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BMW i3 Specifications, Information, and Details Released

7/31/2013
Following a long gestation period, BMW has released specifications and details for its new i3 electric vehicle (EV), the first model introduced under the automaker's new "i" sub-brand. Key highlights include significant use of sustainable and recycled materials in the i3's construction, a rear-wheel-drive electric drivetrain with up to 125 miles of range, the ability to recharge the car's battery in 3 hours using a 220-volt home charging unit or 30 minutes using a DC Combo Fast Charger, and the option of a range-extending gasoline generator to help eliminate "range anxiety."

A purpose-built electric car, the new BMW i3 has a footprint smaller than a BMW 1 Series combined with the interior space of a BMW 3 Series. Because the i3 is not a conversion from a regular production vehicle, designers and engineers enjoyed the freedom to create a vehicle that it says works best in terms of its dimensions, construction, and configuration.

The result of this freedom is what BMW calls a LifeDrive architecture comprised of a Life Module and a Drive Module. The Life Module is the passenger compartment, constructed of Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) sourced from a production facility in Washington that uses hydroelectric power. BMW says CFRP is just as strong as steel but 50% lighter. The Drive Module is constructed of aluminum, further saving weight. It is comprised of the car's electric drivetrain, MacPherson strut front suspension, 5-link rear suspension, and structural elements.

Preliminarily, BMW claims that the U.S. version of the i3 will weigh about 2,700 pounds, distributed in a near-even balance over the front and rear wheels. This light vehicle weight allows BMW to install a smaller, lighter 22 kWh Lithium-ion battery that recharges faster while providing greater range than a larger, heavier battery. The battery is mounted in the rear of the Drive Module, closer to the car's drive wheels.

The battery powers an electric motor that is rated to deliver 170 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque. As is true of other electric cars, maximum torque is available the moment the driver presses the accelerator pedal. BMW estimates that the i3 can accelerate to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds on its way to a governed top speed of 93 mph. Top speed is limited in order to help conserve driving range, BMW says.

Speaking of driving range, BMW's research reveals that the average driver travels about 30 miles per day. The i3 offers a range of 80-100 miles when operated in the default Comfort driving mode. Choose ECO PRO mode, and range increases to as much as 112 miles. The more stringent ECO PRO+ driving mode maximizes driving range to 125 miles, according to BMW.

A Brake Energy Regeneration system also helps to conserve driving range. When the driver lifts off of the accelerator pedal, the system engages, capturing what would normally be lost kinetic energy and feeding it back to the battery pack as electricity. The system is speed-sensitive, braking the car at lower speeds but allowing it to coast at higher speeds.

When the battery is depleted, the owner can plug the car into a 220-volt, Level 2, 32-amp home charger and completely rejuvenate the car in 3 hours. Use a DC Combo Fast Charger, which is increasingly common as a public recharging option, and the battery reaches a full charge in approximately 30 minutes. Because the car's battery is mounted toward the rear of the vehicle, the i3's charge port is located on the right rear flank.

BMW realizes that range anxiety, the worry an electric car owner experiences when battery charge drops, is real. To help assuage this concern in i3 owners, the automaker offers an optional range-extending gasoline engine that serves as an onboard generator. The engine is small--a 650cc, 2-cylinder unit equipped with a 2.4-gallon fuel tank, and is designed to keep the i3's battery pack at a minimum state of charge until the car can be recharged or re-filled with gas. The range-extending gasoline generator effectively doubles the distance the i3 can travel before requiring more electricity or more gasoline.

BMW paid as much attention to the i3's design as it did the engineering, making sure to employ a range of renewable and recycled materials in the car's construction. According to BMW, a quarter of the plastics used for the i3's interior and exterior are made from either renewable or recycled material. Even the key is manufactured from a bio-polymer based on castor oil pressed from castor seeds. This green approach to design prompts BMW to refer to the i3's interior as "Next Premium," and the company says it delivers the same level of quality as a 5 Series.

The BMW i3's Life Module is constructed without a traditional roof pillar between the front and rear doors, creating a single entry and exit portal for the driver and passengers. Rear-seat riders use separate coach doors to access the back of the passenger compartment.

BMW says the i3's driver sits in a semi-command driving position, facing a freestanding steering column and dual information display screens. Because the i3 has no center transmission tunnel, it offers what BMW calls a Slide Through Experience design, which allows the driver to park at the curb and exit from the safety of the passenger door, or to park near a wall and then slide across the front seat to exit from the opposite door if necessary.

Three trim levels are offered for the new i3, which BMW is calling "Worlds": Mega World, Giga World, and Tera World. Standard equipment for the i3 Mega World includes full LED headlights and daytime running lights, LED taillights, 19-inch forged aluminum wheels, and rear park-assist sensors. The seats are wrapped in Sensatec fabric, and "responsibly forested" Eucalyptus wood trim decorates the dashboard.

BMW ConnectedDrive with BMW Assist Intelligent Emergency Call (eCall) service is standard for the i3 Mega World, as well as a BMW i Remote app for the owner's smartphone, which provides vehicle charging status, vehicle location, cabin pre-conditioning, as well as other functions. A navigation system is also standard, equipped with a Range Assistant that can route the car around traffic and which remembers the driver's driving style when calculating remaining range.

Choose the BMW i3 Giga World model, and the car receives a unique wheel design, leather upholstery with wool cloth accents, universal garage door opener, Comfort Access keyless entry, sunroof, satellite radio, and contrast stitching on the steering wheel. The i3 Tera World adds yet another unique wheel design, a full leather interior responsibly tanned using olive oil, and special interior trim and accents.

BMW has not announced a complete options list for the new i3. However, the company has confirmed that it will offer a BMW i home charging station, range-extending gasoline engine, 20-inch aluminum wheels, and a Parking Assist package equipped with a reversing camera, Parking Assistant for steering assistance when parking in parallel spaces, and a Front Auto Park Distance Control system.

Additionally, the new i3 will be offered with a Driving Assistant Plus package (forward-collision warning, pedestrian protection, City Collision Mitigation, active cruise control with Stop & Go) and a Technology package (wide-screen premium navigation system with touch-pad control, advanced real-time traffic, Traffic Jam Assist semi-autonomous driving, BMW Apps, BMW ConnectedDrive services, Deceleration Assistant).

Built in Leipzig, Germany, the new BMW i3 is priced at $42,275 including a destination charge of $925. Federal, state, and local tax incentives can dramatically reduce the price of the vehicle, which goes on sale in the second quarter of 2014.

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