- New model for 2014, BMW’s first mass production electric car
- Sold in two versions: one all-electric, one with a gas-powered range extender
- Travels 80-100 miles on a full charge
New for 2014, the BMW i3 represents the German luxury automaker’s first widely available electric car and it debuts with advanced technology inside and a unique look on the outside.
The i3 is anything but traditional, from a design or materials standpoint, which makes it an interesting choice for a company that takes its tradition very seriously. Much of the body is made from high-strength carbon fiber reinforced plastic, which has the strength of steel but at much less weight. The drivetrain components and chassis are made of aluminum as well. Total weight checks-in at right around 2,700 pounds.
Electric cars are not burdened like their gas brethren when it comes to body shape or construction; electric motors are small in size and can be placed in different parts of the vehicle without really altering its balance or performance, but most of the electric cars thus far have looked more like traditional cars, since automakers think that will be more palatable to consumers.
The i3 is one of the first electrics to break that convention, and we appreciate the chance BMW takes at innovation. There are four doors, but the rear doors open rearwards and there is no B-pillar. Each of the four wheels are pushed out to the far corners of the car which allows for more cabin space inside, while maintaining a small, city friendly footprint. 19-inch alloy wheels and LED headlights/taillights are standard, while 20-inch wheels are optional.
The 2014 i3’s electric motor is powered by a lithium-ion battery pack found in the rear of the car and can output 170-hp and 184 pounds-feet of torque. The battery pack has enough juice to give the i3 80-100 miles of range on a full charge. For those with range anxiety, or who want the capability to travel longer distances, a version of the i3 with a gasoline range extender is also offered. It is a 34-hp, two-cylinder gas engine that recharges the battery instead of driving the wheels and provides an additional 80-100 miles of range on its own. The gas tank is only 2.4 gallons, which works out to an approximate mpg figure of 33-40 when running on gas.
Inside, the futuristic looking i3 makes liberal use of renewable and recyclable materials. 25% of the interior plastic and 25% of the exterior plastic as well are made from those sources, and the instrument panel surround and door trim pieces are made from plant fibers. Even the plant where the i3 is build uses wind-generated electricity, while olive-leaf extract is used to tan the leather seating surfaces instead of traditional tanning which uses harmful chemicals. Standard interior features include automatic climate control, iDrive with a 6.5-inch screen, Bluetooth connectivity, navigation, and a USB/iPod port.
There are also plenty of standard safety features as well, including six airbags, antilock brakes, an electronic stability system, and an emergency communication system that comes with a 10-year subscription.