Charged EVs BMW i3 The launch of many firsts

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BMW i3 Electric Cars

BMW i3: The launch of many firsts

you’re writing about the of a new industry, “firsts” and “milestones” along so often that may start to lose their However, the BMW i3, which was officially in July, and is scheduled to go on sale year, boasts an impressive of innovations that has the EV press like an overloaded transformer.

The i3 is the EV to offer a range-extending gas engine as an and it’s the first vehicle of any to make such extensive use of fiber reinforced plastic In addition to its technological innovations, the i3 a milestone for the market. It’s the production EV from any of the upscale brands, and only the second EV to go on sale in the US (the first was the electric drive).

While would seem to be a perfect for EVs, in fact American and automakers have been the way. Renault, which has a with Nissan, is doing well with its four models, but it’s the German who set the tone in the European market, and the i3 that tone an electric If BMW starts moving some VW and the other Continental carmakers are to turn up the voltage too.

brings us to what we in the plug-in think of as The Big Question: will the i3 be another public relations or is BMW serious about selling it in volume? At this point, the tea look positive. BMW has created a sub-brand, i, just for electric and it has said that the i3 will be at about 300 of its 338 US dealers.

At the i3’s party in New York, Charged with Jose Guerrero, the Product Manager, and Jacob BMW’s North American of EV Operations. They declined to any specific sales projections, but that production capacity be “in the thousands.” BMW will start reservations at the end of the year, and plans to deliveries in spring 2014.

The has a reputation for introducing new models and deliberately, and this certainly to be the case with its electrification which have proceeded in phases. In 2009, BMW began tests of the Mini E, a conversion of the Cooper. In January 2012, it a trial of the ActiveE, which was on the BMW 1 Series sedan, leasing vehicles to “electronauts” for a three-year

The company has applied what it has in both of these programs to the i3, Jacob Harb describes as the breakthrough EV. “We crawled with the E, we walked with the ActiveE and run with the i,” he said. “We learn day. The electronauts have now over 12.5 million worldwide, and they are incredibly

Because the i3 was designed as an EV from the BMW’s engineers were to make it extremely light lbs, versus 4,000 for the This allowed them to the battery size to 22 kWh (compared to the 32 kWh battery) while offering the range (around 80-100 This not only saves on and cost, but also charging

The i3 has the same onboard charger as the but can charge in three hours, as to four or five.

In a previous the i3 was called the Megacity, which a clue to its intended habitat. compact, with a shape allows it to squeeze into parking spots but maximizes space. It also features a turning radius, which like a number until you try as Jose Guerrero relates. you do a U-turn, you see how it’s really to be used in a city environment.

We able to do that because of the drive. You don’t have all components in the front, so the steering is and you can whip this car around

BMW designed the i3 “from the ground up” to be an EV, and most of the components, including the power electronics and battery, in-house or in cooperation with venture partners. Every has been designed to save and weight, in order to maximize Energy-saving LED lights are used

An optional heat pump up to 30% less energy than electric heating.

The i3’s battery consists of eight each with 12 individual and produces 360 V and 22 kWh of energy. It’s to replace individual modules in the of a fault. The battery pack at the bottom of the chassis, which handling and frees up interior

The AC coolant also cools the and can be warmed using a heat keeping the battery at its optimum temperature of around 20° C. Both the and passenger compartment can be preconditioned a journey begins, while connected to the grid.


The optional range extender is a 650 cc gas engine that is mounted to the electric motor above the axle. The 25 kW/34 hp engine the car’s maximum range to 180 miles. This is an interesting while Toyota and Ford hybrid models with the to plug in, BMW offers a pure EV the option to add a bottle of dinosaur as a sort of security blanket, or Jacob Harb calls wheels for the consumer that’s on the How many consumers will they need the training is unknown, but BMW’s production is flexible enough to build i3s or without the range extender, to demand.

