“BMW i3 S with Range Extender Motor”
A Completely Sustainable Electric Vehicle (or not)
The BMW i3 bowed as an all-new, all-electric vehicle in 2014. It was the first product of the new BMW I sub-brand, that happened to be a truly purpose built electric car, representing a new era for electro mobility at BMW with complete sustainability and nearly 100 percent recyclability. Its LifeDrive architecture concept was purpose-built specifically for the BMW i3. It consisted of two modules; the Life Module, and the Drive Module. The Life Module being the passenger cabin, or greenhouse, and the first-ever mass produced Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) passenger cell in the automotive business, which played a major role in the cars efficiency. Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic is equally as strong as steel, while being 50% lighter, and 30% lighter than aluminum.
Sustainable and recylable
Due to the lightweight, high tensile strength of CFRP, the passenger cell has added protection, and the battery has less work to do, which allows for the use of a smaller, lighter battery that saves even more weight, reduces charging time and increases range. The light weight of the Life Module lowered the BMW i3’s center of gravity. The Drive Module, constructed of 100% aluminum consisted of the 22-kWh, 450 lb. lithium-ion battery, electric drive train, MacPherson strut front and 5-link rear suspension systems as well as structural and crash components. The battery mounted in the rear, close to the drive wheels.
S Model Delivers Enhanced Performance
The first ever s model of the BMW i3 provides an even sportier interpretation of silent mobility with zero emissions featuring a high output 184 hp electric motor that generates peak torque of 199 lb-ft. The updated drive system includes modified motor control and specific taper roller bearings, utilized to optimize power delivery and the performance curve at higher rpm. At the limits of the motor speed range, the power and torque of the enhanced drive system represent an improvement of up to 40 percent over the BMW i3. The driving dynamics and enhanced e-Driving abilities are significant especially at higher engine speeds when higher performance and higher torque is more noticeable.
Easy Access Load Space
An added benefit of the LifeDrive architecture concept is that there is no space-consuming transmission tunnel running through the center of the car, giving the BMW i3 the interior space of the BMW 3 Series, while only having the footprint of the much smaller BMW 1 Series. Even the vehicle’s new bio-polymer key is sustainability manufactured, with the source material based on castor oil pressed from castor seeds. The owner’s manual is also made from renewable resources.
Quirky Love it or Hate it Looks
Visually, the 2018 BMW i3 exterior continues to display a tall, narrow futuristic design in a 5-door configuration. In profile, the i3 features short front and rear overhangs and a shoulder line that dips just aft of the front door edge and rises again at the trailing edge of the rear door. The front bonnet is blunt, rising to meet the sharply aft- raked windshield, with the roof sloping gracefully rearward to the integrated spoiler lip. The doors on both sides open from the center with no “B” pillar – the rear doors hinged at the rear in coach or suicide fashion for ease of entry and exit for both rows of seats.
The front end has a clear and simple design, with BMW’s iconic kidney grilles (sans vertical fins) highlight the front end with the BMW i blue background. Contrasting black surfaces identify the functional load compartment under the hood and air inlets forming a Black Band. Aerodynamic Air Curtains provide an aggressive persona to the BMW i3, while also helping to increase the range by minimizing air resistance and drag. U-shaped, LED headlights, offer a fresh take on the BMW light design, giving the car a playful, sporty character.
The large rear window allows for exceptional visibility and easy trunk access. The roof lines are optimized to give as much interior space as possible. The LED U-shaped taillights housed in the rear window appear to be floating.
The i3’s interior is comfortable and accommodating, but takes a little getting used to visually with its trim accent made from untreated Eucalyptus panels which at first glance resembles a light Formica countertop, which darken and mellow with age. The instrument panel surround and door trim use fibers from Kenaf plant, which appears like black spray painted woven grass. The gear selector is mounted on the steering column in the form of a large rotary knob. State-of the-art connectivity is featured with the latest iDrive 6 interface.
