Having dipped their toes in the water with the MINI e as a proof of concept, then trialled their next generation technology in the 1 series ActiveE. The final product is the sublime i3 now on the market.
We got a taste of what was to come in 2011 when BMW showed a concept car that was close to the final design, and the production car was released in late 2013 for the 2014 model year, finally making it to Australia in early 2015.
The i3 is designed from the ground up as an EV. It keeps weight low (under 1,200 kg for the pure EV version, just over 1,300 kg for the range extender version) by using carbon fibre for most of the body, which also makes for a very strong shell. This is mounted on an aluminium chassis which holds the 22 kWh battery pack, mounted under the floor.
Power is from a 125 kW electric motor driving the rear wheels. Performance is brisk, 250 Nm of torque available at will means that few 4 cylinder cars will be able to keep up with it. From a standing start 100 kmh comes up in 7.2 seconds for the electric only model, and 7.9 for the range extended version. The i3 has an unusual motor design, using a hybrid asynchronous motor instead of the more common Neodymium permanent magnet motors used in most EVs or the squirrel cage induction motors used by Tesla.
Regenerative braking is powerful, and can be set so that for most driving you never need to touch the brakes.
As you would expect from a BMW, the i3 comes with a lot of toys…the wheels are 19″, it has internet connectivity, cruise control with braking function, LED lights, rear camera, auto lights and wipers, auto climate control, satnav, DAB+ digital radio and much more.
The options list is pretty cool too, including 20″ wheels, sunroof, heat pump instead of a conventional heater, LED headlights, and DC fast charging by CCS combo.
Range is around 130km driving hard, or 200km in full Eco mode which limits speed to 90 kmh and kills the climate control.
For an extra $6,000 you get the REx model (Range Extended) which has a 650cc two cylinder 28kw motor from a BMW scooter hooked up to a generator. It extends the range to 300km with its 9 litre fuel tank, and can be manually activated once the battery drops to 75%, extending the time before the batteries run low, or will automatically activate when batteries reach 30%. Top speed is limited when running on the petrol motor.
At the time of writing the Australian retail price was around $64,000 for the pure electric and around $69,000 for the REx.
BMW have announced that in the second half of 2016 the battery size will be upgraded.
Power; 125 kW
Torque; 250 Nm
0-100 kmh; 7.2 seconds (BEV), 7.9 seconds (REx)
Charging; J1772, optional CCS combo DC fast charging.
Battery pack; 22 kWh
Range; up to 200km (BEV), 300km (REx)