The range extender has no on luggage capacity (the fuel tank is located in the section of the car) and BMW spokesmen us that it doesn’t hurt the performance. Apparently that motor can produce enough to maintain the same acceleration and top while in range-extended mode. the addition of the extra weight reduce the specs a bit, another seven tenths to the 0-62 mph time, and dropping range by 10%.

Jose explained why BMW chose to offer the extender instead of a larger “Ninety percent of Americans less than 30-35 a day. We know that our Mini E studies. Why do people bigger batteries?

Because of anxiety. What happens we add more batteries? More more cost.” The range and a full gas tank add a mere 450 lbs and to the equation. DC fast charging, can deliver an 80% charge in 20 minutes, is treatment for range anxiety, and expects it to be a more popular than the range extender.

A of the electronauts that tested the said they would have DC fast charging.

The i3 uses a new architecture called which is similar in principle to a design. The car consists of two horizontally modules: the aluminum Drive (aka the chassis) incorporates the and drive system, while the module (aka the passenger is made of carbon fiber plastic (CFRP). This material is a big part of the i’s lightweight strategy. CFRP components are 50% lighter than steel with comparable properties. to BMW, CFRP is the lightest that can be used in the construction of car without compromising on safety.

The low and high rigidity of CFRP the i3’s designers to dispense B-pillars, so they used “coach” doors in order to easier access to the two rows of The i requires no central tunnel, opens up even more space.

CFRP has other benefits. It time and costs on the production and it can be repaired more quickly metal. As Jacob Harb “you don’t rebend you just replace a module.”

Of the main point of CFRP is to weight. Designing any EV involves among battery capacity, and range. Range can be extended by battery size, but that weight and harms performance. a more powerful motor and electronics require more which again means batteries or restricted range.

A body, on the other hand, performance, and the weight savings can be in larger batteries which, in boost the car’s range.

to the aggressive weight-saving measures, the i3 is no than a comparable ICE vehicle a full fuel tank. The weighs just 50 kg, and the battery 230 kg. The imperative extends to such as the door trim panels lighter than conventional aluminum screws and bolts, and the windshield wiper blades, use a honeycomb structure to save

Engineering Notes: Carbon Fiber Plastic

The carbon fiber raw for the BMW i3 is produced at a plant in Moses in Washington state, which is by the BMW Group and its joint venture the SGL Group. In a complex multi-stage the constituent elements of the fiber are by gasification, leaving a virtually carbon fiber just microns thick. About of these individual filaments are into so-called rovings or tows, and wound on reels, are sent to the plant in Wackersdorf, for processing into lightweight fiber laminates.

At the CFRP shops in Landshut and Leipzig BMW is already producing other parts, such as the roofs for the M3 and M6 the fiber laminates are processed body parts. At the initial stage, the pre-cut carbon laminate begins to acquire a During this process a source is used to give a stack a stable, three-dimensional Several of these preformed can then be joined to form a component.

In this way, can be used to produce components a large surface area would be difficult to manufacture aluminum or sheet steel.

and preform joining are followed by a resin injection process resin transfer molding. As the and the resin bond, the material the rigidity that is the key to its special

Until now, CFRP compartments have been only for special vehicles as racers and extravagant individual cars. Production costs are of importance for these small The curing time for the adhesive can be more than one day.

To this time for mass of the i3, BMW has greatly accelerated this process.

A newly developed can now be processed for only 90 seconds developing adhesion following to a component. Half an hour it is hard, a tenfold acceleration of the bonding process. In order to reduce the curing time to a few BMW has developed an additional thermal that involves additional of specific adhesion points to accelerate the curing process by a of 32.

The new CFRP press shop has in common with a conventional press facility it boasts a production structure which is in lower costs. For example, are significantly reduced by the fact a conventional paint shop and immersion priming are not required. The new process brings enormous savings, and makes it feasible to large CFRP components, newly formed parts the press in less than 10

Even complex assemblies the entire side frame for the Life module leave the with many structural already integrated.