The 2018 i3 S features modest styling enhancements that emphasize the car’s width and sportier persona, featuring a wider track, wheel arch molding and design lines that are expressly horizontal, and it will be available as a BMW i3 or an even more powerful BMW i3s that draws their energy from the lithium-ion high-voltage battery developed by the BMW Group with a cell capacity of 94-ampere hours (Ah).
The BMW i3’s agile handling characteristics have been optimized with the improved Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system. The revised, faster responding Traction Control system ensures confident handling under all driving conditions. Traction in less than ideal driving conditions has also been noticeably improved. Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) mode now boosts agility at higher speeds and during sporty cornering, even allowing mild and safely controllable drifts when grip levels are reduced.
Available for both trim levels are the Technology and Driving assist, and Parking assist packages. The Technology and Driving Assist package adds a host of convenience and safety technologies including the wide-screen Navigation Professional with advanced real-time traffic and new touch pad, Traffic Jam Assist, BMW Assist with Enhanced Bluetooth and USB with BMW Apps, Online Information services, Deceleration Assistant, ACC Stop & Go, Speed Limit info, BMW ConnectedDrive services, Forward Collision Warning, Pedestrian Protection and City Collision Mitigation. The Parking Assist package includes a rearview camera, Park Assistant, which helps take advantage of tight parallel parking opportunities, and Front Auto Park Distance Control.
The BMW i3s also features a sports suspension with specially developed springs, dampers and anti-roll bars. Drivers are now able to select a SPORT mode using the Driving Dynamics Control switch initiates a more direct accelerator response and tighter steering characteristics that emphasize the car’s sporting edge. Other modes include: Normal, Comfort, ECO PRO and ECO PRO +. Just 6.8 seconds is enough to see the BMW i3s burst past 60 mph on its way to a top speed of 100 mph.
Gas Motor Adds to Juice
A two-cylinder range extender gasoline engine is optionally available for all BMW i3 models. The engine drives a generator that produces power as required to feed electricity to the high-voltage battery, which becomes available whenever necessary, extending the car’s overall range in everyday use by 87 miles, increasing it from around 97 miles to a maximum of 180 miles.
The i3’s suspension features a MacPherson front and 5-link rear set up and it rolls on either 19 or 20-inch Bridgestone Ecopia, low-rolling resistance tires mounted on alloy wheels.
My test 2018 BMW i3s was finished outside in Melbourne Red metallic and Black, with a GIGA Brown Natural Leather & Carum Spice Grey Cloth interior. The base price was set at $51,500., while optional features and equipment boosted the final total to $58,695. Options included: Giga World trim; Tech + Driving Assist Package; Mobility Kit; 20″ BMW i light alloy wheels; Rear View camera; Universal Garage Door Opener; Comfort Access keyless entry; BMWi Blue Seatbelt Strap; DC Fast Charging; AC Fast Charging; Center Armrest; Heated Front Seats; Park Distance Control; Automatic climate control; Remote Services; Apple CarPlay Compatibility; SiriusXM; Battery Certificate; US Charging Socket; and a $995 Destination charge.
Tax Credits Allow for Lower Price
SUMMARY: The 2018 BMW i3s certifiably one the best small electric car available in its class in today’s marketplace, especially after factoring in all available federal, state and local tax credits. Yes, it’s expensive, but it will certainly prove to be worth it to a vast number of adopters.
It is particularly enjoyable to drive, exhibiting a sporting character in terms of handling and acceleration. Its instant available torque off the line is phenomenal and the handling provides an athletic agility. Yes, the ride is on the firm side of the equation over rough road surfaces, but things smooth out on better pavement. The Sport mode proved to be the most enjoyable, if not the most efficient.
The i3s’s range is predictably in the 80-100 mile range per charge, but under ideal conditions, it’s realistically more like 120 miles, which nearly doubles with the optional Range Extender motor. When the battery reaches a certain level, the Range Extender starts and maintains the battery’s current state of charge, but never directly drives the vehicle’s wheels. The Range Extender adds roughly 330 lbs. to the vehicle curb weight and has a fuel capacity of 2.4 gallons.
