After years in development, BMW is at last preparing to launch its first all-electric vehicle. The 2014 i3 hatchback will feature a ton of innovations, including quick-charging capabilities and the company’s first carbon-fiber chassis.
The i3 will admittedly face some stiff competition from more established EVs and hybrid models, including the Nissan Leaf all-electric vehicle, as well as the Chevrolet Volt and Toyota Prius plug-in models. However, with a competitive base price of between $35,000 and $40,000 (before state and federal tax credits), the i3 should have no trouble capturing market share.
With a curb weight of just 2,600 lbs. the i3 is hundreds of pounds lighter than its competitors.
The i3’s lithium-ion battery pack, made up of 96 individual cells capable of producing 360 volts and generating about 22 kilowatt hours of energy, is located on the floor to give the i3 a low center of gravity. The vehicle’s 110-pound electric motor delivers 125kw (the equivalent of 170 horsepower) and 184 pound-feet of torque and can take the i3 from 0 mph to 60 mph in about seven seconds. Top speed for the i3 is about 93 mph.
Under pure electric power, the rear-wheel drive i3 will have a range of between 80 and 100 miles under everyday driving conditions, depending on which of the vehicle’s three driving modes they prefer.
An optional 650cc two-cylinder gasoline engine will also be available for those who need a greater range. Under normal driving conditions, BMW says the auxiliary gasoline engine will extend the i3’s range to between 160 and 180 miles.
The i3’s optional gasoline engine is designed to power a generator which maintains the charge of the lithium-ion battery “at a constant level while on the move as soon as it dips below a certain value.”
The i3 also features an energy-recuperating braking system, which can increase the range by up to 20 percent.
When connected to a 50 kW DC charging station, the i3’s battery can be recharged to 80 percent of its total capacity in just 20 minutes.
The i3 will also feature navigation services that the automaker says were “specially developed to enhance electric mobility” as well as BMW’s Assist eCall technology.
BMW plans to launch another all-electric model, the i8 sports-luxury coupe, sometime late next year.