BMW vows i3 EV will drive handle like ultimate driving machine Auto News

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BMW i3  Electric Car 127kW with Range Extender Auto

Loaner program, battery warranty planned to overcome consumer concerns



The i3 unveiled today in New York, Beijing and London has a top speed of 93 mph with a 110-lb. electric motor that generates 170 hp and peak torque of 184 lb-ft. BMW says it can go from 0 to 35 mph in about 3.5 seconds and 0 to 60 mph in about 7 seconds.

Photo credit: BLOOMBERG

Diana T. Kurylko

Automotive News

July 29, 2013 8:30 am ET

UPDATED: 7/29/13 2:57 pm ET adds details

Can the company that touts itself as the ultimate driving machine produce an electric car using environmentally-friendly materials and still perform like a BMW?

The German-luxury brand claims it has done just that with the compact i3, its first battery electric car formally unveiled today and touted by BMW for its construction and performance.

It is BMW s latest effort to innovate and keep ahead of its chief rivals Mercedes-Benz and Audi. BMW is the top-selling luxury brand in the world and United States, and is betting the ambitious i3 will help pad its lead.

We are at the starting-blocks of a new era the era of sustainable mobility, CEO Norbert Reithofer said today while introducing the i3 in New York. This is what BMW is known for. Our passion for mobility makes us the premium car company.

He vowed the i3 and electric mobility will do for individual mobility what the mobile phone has done for personal communication.

The i3 is the world s first mass-produced car using carbon fiber reinforced plastic, BMW says.

The car is also expected to help BMW meet more stringent fuel economy and emissions requirements in the United States and elsewhere in coming years.

The five-door, rear-wheel drive compact i3 has the footprint of the 1-series, the smallest BMW sold, and the interior room of the 3-series compact car.

The car aimed primarily at urban users in densely populated cities has a pillar-less design with rear coach doors for easier rear-seat access. Vehicle dimensions were not released today.

It is equipped with a carbon-fiber reinforced plastic passenger cell, an interior of high quality renewable sources and recycled material, and weighs only 2,700 pounds, BMW said.

The i3 will cost $42,275 including destination before a $7,500 federal tax credit or any state incentives when it goes on sale in the second quarter of 2014. An optional gasoline range extender will be available priced at $46,125, including destination.

BMW plans to address widespread consumer concerns with EVs by offering several unique services and guarantees with the i3:

• A battery with an 8-year/100-mile warranty.

• Roadside assistance if the battery loses a charge during a trip.

• A navigation system that shows charging stations.

• House calls for customer test drives and special training for dealers.

• A fee-based loaner vehicle program, arranged by dealers.

Dedicated electric platform

BMW is the first luxury brand to develop a dedicated electric car family with its own architecture and drivetrain. The second vehicle in the i subbrand will be the i8 hybrid sports car that also goes on sale in the second quarter of 2014.

There are unconfirmed reports that BMW has additional i models in the pipeline.

BMW has trademarked i0 through i9, said Ian Robertson, BMW s sales chief.

We have a lot of ideas, Robertson told Bloomberg at a media briefing ahead of the presentation today. We re not entering this market to be a niche player, even though there are no concrete additions under development.

The company has invested $796 million (600 million euros) in production facilities for the car, including installing annual capacity of 40,000 units at its Leipzig, Germany, plant, and building a new factory in the United States at Moses Lake, Wash. to produce carbon fiber for the passenger cell.

The company s total investment in the i sub-brand program is an estimated $2.7 billion.

BMW hasn t given a sales target for the i3. But Robertson said in a statement last week that the company aims to be a significant player in the market for electric vehicles, which he has pegged at about 150,000 cars worldwide in 2012.

The United States is expected to be the largest market for the vehicle, BMW officials said today.

BMW is launching the i3 at a time when volume brands such as Nissan, Toyota, General Motors and Audi have scaled back their electric-car programs or offered aggressive incentives or price cuts to stimulate sales.

After the earlier hype about electric cars, the expectations for the i3 are now so low that BMW is actually in a position to positively surprise with that car, said Juergen Pieper, an analyst with Bankhaus Metzler in Frankfurt.

BMW s chief competitors are entering the market but adopting electric drivetrains for vehicles initially designed for conventional gasoline or diesel engines.

Mercedes-Benz started rolling out its new generation of the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive in May and will launch its B-class Electric Drive in the U.S. market in early 2014. The B-class is a five-door compact and will use a lithium ion battery from Tesla.

Audi has ditched plans to make electric versions of its two-seat R8 supercar and the subcompact A1 hatchback.

