BMW i3 coming in November
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BMW has officially unveiled the production version of its first fully electric car, called the i3. The i3 is purported to be more than just another electric car; it aims to revolutionise urban mobility as well as bringing carbon fibre production to a scale never before seen. The car was designed to fit in with the needs of modern 'urban mobility' for those living in highly populated 'megacities' such as London, New York, Beijing, and we assume Dublin, Cork and Galway too...
It is safe to say that the i3 looks like nothing BMW has ever produced before, due to the structural and packaging needs as well as taking a whole new approach towards the design process. The car is most clearly defined by its compact dimensions, as well as its unique style.
With the i3 measuring in at just 3,999 millimetres in length - 325 millimetres less than a two-door BMW 1 Series - and with virtually no overhangs thanks to a chassis design that features the wheels pushed right out to the corners, the i3 should feel very manoeuvrable in town driving. As the i3 doesn't have a traditional engine as such, a lot of the space in the carbon fibre chassis design can be allocated to the interior, meaning that, despite the i3's diminutive size, it still feels relatively spacious on the inside. Access is via a clever door system that sees the back passenger door open via a rear hinge; thanks to the strength of the carbon fibre frame there is no need for a traditional B-pillar - something we have already seen in Ford's B-Max, although the i3 doesn't quite offer the same degree of access to the rear. One of the most noticeable features is the larger window in the rear door, which is designed to allow more light into the back in order to increase the feeling of spaciousness.
The high roofline - which includes glass panels to let more light into the cabin - slopes only slightly towards the rear where the near vertical tailgate again maximises space to help the i3 be more manoeuvrable while also still giving users a boot space that remains practical. The fully-glazed tailgate contains rear lights that are integrated inside and only appear to be there when illuminated. When lifting the small bonnet at the front, an additional smaller storage compartment is revealed and is where items such as a domestic charging cable kit can be kept.
The interior of the BMW i3 is every bit as radical from a design perspective as the exterior. Due to the very compact nature of the i3, much work was needed to create a car that didn't feel too small, so the use of a carbon fibre passenger compartment meant that less structural supports were needed.
One of the most noticeable features is the lack of a dashboard in the traditional sense. The styling shows a very minimalist interior and leaves much of the car's construction material exposed.
From the driving seat the view is very clear - a multifunction steering wheel is perhaps the most 'traditional' item on display, behind which is a 6.5-inch colour display screen that is free-standing and displays details including a speedometer. The gear selector is located on the steering column. On the centre of the dash is another free-standing 8.8-inch Control Display for the i3's iDrive system. Another feature of the i3 will be the BMW ConnectedDrive system, which will enable owners to remotely plan their trips via a smartphone app and send these remotely to the car. The system can then use real-time traffic information to plan alternative routes in order to reduce both journey time and battery consumption. For longer trips the system can not only locate charging stations but even suggest additional forms of public transport.
Throughout the interior BMW has used a wide mix of materials from traditional wood and leather as well as modern CFRP (carbon fibre-reinforced polymer) to allow for items such as the seatbacks to be made as thin as possible without affecting comfort or safety.
Like all traditional BMWs, the i3 remains a rear-wheel drive vehicle and is powered by a rear-mounted 125kW electric motor - that equates to 170hp. As with all electric motors, maximum torque is available instantly, which in the case of the i3 is a respectable 250Nm.
BMW claims that the i3 is capable of covering up to 130 kilometres on a single charge, which may seem short in comparison to some electric vehicles but BMW argues that this range is still more than what typical users will cover in an average day's driving. For those that still fear they may suffer from 'range anxiety', BMW will also offer the i3 with a range extender engine in the form of a 650cc petrol unit, which, rather than powering the wheels, will generate electricity to feed directly into the battery packs in order to effectively double the i3's range.
The use of carbon fibre in the car's construction has not only helped it to retain a very low overall weight, but also adds structural rigidity, as well as offering excellent levels of safety including the ability to absorb impacts.
BMW will be offering some additional flexible schemes to go with i3 ownership including the possibility to hire cars from the main BMW range, such as a 5 Series or X5, if owners require transport for a driving holiday for example where the i3 simply would not be suitable.
In Ireland just one dealer, Joe Duffy BMW, will be designated an i-Agent and will supply and service the i3 as well as future models such as the i8. Pricing for the i3 will start in Ireland at €33,160 after government grants of €10,000 for electric vehicles (two different grants) and the first cars are expected to arrive in Ireland in November.
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