BMW Officially Unveils its Ultra-Light Electric i3 Car [Gallery]

The BMW i3 electric supermini is unveiled and goes on sale in November.

  • Photo: BMWPhoto: BMW
  • Photo: BMWPhoto: BMW
  • Photo: BMWPhoto: BMW
  • Photo: BMWPhoto: BMW
  • Photo: BMWPhoto: BMW
  • Photo: BMWPhoto: BMW
  • Photo: BMWPhoto: BMW
  • The Bavarian auto maker describes its new BMW i3 as a new chapter of a visionary design language for BMW tailor-made for electric vehicles. Photo: BMWThe Bavarian auto maker describes its new BMW i3 as a new chapter of a visionary design language for BMW tailor-made for electric vehicles. Photo: BMW

Today BMW has officially entered the EV market, as it has announced a BMW i3 – company’s first production electric vehicle under the “i” sub-brand.

The electrically powered supermini to help ease the fears of potential buyers worried that it won’t suit their lifestyle, it will be sold with the option of cheap access to BMW’s conventionally powered cars for short periods.

Actually, BMW i3 is the most innovative thing to come out of Munich in a decade. The BMW i3 is chock-full of new technology afforded by its design as an EV from the start of development, which has resulted in a vehicle layout unique to the i3.

BMW has named it LifeDrive architecture, and it features the Life Module and the Drive Module. The Life Module is the i3’s pillar-less passenger cell, which is the first mass-produced monocoque made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP).

The Drive Module, a 100-percent aluminum chassis mounted under the Life Module, houses everything that makes the i3 go.

The i3 is packed with the 22-kilowatt, 450-pound lithium-ion power train good for a claimed range of between 80 and 100 miles and provides 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque.

Charging takes eight to 10 hours from a standard 240V socket, or you can have a BMW i Wallbox fitted at your home. This will take the i3 from zero to 80 per cent in three hours. Find a public DC rapid charger, and the batteries can be topped up in just 30 minutes to an hour.

In proper BMW fashion, 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque is delivered to the rear wheels through a single-speed transmission. And that hybrid-synchronous electric motor mounted out back revs out to a (silently) screaming 11,400 RPM.  I3 is also the lightest electric vehicles on the market, as its curb weight is only 2,700 pounds.

BMW i3 is offered in two versions: pure electric model or the range extender.  Both are powered by the same electric power train, but the range extender version also has a 650cc, 34bhp two-cylinder petrol engine that acts as a generator to extend the battery’s overall range.

The standard model has a range of between 80 and 100 miles, whereas the Range Extender version has a range of between 160 and 186 miles on one tank of fuel, says the Telegraph.

Once inside, it’s an open, airy affair, with modern seats, futuristic, driver-centric controls, and displays that appear to float in mid-air. There’s plenty of kit for the eco-obsessed, including sustainably harvested woods, recycled plastics, and trim from a Kenaf plant. Even the plastic key fob is made out of a bio-polymer from oils pressed from castor seeds.

The i3 will go on sale in the US for $41,350 in the second quarter of 2014. That does not include any state or federal incentives that could lower the price or the $925 destination fee. The i3 will debut with three trim levels, which BMW is referring to as Worlds: Mega (standard in the US), Giga and Tera.

Although BMW suggests the i3 will satisfy buyer’s needs for the majority of the time, it is attempting to ease fears over “range anxiety” by offering the car with “BMW Access” – a system that allows them to borrow other BMW or Mini vehicles for a certain number of days each year, for holidays or longer trips.

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