Electrifying driving – BMW i3
Iain Dooley gets behind the wheel of BMW’s i3
THE i3 is a big deal, not just for BMW but also for the electric car industry. Boasting an innovative approach to design, construction and its underlying technology, this could be the car to give the electric car market the shot in the arm it needs to make the move from niche to mainstream status.
To date, early adopters have helped drive interest in electric transport. BMW is clearly keen to tap into this buyer demographic; witness the i3’s futuristic looks and the car-maker’s efforts at community building with a comprehensive smartphone app that can remotely monitor your pride and joy.
The bottom line is a carbon composite shell wrapped in funky-looking panels and room for four inside the radically styled – by current standards – cabin. Wood trim blends surprisingly well with the car’s exposed composite shell and the liberal use of natural fibres for door panels and the top of the fascia.
Still, this window dressing would all be for nought if the i3 failed to deliver the goods in the real world. Thankfully it’s not, as the electric BMW offers possibly the most rounded driving and ownership experience to date. Granted, progress is rapid in the electric car sector, but the i3 behaves more, well, car-like than most.
Interestingly, BMW has retained its trademark rear-wheel drive layout for the i3. At a whisker under four metres, it’s a genuine compact car, and this is reflected in its agility around town and its Black Cab-rivalling turning circle. The i3’s narrow section tyres also play a part, plus they contribute towards the car’s slippery aerodynamic properties.
With BMW’s clean-sheet approach to design comes the ability to place the batteries, a 230kg slab of lithium-ion power, under the car’s flat floor. This ensures maximum occupant space in the cabin, a decent size boot and a positive effect on the car’s handling. The 170 horsepower electric motor also plays a significant part in the i3’s overall performance.
And you can’t talk about batteries without covering the practicalities of range. BMW previously conducted detailed research with volunteers and fleets of electric 1 Series and Mini models to observe driver behaviour. As you’d expect, although the mainly urban journeys were frequent, they were short. With that in mind, a real world range of around 100 miles isn’t so bad.
Although different eco-centric driving modes can be selected to maximise driving range, the i3’s in-built brake regeneration properties can return a meaningful amount of charge to the battery over the course of a journey.
You need to lay off the brake pedal though, as simply easing off the throttle at urban speeds is enough to bring the i3 to a steady yet prompt halt. While that’s happening, the i3’s battery is getting a small but useful top up. Conversely, lean hard on the throttle and you can experience a 1 Series diesel level of brisk acceleration.
The ability to drive almost exclusively using just one pedal aside, the i3 delivers a surprisingly conventional driving experience. Largely familiar controls, a lofty driving position, good visibility and a high level of refinement go a long way to justifying the car’s premium price tag and ensuring its place within the BMW family.
Of course, the financial aspect of the car should be equally appealing. The absence of road tax and fuel liabilities rank high alongside the ability to charge the car for very little – overnight via a domestic electricity supply, and a matter of hours when connected to a high output wall box or public recharging point.
Okay, so the i3 isn’t a cheap proposition, but it’s a compelling one for savvy early adopters keen not just to make a statement but also to exploit the car’s considerable on-road talents. Range aside the ownership experience presents few compromises worth noting. While electric cars are still viewed as a gamble by many, BMW’s clean-sheet approach with the i3 could pave the way for wider acceptance.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: BMW i3, from £25,680 on the road including £5,000 government grant.
Engine: electric motor developing 170bhp.
Transmission: single speed transmission as standard, driving the rear wheels.
Performance: Maximum speed 93mph, 0-62mph 7.2 seconds.
Economy: approximate range of 80-100 miles per charge.
CO2 Rating: 0g/km.
Latest posts by Sally - Silversurfer's Editor (see all)
- How much would you be happy to pay for a hearing aid? - October 15, 2018
- Would you find it easy to reduce your consumption of meat? - October 12, 2018
- Your Check List! - October 11, 2018
- Win a 2-night stay for 5 at five star Tynrhyd Retreat - October 10, 2018
- Win a stylish Opti-myst® Oakhurst electric stove courtesy of Dimplex! - October 10, 2018
Leave a Comment!
Community Terms & Conditions
These content standards apply to any and all material which you contribute to our site (contributions), and to any interactive services associated with it.
You must comply with the spirit of the following standards as well as the letter. The standards apply to each part of any contribution as well as to its whole.
be accurate (where they state facts); be genuinely held (where they state opinions); and comply with applicable law in the UK and in any country from which they are posted.
Contributions must not:
contain any material which is defamatory of any person; or contain any material which is obscene, offensive, hateful or inflammatory; or promote sexually explicit material; or promote violence; promote discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age; or infringe any copyright, database right or trade mark of any other person; or be likely to deceive any person; or be made in breach of any legal duty owed to a third party, such as a contractual duty or a duty of confidence; or promote any illegal activity; or be threatening, abuse or invade another’s privacy, or cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety; or be likely to harass, upset, embarrass, alarm or annoy any other person; or be used to impersonate any person, or to misrepresent your identity or affiliation with any person; or give the impression that they emanate from us, if this is not the case; or advocate, promote or assist any unlawful act such as (by way of example only) copyright infringement or computer misuse.
Nurturing a safe environment
Our Silversurfers community is designed to foster friendships, based on trust, honesty, integrity and loyalty and is underpinned by these values.
We don't tolerate swearing, and reserve the right to remove any posts which we feel may offend others... let's keep it friendly!