The i3s is able to recharge in only 3 hours using a 220V Level 2, 32-amp J1772 charger. The SAE DC Combo Fast Charging, which charges the BMW i3 up to 80% in 20 minutes, and 100% in 30 minutes. A There’s a Bosch dedicated home charging unit that costs approximately $450. installed, with a possible available rebate available in some areas.
A unique driving feature is the i3’s Single Pedal Driving Concept with Brake Energy Regeneration, which feeds power back into battery. Lifting off the accelerator automatically applies braking, while activating the brake lights for safety, and providing the same effect as engine braking in a conventional vehicle, and at lower speeds, the i3s will actually come to a complete stop on its own. This feature adds to the car’s efficiency and driving fun.
App enhances convenience
A BMW i Remote app links to your car and can monitor its battery level, charging status and other charging-related functions, such as heating and air conditioning. The app can also give the cars location, lock or unlock the doors, honk the horn, or flash the lights. Before driving away in the BMW i3s, it is recommended to precondition the battery to the preferred operating temperature of between 60 – 70 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure range optimization. Battery temperature may be monitored through the iDrive system, and in the unlikely circumstance of a breakdown, the BMW Assist Safety Plan provides contact with a Response Specialist at the touch of a button.
The 2018 BMW i3s is capable of serving as the perfect compact, 4 passenger commute vehicle for the majority of commutes in the 45 mile range each way, albeit a little pricey. It’s a car that you can really get a charge out of driving, with more to offer than many of its competitors.
SPECIFICATIONS: 2018 BMW i3 S w/Range Extender
Base Price: $51,500.
Price as Tested: $58,695.
Engine Type and Size: W20KO6UO two-cylinder, 8-valve gas engine
Horsepower (bhp): 38 @ 5,000 rpm
Torque (ft./ lbs.): 41 @ 4,500 rpm
Electrical Machine: Synchronous IB1P23MO electrical traction 1.E-engine Peak Power acc. to ECE R 85: 170 hp / 184 lb.-ft. Max torque Lithium-Ion High Voltage Battery – 20 Ah / 12 Volt – Capacity 94 Ah / 353 Volt BMW eDrive technology with integrated power electronics, charger and generator mode for energy recuperation.
Optional 650cc, 34 horsepower Range Extender Generator, gasoline powered two-cylinder engine used for recharging the battery that does not power the driving wheels.
Transmission: GE1B133H automatic – 1st Gear ratio = 9.665 / Single speed direct drive with reverse and Brake Energy regeneration.
Drive Train: Rear mounted motor and Range Extender engine, with batteries mounted beneath the floor / Rear-wheel drive.
Suspension: Front – MacPherson strut
Rear – 5-Multi-link.
Brakes: Four-wheel si=discs with regenerative braking.
Tires: Bridgestone EP 1000 – 175/70 R20x5.5” 89 T XL front / 195/50 R19x6.0” 93T XL rear mounted on 5-double-spoke gloss Black alloy wheels.
Wheelbase: 101.2 inches
Length Overall: 158.1 inches
Width: 70.5 inches
Height: 62.6 inches
Curb Weight: 3,278 lbs.
Turning Circle: 33.8 ft.
Fuel Capacity: 2.3 gallons w/Range Extender Motor
EPA Mileage Estimates: 1.0 MPGe / 109 combined City and Highway Gas only 35 mpg /2.9 gallons per 100 miles.
Drag Coefficient: 0.8
0 – 60 mph: 7.6 seconds – Top speed 96 mph.
Arv Voss is a Northern California based freelance motoring Journalist and member and past officer of several noted Automotive Journalist organizations who contributes regularly to a number of national and international media outlets. He reviews not only cars, trucks and SUVs, but motorcycles and unusual wheeled vehicles as well.