RAC Cars News


BMW i3 Progressing Nicely

By raccars Published

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BMW's electric hatchback is now at pre-production stage, allowing the auto industry to judge how it compares to the range of electric city cars currently flooding the environmentally friendly market sector.

On the outside, it resembles a funkier Mercedes B-Class, with a modern elevated driving position and room for four adults. Along with its electric power train, the i3 keeps up to date with a carbon fibre body shell, a first for BMW on a road car. This has helped keep the kerb weight down to 1195kg, while innovative structural crash engineering has given the i3 impressive crash protection.

The 130kg motor itself is a Mini Cooper S rivalling 168bhp, super torquey unit driving the rear wheels with the help of a single speed transmission and a trio of Comfort, Eco Pro and Eco Pro+ driving modes. The result is an excellent set of statistics, including 0-62mph in 7.2 seconds, although the top speed is limited to 93mph, to assist battery function and maximise the car's range.

At 80-100 miles, that range is considered more than adequate for the average UK daily commute, which BMW research has pinned at 30 miles. However if you're not sure, BMW is also planning a range extender version of the i3 with a two cylinder petrol engine, a tweaked version of the maxi-scooter CT650 GT's 650cc unit. This will be complemented by a 9 litre fuel tank, set at the front of the car and will help charge the battery to achieve an extended range of up to 186 miles.

The battery is a lithium ion 22kWh that BMW is giving an eight year/60,000 mile guarantee. It features 96 cells spread over the flat floor of the i3 with its own air conditioner, to maintain the correct 20ºC running temperature and is configured so that any damaged cells can be easily replaced. A full charge can be reached in six hours from a BMW supplied wall box or there is a quick charge facility, to get the i3 from 20% to 80% with 30 minutes at a 40kW fast charger.

Behind the wheel, the i3 is rewardingly perky, with entertaining agility from its 50/50 weight distribution and super responsive steering. Driving dynamics are interesting, with Comfort mode the highest performance setting and the Eco Pro+'s clever regenerative braking returning almost aggressive stopping power.

Overall, the i3 should make rival manufacturers, the auto press and the public alike sit up and take notice. Expect to see it on British roads by the end of the year, priced around £30,000.

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