2014 BMW i3 PluginCars com

15 Июн 2014 | Author: | Комментарии к записи 2014 BMW i3 PluginCars com отключены
BMW 5er Electric Cars

2014 BMW i3 Review

Small lightweight cutting-edge electric car

Styling

The all-electric BMW i3 is a marvel of lightweight aerodynamic design and electric efficiency. But, in order to succeed in the marketplace, cars have to appeal on a visual and emotional level. Opinion is divided on whether or not the i3 achieves the level of appeal granted to most Bimmers. Hannah Elliot, Forbes staff writer, said, “It’s not exactly ugly but it doesn’t exactly offer the taut, sporty appeal of a M3 or a Z4, either.”

Historically, designers have had a hard time finding an attractive design for a small electric city car—as evidenced by the design of cars like the i3, Spark EV, and Scion iQ EV. Perhaps the most successful small EV design is the electric version of the Fiat 500, especially when decked out in a striking color combination.

The i3 is short. But it’s a bit taller than many other cars, and very wide for a car this length. Its dimensions are 157.4 inches long, 69.9 inches wide, and 62.1 inches high. So it’s unusual from any angle, and it has so many unique details. Striking features include large U-shaped LED daylights, smoothly integrated rear lights, and a broken belt line with the rear door window lower than the front one.

The BMW i3 can’t be mistaken for any other car, inside and out, and everywhere around.

To BMW loyalists, the biggest difference is probably in the dashboard. Or the lack of it. In any other BMW car, there’s a large instrument cluster, with two easy-to-read round dials.

What you get in the i3 is a smallish screen, barely larger than a smartphone. There’s a 10.2-inch screen for the navigation system, but the one in front of the driver is about 6 inches wide and only 1.5 inches high. The upper part of the dashboard and the door panels are made of kenaf fibers, and it looks like something halfway between charcoal and mouse fur. Depending on whom you ask, it’s either weird or cool, but everybody will agree that it’s a break from the past.

The material is soft and warm to the touch.

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, and we shouldn’t rush to judgment on 2014 BMW i3 design, until we see more of them in the wild. Maybe the i3 will look fresh and exciting in the context of the road. Maybe it could even be a cult hit.

Or it might take a generation or two for BMW to get the design of an all-electric city car to have all the appeal of the company’s more attractive gas-powered sedans.

Performance

Our early experiences behind the wheel of i3 were not been totally novel, because the i3 shares its drivetrain with BMW’s earlier test platform for electric cars, the ActiveE. The heavy Maglev-like ActiveE offered a vivid drive—but the i3 is lighter and more aerodynamic, and the aluminum chassis (with carbon fiber passenger cell) was purpose-built for the car. So it feels much faster.

BMW says the i3’s 125-horsepower electric motor driving the rear wheels produces 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. That’s good for 7.2 seconds to 60 mph. Like the Tesla Model S, it takes off with an uncanny burst of quiet power.

There are massive amounts of dialed-in regenerative braking, as there was in the MiniE, but the i3 feels far more stable and controlled. It’s one-pedal driving at its best. Lift off the accelerator, and it rapidly sheds speed and comes to rest, as the charge indicator shows you’re feeding the battery pack.

There’s no “creep,” so you don’t need the brakes to stay in place.

All in all, the i3 feels very much a part of the “ultimate driving machine” stable, with very balanced steering and a taut but not jarring ride. This would be one exciting city commuter car, if the congestion opens enough to let you really step on the pedal.

Efficiency/Range

The i3 is powered by a 22 kilowatt-hour 450-pound-lithium ion battery pack, mounted flat in the i3’s aluminum drive module. According to BMW, the usable capacity is nearly 19 kilowatt-hours. Given the cars lightweight carbon fiber structure, the i3 is likely to push efficiency to 4 miles per kilowatt-hour or more—the higher end of EV capability.

This adds up to a realistic driving range of about 80 miles on a full charge.

It’s too early to confirm an exact real-world range from the first i3 owners, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not yet issued numbers. BMW provides an optimistic maximum all-electric range estimate of 190 kilometers or 118 miles. That’s possible, but only with very careful driving.

The “mean customer value” for range given by BMW is more likely: between 80 and 100 miles.

