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BMW expands its 'i' range

By raccars Published

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With three new 'i' branded models on the way, is the future electric at BMW?

BMW gave a shot in the arm to the malingering electric car market in 2013 with its excellent i3 electric hatchback and i8 hybrid sports car models. The i3 was the first mass production zero emissions vehicle from BMW and was launched as the first model from the firm's new sub brand, BMW i.

The BMW i3

The i3 is a practical city car with four doors and four seats, offering a range of about 100 miles. It fits between the BMW 1 Series and 3 Series in size and is driven by a 130kW electric motor with lithium ion batteries. It swiftly won a number of awards and became one of the best-selling electric cars in the world.

The high tech hatchback uses carbon fibre reinforced plastic and hemp fibre construction to keep its weight down. The i3's exemption from the London Congestion Charge made it extremely attractive to city buyers, but more than that was the fact that it demonstrated just how easy electric cars could be to live with on a daily basis.

The BMW i8

The i3 was followed by the i8 plug-in hybrid sports car in 2014, which had become by far the best-selling hybrid sports car in the world by the end of 2015, outselling all of its rival models combined. The US is its main market, with the UK second and Germany third.

The i8 costs about £100,000 so it's not for the faint hearted, but demand had exceeded supply within months and customers faced a ten month waiting list within two months of its release in the UK. Like the i3, the i8 won a number of industry awards and, more importantly, has done a great deal to improve the image of clean and green sports cars.

Now BMW has announced that it will be developing its i brand with three new models: an i8 Roadster; an updated i3; and an all new model called the i NEXT. The soft top i8 is due in 2018 and made its public debut at January's 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, called the Vision Future Interaction Concept.

The i8 has been an extremely successful model in coupe form, showing that electric power does not have to compromise performance. The roadster version is almost certain to use the same three cylinder 1.5 litre petrol engine and electric motor combination. That means 357bhp, 4.4 seconds to 62mph and a 155mph top speed.

The i3 will be revised in both electric and range extender formats to update its looks and to add an extra 50% battery capacity.

The BMW i NEXT

The i NEXT is an all new model due in about five years, and BMW claims that it will demonstrate a whole new world of automotive technology and innovation. The technologies used in the i NEXT will inform all future models from BMW. They include autonomous driving, lightweight intelligent construction methods, electro-mobility and digital connectivity.

Thus far the i band has been a remarkable success on a global basis. More than 50,000 i branded BMWs have been sold and the firm believes that the i models act as a gateway to the core BMW product range. BMW i claims the largest share in the global electric car market and BMW is swiftly electrifying the rest of its product line-up so that plug in hybrid power trains will be available range-wide within just a few years.

By the end of this year at least seven BMW models will be available with plug-in hybrid or fully electric power trains.

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