Because the i3 was designed solely as an electric car, BMW cites numerous advantages over conversion vehicles in which the original combustion engine is swapped for an electric motor.

Life, drive modules

One of the key advantages is that the i3 doesn t compromise interior space, BMW said.

The i3 architecture has two modules which BMW calls the life module and the drive module.

The life module is the passenger cabin made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic that is as strong as steel but 50 percent lighter and even 30 percent lighter than aluminum, the company said.

The high tensile strength of the carbon fiber gives added protection to the passenger cell. But according to BMW that also means it could use a smaller and lighter lithium-ion battery that requires less charging time and increases range.

Although the interior has more environmentally sound materials, it has the same premium feel, of the mid-sized 5-series sedan, BMW said. About 25 percent of the plastics in the interior and the thermoplastics used for the exterior come from recycled or renewable sources, the company said.

BMW i3  Electric Car 127kW with Range Extender Auto

The drive module is made from aluminum. The lithium ion battery is mounted in the underbody section of the car. BMW said this area absorbs the least energy in the event of a crash and the vehicle shows barely any deformation here as a result.

Placing the battery in the underbody also gives the i3 a lower center of gravity, adds to its agility and makes rollover unlikely, BMW said.

In the event of a crash, when passenger restraint systems are triggered, the battery is disconnected from the high-voltage system and the connected components are discharged. The safety feature prevents the possibility of a short circuit which could lead to electric shocks or cause a fire.

0-60 in 7 seconds

The i3 has a top speed of 93 mph. BMW said the 110-lb. electric motor generates 170 hp and peak torque of 184 lb-ft. The BMW i3 goes from 0 to 35 mph in about 3.5 seconds and 0 to 60 mph in about 7 seconds, the company says.

BMW said it built a recuperative mode into the vehicle that is activated when a driver lifts his foot from the accelerator. The electric motor goes from driving to generating power for the lithium ion battery.

The car can even coast at high speeds.

The i3 will have a range of 80-100 miles that can be increased 12 percent by putting the car into an Eco Pro mode and another 12 percent in Eco Pro+ mode.

The optional range-extender is a two-cylinder 650cc gasoline engine with 34 hp that s mounted adjacent to the electric motor above the rear axle.

The range extender increases the car s driving range to 160-180 miles. It does not directly drive the rear wheels. The range extender adds 330 pounds to the i3 s curb weight and has a fuel tank with a capacity of 2.4 gallons.

The i3 has a turning circle of 32.3 feet, making it easier to maneuver in an urban setting, a 50/50 weight distribution which is considered optimal in performance cars, and electric power steering.

BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer: What the mobile phone did for communication, electric mobility will do for individual mobility.

Photo credit: REUTERS

The rear-drive powertrain came from the BMW ActiveE, which has been undergoing trials in the United States since last year. BMW has leased 700 ActiveE models, which are based on the 1-series coupe, in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Boston and three California cities. The ActiveE two-year leases expire in 2014.

Before the ActiveE, Mini conducted a trial with 450 electric Mini Coopers in 2010 and 2011.

The i3 s standard navigation system can monitor traffic and set up a route to avoid major congestion. It also remembers the owner s driving style and can determine if there is enough charge left to drive a selected route, BMW said.

3 trim levels

BMW said today it will offer the i3 in three different trim levels: Mega World, Giga World and Tera World. Pricing was not disclosed.

The base Mega World has standard 19-inch forged aluminum wheels, navigation, BMW s ConnectedDrive infotainment system, the eCall collision notification system, an alarm, a 7.4 kW on board charger and LED headlights and tail lights. The cloth interior is made from recycled materials.

The Giga World package adds upgraded wheels, a leather wrapped steering wheeling and wool cloth. It has a garage door opener, sunroof and satellite radio.

The range-topping Tera World also adds a leather interior, ConnectedDrive and other driver assistance systems as standard.

The Driving Assistant Plus safety system is optional. It has a Collision Warning system that primes the brakes and can stop the car at speeds up to 35 mph to help avoid an accident. The package includes active cruise control and a stop and start feature.

The parking assistant feature is also optional.

Bloomberg contributed to this report .

You can reach Diana T. Kurylko at . Follow Diana on

BMW i3  Electric Car 127kW with Range Extender Auto
BMW i3  Electric Car 127kW with Range Extender Auto
BMW i3  Electric Car 127kW with Range Extender Auto
BMW i3  Electric Car 127kW with Range Extender Auto
BMW i3  Electric Car 127kW with Range Extender Auto

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