Very cold and hot weather should not have an extreme impact on the i3’s range. That’s because the battery pack is kept close to an optimum temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit, thanks to an active liquid thermal management system. BMW said the battery pack can either be cooled using the car’s air conditioner, or warmed using the car’s heat-exchange heating system.

Like other cars with active thermal management, BMW said the battery pack can be pre-warmed before a trip to ensure maximum performance, range and battery life.

For drivers who think the on-board battery pack capability isn’t enough to assuage range anxiety, BMW sells the i3 with an optional two-cylinder, 650cc gasoline range extender.

Mounted above the rear axle next to the 125-kilowatt motor, the range-extender can be programmed to turn on when the i3’s battery reaches a user-defined minimum state of charge. With a tiny gasoline tank providing fuel, BMW intends the range-extender to be used occasionally, turning a single charge plus a 2.4 gallon tank of gasoline into an additional 60 to 80 miles of range beyond the 80 or so miles that the battery pack provides.

For trips beyond the range of the i3, BMW announced that it will make gasoline cars available to i3 owners as part of its BMW i3 mobility package. For situations when a customer runs out of charge and has no range-extending engine, BMW says Mobile Service vehicles will be able to assist stranded cars, carrying enough on-board power to safely get stranded i3 owners to the nearest charging station.

The range-extending REx engine only holds 2.4 gallons of gas, so it’s going to need regular fill-ups if you use it a lot.

Charging

The i3 makes use of the Combo SAE J1772 connector, allowing it to charge from one the many Level 2 AC home charging station. See our guide for buying your first station.

The SAE combo cord also makes the i3 accessible to 50-kilowatt DC Quick charge stations that are capable of refilling the car’s battery pack to 80 percent full in around 20 to 30 minutes. As of January 2014, very few public DC Quick Charging stations currently have connectors compatible with the SAE standard—but that will change over time. Besides, 90 percent or more of EV charging takes place at home.

The good news is that BMW engineers equipped the i3 with a 6.6-kW onboard charger, which means that an hour’s worth of charging adds about 20 to 25 miles of driving. The 6.6-kW rating for the charger is the key. It doubles the added range in an hour from EVs outfitted with an anemic 3.3-kW charger.

Passenger/Cargo Room

Oliver Walter, project manager BMW i, in an interview with PluginCars.com at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show, said, “The BMW i3 is about the exterior size of a BMW 1-series, but has the interior roominess of a 3-series, and the quality of materials and luxury features of a 5-series.”

Precise measurements are not quite so clear on that matter. The trunk of a 3-series is 13 cubic feet. With a full load of passengers, the four-seat car offers a modest 9.18 cubic feet of cargo space.

Yet, when the rear seats of the hatch are folded down, an additional 29 cubic feet of space become available. The car certainly has a lot more room inside than you would expect from a quick curbside view.

The quality of the interior, with its retrained quasi-Scandinavian feel, premium materials, and Teutonic attention to detail, puts the electric competition to shame. The interior of the i3, with its sculpted wood dashboard and floating navigation monitor, is gorgeous.

A questionable design decision that affects passenger comfort is the use of rear-hinged “coach” doors. If getting into the back by yourself, first you open the front door; then the back door; then you need to stretch way forward to close the front door—a process requiring even stronger yoga skills in reverse. Sure, it’s not that often that you’re sitting in the back for long without the driver getting in, but it does happen.

Here’s something else: those back windows do not open at all. No roll down and no venting hinge. Also, front passengers cannot be buckled into a seat belt if another passenger wants to get in back. The seat belts are harnessed to the small back door—try to get in while the driver is buckled, and you give him or her a squeeze.

Make the mistake of closing the front door first, and the back door awkwardly squishes into the front door.

Safety

BMW 5er Electric Cars

The carbon fiber body of the i3 is as strong as steel, but it’s 50 percent lighter. The goal of shifting to carbon fiber is improved efficiency—and increased EV range. But is it safe?

U.S. agencies have not yet released safety ratings for the i3—but in November 2013, the i3 scored four out of a possible five stars in a EuroNCAP safety test. The small EV failed to earn the top rating after scoring 57 percent in the pedestrian safety test due to a poor front edge to the hood evaluation, as well as disappointing results recorded at the base of the windshield and along the stiff windshield pillars. EuroNCAP noted that the i3 met test requirements by offering electronic stability control as standard equipment, but that it lacked seat belt reminders in the rear of the car.

