BMW i3 Electric Vehicle Revealed, Australian Debut Set For 2014 Photo:
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TMR Team | Jul, 30 2013 | 5 Comments

BMW has at last pulled the pulled the stopper from its i3 drip feed, unveiling the new electric vehicle at special events in London, New York and Beijing.

As the first model in the coming BMW i range, the i3 will go on sale in Europe from November, and an Australian launch is planned for the middle of next year.

Revealed first as a concept in 2011, the production i3 remains true to its showcar roots, with the standout change being the enclosed door design that replaces the transparent panels of the original design.

The i3's architecture centres on a new 'LifeDrive' design, which combines a mostly aluminium chassis with a carbon fibre-reinforced plastic cell for the occupants.

The i3 measures 3999mm long and rides on a 2570mm wheelbase, comparing favourably to - for example - Volkswagen's Polo hatch, which measures 3952mm and 2470mm respectively.

As expected, the i3 will be offered in two forms. The first is a pure-electric model, which BMW believes will satisfy the majority of commuting needs.

The other option, the 'i3 REx', will add a small petrol engine to boost driving range, satisfying buyers that need a little more assurance.

In both cases, electric motivation is provided by a 125kW/250Nm rear-mounted motor, sending power to the rear wheels through a single-speed transmission.

The i3's electric motor is fed by a lithium-ion battery pack developed and manufactured in-house, and BMW promises the pure-electric model will deliver a driving range of between 130 to 160 kilometres from one charge.

The battery pack can be charged to 80 percent capacity on a 50kW fast charge system, or 100 percent in around eight hours on a regular home power point.

Opting for the REx model adds a motorcycle-derived 25kW 650cc two-cylinder petrol engine, boosting day-to-day driving range to around 250-300 kilometres.

Buyers might also find some charm in the i3's performance and handling: BMW says buyers can expect a 0-60km/h time of 3.7 seconds, and a 0-100km/h time of 7.2 seconds - making it a match for most light 'hot hatches'.

The i3 weighs around 1195kg depending on specification, and BMW promises a 50:50 weight distribution.

The suspension package includes single-joint MacPherson struts up front, matched to a five-link arrangement at the back end.

BMW says the i3 was developed not only to be the ultimate electric vehicle, but also to showcase the company's green production strategies.

Production of the i3 uses around 50 percent less energy and around 70 percent less water than the current average for the company's other models.

More, all electricity used in the i3's production at Leipzig is wind-generated, marking the first time a car assembly plant in Germany has isntalled wind turbines on-site.

In all, when compared to production of the 118d back in 2008 - that year's World Green Car of the Year, the BMW i3’s carbon footprint is around a third smaller.

The i3 will launch in the UK with a starting price of £25,680 (AU$42,650), or around the opening price of the familiar 3 Series in that market.

A lease option will also be offered, allowing motorists to pay £369 ($615) per month on a 36-month contract, with an upfront payment of £2995 ($4975).



Speaking with TMR today, BMW Australia's Scott Croaker said the i3 is currently scheduled to go on sale in Australia sometime in the middle of 2014.

He said that key details are still to be confirmed, but the carmaker is expecting to offer both the pure-electric and range-extended 'REx' versions of the i3 in Australia.

Mr Croaker said thad that BMW has watched the local electric-vehicle segment closely, and Holden's feasibility studies ahead of launching the Volt have been of particular interest.

Pricing has not been confirmed, but Mr Croaker said the company is considering options both for leasing and for outright purchase.

Mr Croaker could not confirm a pricing range, but said that it would not be fair to compare the i3 to current electric offerings in Australia because of the services that form part of the BMW i program.

Among them, and likely to be offered here, is the '360° ELECTRIC' service that will include loan cars - described as "flexible mobility solutions".

It is unclear if the i3 will launch immediately to the public or if, like Nissan's Leaf and Mitsubishi's i MiEV, a pilot program will lead the way.

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