a driving experience, this isn't any an AV that means you have to compromise. You don't lose any car to get an electric car if that makes any sense. You can jump high on a hatchback and jump into [time0:04:00] this, and everything feels pretty much the same. There's no real compromise, nothing's really had to be lost. There are a couple of minor differences. The biggest I suppose, being the brakes. You don't actually have to use them. The moment you lift off the throttle, the car brakes for you basically. And recoups all the energy from the spinning wheels and puts it back into the batteries, giving you a little bit of extra charge, a little bit of extra go. Lifting off, basically stops the car dead. You don't really need to use the brakes whatsoever. Performance wise, the i3 is a pretty striking thing. On its launch in the UK, BMW had a little bit of a drag race between an i3 and the E92 M3. It's not to 60 and up to until about 35-40 yard, this little beastie destroyed it. It was a pretty spectacular sight to behold. And in town it is so usefully and gets us a light very quickly if you see a gap you just can dart into it. There are three driving modes in the i3. There's comfort, which is basically the normal mode it defaults to. And is very comfortable. You get all the performance it has on offer. You got climate control over toys. And then you have eco pro which makes things more eco that's little bit grabby. And then eco pro plus which is the one I like to keep it in. You can't use climate control and top speed is limited to 90 kilometers an hour. But, you do get loads and loads of ranges of it. so much so that I drove it down to M4 to get it to London for the shoot. And I still haven't used a full charge. I still got 21 miles to go and I've driven 76 miles in this. So, it can actually live up to its range claims. But, it's deeply, deeply impressive. Like any good BMW the i3 is rear wheel drive. And that's pretty cool. That means the car pushes off long and let the steering do its own thing, which is why it steers so incredibly well. Again, as you would expect a BMW to do. As interiors go, I really liked it. It's very, very strange. It's like it's nothing I've ever sat in. Not for the whole kind of, oh it's amazing and so beautiful and smooth. No. it's because it looks like a car of the future, such as the i3 is, should. Everything you see in this interior is reclaimed or recycled in some ways. So, the body here and the stuff on the dash. That's all been recycled. It's all now reused to be the dashboard of your lovely new car. The wood on the dash is eucalyptus. Again, reclaimed, recycled. That's the whole effort of this car. It's good for the environment. It's using what surround it. Nothing about this car is analog. It's all digital. Everything is electric. It's a car that embraces the future. It doesn't look like an old car because it doesn't have to. Where do you get the ligts on the leaf? It looks like a boring family hatchback and the speed all in one. But this, it even looks like a car from the future. It drives like a car from the future. Are we in the future? Cars like these are now on people's radars. If BMW's doing it then it certainly is something to pay attention to. There's a problem there. Well, it's a problem that doesn't knock the i3, range extender or not, but pretty much every electric car. The i3 well do a hundred miles on a single charge. And if you got the right kind of plug you can charge it in about three hours. However, I don't think it's ideal for the car people who live in mega cities, the people who the I3 was designed for. You see, you can't easily hang a charge cable as with 10-storey apartment window. And we know that there won't be a charge point on every single street corner. However, if you live in a house or just outside the town or having easy access to a charging point, then this might be the ideal AV for you, because it has one thing that most people don't have. It has a brain. Because when it finds a better way of getting you to your destination, it will tell you. That includes say when you're stuck in traffic and the car knows you're about to run out of juice. What it will do, point you towards the nearest free charging station, tell you to plug it in and then send you off the nearest train or bus station. So, you can then get to your destination. When you return you have a fully charged car and you can toggle off home as though nothing had happened. And BMW also knows that there are limitations to AVs. And you might need another car for different situations. For example, a family holiday, trips to the [unk] trips or Ikea or maybe just a sports car for the weekend. As such, what they've got is they got a system where you can borrow a more sociable vehicle for limited amount of time. So, you need an X5, you can borrow 'em fancies at for, for weekend, you know, one of those as well. That's clever and forward thinking. So what BMW has done is made and AV that's quick, good looking, well-finished and will look after you if its capabilities are maxed out. It might not be the ultimate driving machine but it is a solution to a problem that's becoming more and more prevalent. The multicar as we know is at least is slowly but surely being hunted. And cars like the i3 that offer the best of the green world, but in BMW's case especially can offer a sports car or an SUV for those times when you absolutely need one, might just be the pull that people need to get a green one. But [unk] was clever.