These results are not terrible, but have raised some concerns. Yet, critically, the i3 scored maximum points with good protection of all body regions.

BMW i3 uses a wide range of high-tech and network services to enhance safety. With Driving Assistant Plus, and optional feature, the BMW i3 provides collision warning—and can automatically maintain speed and distance in city traffic up to about 25 miles per hour. The optional Park Assistant makes parking more convenient.

Price

The BMW i3, the company’s first all-electric production car—carries a starting price tag of $42,275 before incentives. (The MSRP consists of a base price of $41,350, plus a mandatory destination fee of $925.)

The i3 is eligible for the same $7,500 federal tax credit as other plug-in cars on sale in the U.S. today. Add local incentives and residents in California will be able to pick up a brand new i3 for as little as $33,000, while those in Colorado—where state legislation offers plug-in car drivers up to $6,000 in tax credits—will be able to buy an i3 for $28,775.

The official pricing of the all-electric i3 puts it toward the high-end of the electric vehicle market, making it the most expensive all-electric four-seat car on the market today. The i3 version with the range-extended engine, a feature commonly called “Reed,” pushes the price to $45,300 (plus destination). In other words, the cost of easing range anxiety is $3,950.

BMW executives say they expect about half of buyers to opt for the Rex version. Be advised that there is a limit to the number of green HOV stickers that are allocated for plug-in cars that have any sort of engine. The green HOV stickers, like the unlimited number of white stickers granted to pure EVs, allow solo driving in the carpool lane.


But there is no guarantee that, by the time you apply for a green sticker for the i3, stickers will still be available.

There are several trim levels for the i3, including the base Mega World—and the mid-level Giga World—adding larger wheels, a partial leather interior, sunroof and satellite radio, and tacking on $1,700 to the purchase price. The top of the line Tera World, for $2,700 over base, adds full leather, unique 19-inch wheels and anthracite floor mats. The parking package costs $1,000, while the Technology Driver Assistant option adds $2,500 more to the total.

Additional convenience and entertainment options can easily send the price of the i3 above $50,000.

Comparisons of Similar Cars

The smooth, swift and silent drive characteristics of all EVs give them a quasi-luxury feel. But the i3 is the first electric car from a full-scale well-established luxury brand. Of course, the Tesla Model S is a luxury automobile, but its sticker price—which can approach or exceed six figures—puts it in a different cost category than the i3.

The upcoming Cadillac ELR, also considerably pricier than the i3, is a larger sports-oriented luxury vehicle—also not really in the same category as the urban small i3.

The closest competitor has yet to arrive: the Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive. They are both premium electric vehicles from German manufacturers, and will likely have a very similar range and price. They are both hatchbacks, although the Benz seats five and is larger than the BMW.

When you look at an i3, it’s clear that BMW did everything they could to reduce weight and increase efficiency. With the B-Class, there isn’t any evidence to suggest that weight savings were considered. In fact, the electric B-Class will weigh about 250 pounds more than a European B-Class Diesel, which means the B-Class Electric Drive should tip the scales at about 3,900 pounds.

From the Mercedes perspective, the i3 sacrificed some creature comforts like power seats and used eco-friendly thin tires, in the name of efficiency. Meanwhile, Mercedes will also offer a full line of options and interior trim packages for the B-Class EV, the same as any car it sells. The B-Class EV has a 28 kilowatt-hour battery pack—compared to the i3’s 22 kWh pack.

Despite the weight penalty, the larger battery pack on the Mercedes will likely mean at least a few more miles on a charge.

Purchase Process

Start your purchase of the BMW i3 by visiting a local dealership or clicking on the “Build Your Own” button on the BMWUSA.com website. Production is underway, but as BMW executives told us in November 2013 that the wait for those who already have placed orders, could means deliveries in about May 2014.

If the i3 follows the pattern of previous new EVs to the market, the current wait of about six months will continue to last until the list of “early adopters” dwindles, at which time waiting lists will decrease to just a couple months. It could take close to a year before inventory is available enough to place stock at dealerships. Until then, consumers will place orders ahead of time, and wait for a delivery to a local dealership.

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