The 2014 BMW i3 is an all-new, all-electric vehicle that is the first product of the new BMW I sub-brand, and 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 consists of two modules; the Life Module, and the Drive Module. The Life Module is the passenger cabin, or greenhouse, and is the first-ever mass produced Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) passenger cell in the automotive business, which plays 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. The result is an electric car that weighs less than 2,700 lbs.
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 lightweight of the Life Module also lowers the BMW i3?s center of gravity. The Drive Module, is constructed of 100% aluminum, and consists 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.
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.
Visually, the 2014 BMW i3 exterior displays 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 (without vertical fins) highlight the front end with the BMW i blue background. Beneath the kidney grilles, silver layers sculpt the front apron. 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 rooflines 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 we?re told will darken and mellow with age. An alternative Sensatec material is also available. The instrument panel surround and door trim use fibers from Kenaf plant, which appears like gray, spray painted woven grass. The gear selector is mounted on the steering column in the form of a large rotary knob.
The BMW i3 will be available in three levels of trim: Mega World; Giga World; and Tera World. The base Mega World comes standard with 19-inch forged aluminum wheels, BMW Navigation, BMW ConnectedDrive with eCall, the BMW i Remote, an alarm, 7.4 kW on board charger and LED headlights, DRLs and tail lights. The interior is donned in bright, lightweight Sensatec and sustainable cloth, made from recycled materials. It also features a leather-trimmed steering wheel and grained dash trim. The Giga World, delivers all the features of the Mega World but adds distinct Giga-specific 19-inch wheels and an interior wrapped in leather and wool cloth. A universal garage door opener is included for easy access to the i3?s BMW i Charging Station, which is usually mounted in the garage. It also includes Comfort Access, a sunroof, and satellite radio. The leather-trimmed steering wears contrasting stitching adding a sporty flavor. The top-of-the-line Tera World, adds unique 19-inch wheels, a luxurious full leather, olive leaf-tanned interior, with textile accents and contrasting stitching, and anthracite floors mats.
Available for every world trim level is 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.
Motive power driving the rear wheels comes from a rear mounted Hybrid-synchronous electric motor with maximum revs of 11,400 rpm powered by a 22-kWh lithium-ion battery that weighs 450 lbs. BMW?s eDrive technology with integrated power electronics, charger and generator mode for energy recuperation. Horsepower is rated at 170, with torque rated at 184 pound feet. An optional ($3,850) 650cc, 34 horsepower, gasoline powered Range Extender Generator is also rear mounted with batteries mounted beneath the floor / Rear wheel drive.
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 2014 BMW i3 was a Mega World model with the Range Extender motor, finished outside in Andesite Silver metallic and BMW i3 Frozen Blue metallic accents, and a two-tone Bone and Gray patterned cloth interior with Frozen Blue steering wheel accents. The base price was set at $45,200 with a final sticker of $47,050. after adding $550 for the metallic paint, $350 for heated front seats and $950 for Destination charge.
SUMMARY: The 2014 BMW i3 went on sale in the second quarter of 2014 in all 50 states, and it may well be 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.
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 due to its skinny, hard rubber compound tires over rough road surfaces, but things smooth out on better pavement. There are three driving modes: Comfort, ECO PRO and ECO PRO+.
The i3?s range is predictably in the 80-100 mile range per charge, but under ideal conditions, it?s realistically more like 120 miles, which increases significantly 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. Range may also be increased by up to approximately 12% in ECO PRO mode and by the same amount again in ECO PRO+ mode. The i3 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, can be had as an option. A Bosch dedicated home charging unit costs approximately $450. Installed, with a possible available rebate available in some areas. The charging plug-in may not be disconnected when the vehicle is locked ? a feature that is lacking in many other electric cars.
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 i3 will actually come to a complete stop on its own. This feature adds to the car?s efficiency and driving fun.
For BMW i3 buyers with a private parking space at their home, BMW i will offer an available home charging station, which includes a BMW i charging station for convenient charging. They will even send a representative to install it to any specific need. 360 Electric will also help with public charging by locating the nearest station, and as part of 360 Electric, the 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 i3, it is recommended to precondition that battery to the preferred operating temperature of between 60 – 70 degrees Fahrenheit to optimize range. 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 2014 BMW i3 is the perfect compact, 4 passenger commute vehicle for the majority of commutes in the 45 mile range each way, albeit a little pricey before rebates and tax credits. It?s a car that you can really get a charge out of driving, with more to offer than many of its competitors, and with the Range Extender motor, range anxiety is almost non-existent.
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?[wptabtitle] SPECIFICATIONS: 2014 BMW i3 with Range Extender [/wptabtitle]
|Price as Tested:||$47,050.|
|Engine Type and Size:||Primary power Hybrid-synchronous electric motor with maximum revs of 11,400 rpm powered by 22-kWh lithium-ion battery, weighing 450 lbs. BMW eDrive technology with integrated power electronics, charger and generator mode for energy recuperation.|
|Horsepower (bhp):||170 @ rpm|
|Torque (ft./ lbs.):||184 @ rpm|
|Transmission:||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.|
Front – MacPherson strut.
Rear – 5-link.
|Brakes:||Power-assisted four-wheel discs (ventilated front),|
|Tires:||Bridgestone Ecopia EP 600 155/70 R19 front / 175/70 R19 rear mounted on 5-“slotted disc”? alloy wheels.|
|Length Overall:||157.8 inches|
|Curb Weight:||2,899 lbs.-with Range Extender motor|
|Fuel Capacity:||1.9 gallons / Range Extender motor.|
|EPA Mileage Estimates:||80 to 100 miles on a single charge (Battery)|
|0 – 60 mph:||7.8 seconds|
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 as well.