BMW i3 Electric Car Unveiled Simultaneously Across The World
After a long wait, BMW’s first all-electric production car—the BMW i3 city car—has been officially unveiled with three simultaneous press events in New York, London, and Beijing.
As previously teased by BMW, the heart of the i3 is a 125-kilowatt electric motor capable of producing 184 pound feet of torque. Weighing just 110 pounds, the i3’s motor can accelerate the car from zero to 62 miles per hour in 7.2 seconds—while a zero to 37 m.p.h. sprint takes 3.7 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to 90 miles per hour. A 22 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery gives the BMW i3 an expected range of between 81 and 99 miles—at an efficiency of around 210 watt-hours per mile. The EPA has not yet designated its official driving range.
With a three-city simultaneous launch on three continents, it’s clear that BMW has high hopes for the i3, calling it a giant leap rather than an evolutionary step in electric mobility. Even prior to the first sale of the i3, BMW's first production EV, the company is trying to brand itself a leader in the electric car world, in an attempt to upstage other major plug-in automakers, including Nissan, Chevrolet, Ford, and Tesla.
With its 45-page press release that accompanies the i3 launch, BMW certainly isn’t lost for words about its small electric car. But the event also came with major theatrics, heavily-scripted autocues, and the kind of presentation techniques normally reserved for German cabaret, and late night cable advertising, suggested that BMW is overreaching it its attempt to make a hit.
The BMW i3 is a $41,350 (before incentives) four-seat compact electric car, with a design that departs from BMW's well-established attractive looks. It will enter an increasingly crowded space of electric cars, several of which are available for sale around $20,000 (after incentives) or for $199 a month to lease.
As expected, the 2015 BMW i3 will offer two modes of charging: a standard Level 2 240-volt charge, which should provide a full refueling in around eight hours, while a more expeditious charge to 80 percent is possible in around 30 minutes using a J1772 Combo DC quick charge station. (These stations have not yet been put into the field.)
For drivers wanting longer-distance capabilities, a range-extended 600cc gasoline engine can be added at the factory, which gives the i3 a combined gasoline and electric range up to 211 miles. Including the range-extender bumps up the pre-incentive price of the i3 from $41,350 to $45,200. It also adds another 260 pounds to the i3’s curb weight, increasing its drag coefficient and reducing its 0-62 m.p.h. time to 7.9 seconds.
The i3 is a four-seater. With four passenger on board, the car offers a modest 9.18 cubic feet of cargo space, while folding down the rear seats opens up an additional 29 cubic feet of space.
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.
In addition to its low carbon footprint in operation, BMW will build the i3 with the lowest carbon footprint it can manage. This means powering the factory where the i3’s Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) chassis with hydroelectricity, while the factory in Leipzig, Germany, where the i3 production line will utilize electricity from onsite wind turbines.
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