BMW is already some CFRP parts in models, and representatives indicated it’s possible the leaner could lead to wider use in more vehicles. However, the use of in electric vehicles is particularly because the reduction in weight can be by a reduction in the size of the battery which is also expensive.

BMW i3 Electric Cars

The i3 features what BMW calls a control concept. The moment the eases off on the accelerator, the electric switches from drive to mode, and produces a precisely braking effect. The regeneration is which means the car “coasts” maximum efficiency at high and generates a strong braking at low speeds. According to BMW, creates a very direct between driver and car, and an driver can carry out 75 percent of maneuvers without touching the pedal. “Once you spend an in the car, it becomes a game,” Jacob Harb. “Can I get without using the brake at The friction brakes are activated when the driver really on the pedal.

The system is even smart to illuminate the brake lights the amount of regeneration crosses a threshold.


Naturally, the i3 the latest and greatest connectivity and assistance features. An integrated SIM and extensive smartphone integration via USB and allow drivers to share with their car at any time. The i3 is in wireless contact with servers, transmitting data the battery and other electrical and receiving up-to-the-moment navigation

The navigation system has a dynamic display that considers factors and gives drivers a updated range estimate. If the programmed into the navigation is beyond the car’s range, the Assistant will suggest to the energy-saving Eco Pro or Eco Pro+ mode, and a more efficient route. The AC and which also condition the pack, can be activated remotely. The Assistant Plus option Active Cruise Control and Warning with braking

The Parking Assistant option fully automatic parallel


BMW has gone to great to insure that the i3’s production process, supply and recycling all adhere to sustainable The production of the BMW i3 consumes around 50 less energy and 70 percent water compared to other BMW The carbon fiber plant in Lake is run entirely on hydroelectric and the Leipzig assembly plant is by on-site wind turbines.

all this into consideration, BMW the i3’s carbon footprint is a third smaller than of the BMW 118d, which was named Green Car of the Year in 2008.

BMW will offer “white installation of its Wallbox home and installation costs can be rolled the financing. In public, the ChargeNow enables universal access to poles and provides a cashless of payment. It allows customers to use stations operated by different with a single card and a single standardized invoice BMW i. BMW is one of the partners in the Hubject joint which is working to create a roaming capability for EVs throughout

Shaking up the market

A couple of have pontificated that from the i3 spells trouble for EV sellers Nissan, GM and Tesla. new offering is definitely going to things up, and give each of three a kick in the pants, but it more like a model fills a gap in the market, rather one that directly competes existing models.

Tesla’s Model S is a luxury with a price tag way north of the so there’s no head-to-head match-up However, BMW has another ace up its sleeve, the i8, a performance-oriented PHEV that might give Model S a run for its It’s scheduled to debut at the Auto Show in September, and in showrooms in early 2014, the same time as the i3.

However, planned as a low-volume car, a much higher price than the i3.

The LEAF and the i3 have similar form factors the i3 is a bit smaller, and seats only and few would dispute that the i3 is a ride. You’d expect a BMW to a higher price tag than a and you’d be right the LEAF has an of $28,800 to $34,840 depending on the and that’s far enough below the $42,275 to make it unlikely the i3 will be poaching very of the LEAF’s customers.

The same applies to the Chevrolet Volt. The Volt has an MSRP of $34,995, the i3 with the REx option carries a price of $45,200. Besides, the two look and feel very and they’re just not being to the same type of buyers.

The i3 is an city car, and a Volt is for who want an EV, but need to have the to take long trips, that the i3, even with the is not designed to do.

All of this is excellent for consumers. Different car buyers very different sets of and wants, and EVs are really going to off only when there are different models available to the various niches. When the i3 on sale, that day will be a lot closer.

This article originally appeared in 9 – AUG 2013

BMW i3 Electric Cars
BMW i3 Electric Cars
BMW i3 Electric Cars
BMW i3 Electric Cars
BMW i3 Electric Cars

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