BMW i3 Sneak Preview-Australian Version
Find out why I think this car is great!
Al with BMW i3 Electric Car with REX
Towards the end of 2013, I was invited by Rolfe Classic BMW to check out the BMW i3 they had for a short while on display. Although, it was reportedly available in Europe, the i3 is scheduled to be released in other markets like the United States, Canada and Australia later in 2014. The Australian market will only receive the range extender version which makes it a serial hybrid. The engine is 2 cylinder 647cc gasoline engine derived from the BMW motorbikes which means it will be super quiet and smooth. I will focus on what is significant and special about this Electric Car. I will also discuss what else you could buy for the same money and what is unique about this car.
Although, I did not get the opportunity to test drive the car, there are a lot of features to report on and what stood out for me was the ergonomics and comfort offered by the BMW i3.
The styling may appear to be a bit of a departure from BMW’s usual design, (although the kidney shaped grill remains), but around 1991, BMW unveiled the BMW E1 concept electric car and you can see similarities between the E1 and the i3. Inside EVs even has a report regarding the E3 and i3 relationship. As a kid, the E1 was one of my dream cars and it is great to see something come to fruition, even if it is over 22 years later.
Overview of the BMW i3 with technical specifications
Unlike the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Ford Focus Electric, the BMW i3 is a car designed to be electric from from the ground up. You can see it inherited many characteristics from the BMW E1 concept car from the early 1990s. Being under 4 meters in length and 1775 meters in width (exclusing mirrors) and 2039 meters in width if you include the mirrors, making it bigger than the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, but shorter on the outside than the Nissan Leaf. The BMW i3 is wider than the i-MiEV and Nissan Leaf. A number of people have commented to me how the BMW i3 is a great looking car. Only one person so far told me it looked ugly. There is no argument that it looks better than the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and the stock version of the Nissan Leaf.
The BMW i3 (electric only) has a typical range of 130km to 160km, but if driving in its most efficient mode, then a range of almost 200km is reportedly achievable (when using ECO PRO+). With the range extender, the typical range is 120km to 150km in electric only, but with the help of the gasoline motor, it is 240km to 300km. If driving in its most efficient mode, then a reported combined range of 340km is advertised (when using ECO PRO+).
The traction battery is a Lithium Ion chemistry with 18.8kwh capacity.
Charge time (up to 80% capacity) is:
- 30 minutes for the DC quick-charge;
- 3 to 6 hours using the AC-quick charge with BMW i Wallbox Pure; or
- 6 to 8 hours when using a household socket (240volts).
The electric motor has a maximum torque of 250Nm and output of 125 kW (170 hp). The Synchronous Electric Motor is located in the rear and drives the rear wheels. For those with the Range Extender (REX), it is located in the rear.
What is unique about this car?
Carbon Fiber Body
The BMW i3 body is made from Carbon Fiber, a material normally reserved for low volume productions super cars, which makes it extremely light at 1195kg (pure electric) and 1315kg (with range extender) for a car of this size, capability and safety. Despite its smaller exterior dimensions compared to the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf, thanks to clever design and packaging, the interior space of the BMW i3 is fantastic. With the electric motor (and for those with the range extender) tucked away under the car, the external dimensions are smaller, yet still spacious for occupants inside the car. The carbon fiber provides strength and safety.
Rear Hinged Rear Doors
No B-pillar and rear door is hinged on the rear.
The rear doors are hinged at the rear (sometimes known as “suicide doors”), similar to what is used in various Rolls Royce cars and a missing B-pillar, means it is easier to get in and out of the car for all occupants. However, when all doors are shut, the rear door cannot be opened unless the front door is opened which makes this car inherently safer. This design gives the initial illusion that the BMW i3 is a two door car. Also, the doors appear to be very thick and solid.
Elegant Instrument Panel
The instrument panel is simple and elegant. There is a tablet screen where you would normally expect an instrument cluster. For the infotainment display, there is another tablet in the middle of the dashboard.
Whilst seated in the driver’s seat, the switches and control felt easy to reach. Everything feels like it was in the right place and it feels very comfortable to sit inside. It was as if the i3 was designed with people in mind.
The seats did not look like something that came out of 3 or 7 series BMW, but rather like it went on a weight loss program. It did not matter which seat you sat in, it still felt comfortable and I would imagine it would be very comfortable on long trips.
The front seats could be folded down to allow entry to the rear if you did not want to open the rear doors. However, with the rear doors open (which means the front door needs to be opened first), most people would be able to gain entry to the rear without folding down the front seats.
“Angel Eyes” gone
This is one of the first BMWs in recent history not to be equipped with it’s unique “Angle Eyes” (where the parking lights were were set up as a ring around one pair of head lights. Instead, it has been replaced with what I call “U Eyes” where the parking light is like a U shape.
BMW i3 interior from front passenger’s perspective.
The one I inspected was equipped with a combination of beautiful leather seats, leather covered steering wheel and wood giving the i3 a luxurious look and feel.
There is a rear hatch that allows cargo to be stored. Also, the rear seats fold down allowing for even more cargo space. The front trunk is not that large, but can store things like the charging chords and other little items.
What Else Can You Buy For The Same Money As A BMW i3 (in Australia)?
There is often interest in how much a particular car costs in various parts of the world. The anticipated cost including on road costs and the BMW i Wallbox Pure charger for the BMW i3 in Australia is around AUD$70,000. In Australia, I know people who paid more than that for a Mitsubishi i-MiEV when the Mitsubishi i-MiEV was first sold to Australia and that had far less luxury features than the i3. These days, for $70,000, you can buy two i-MiEVs and have change left over as I see the i-MiEVs sell for AUD$28,990 drive away. You can buy one and three-quarter Nissan Leafs as I’ve seen the Nissan Leaf advertised brand new, drive away for $39,990 (which is a lot less than the $60,000 plus I was quoted in 2012). The Chevy (Holden) Volt sells for around AUD $60,000.
In Australia, we don’t get the Ford Focus Electric, nor do we get the Coda, Fiat 500 electric. We still don’t even have the Tesla Model S here yet.
Non electric cars you can buy in Australia for around AUD$70,000 are cars like the Subaru WRX STi, Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) Commodore, Jeep Cherokee, Toyota Landcruiser, Chrysler 300c 6.4L Hemi V8, Audi A4, BMW 3 series and various other luxury cars and SUVs.
So the BMW i3 will be competing against SUV, luxury and performance cars. In terms of off-road capability and large cargo areas, the i3 can’t compete against the SUV. In terms of luxury, the BMW i3 has a chance and in terms of performance, I believe it will be competitive in terms of acceleration, but not in top speed due to the 150km/h restriction BMW placed on the car.
Is The BMW I3 Worth Buying?
BMW i3 Left Front side – inside a BMW dealership
When the Mitsubishi i-MiEV first came out, I knew people who paid over $70,000 for that car. I felt that was rather expensive and in recent times, I have seen prices fall buy more than half. The Nissan Leaf has also seen price falls. To put things in perspective, Ferrari prices and Porsche prices in Australia have fallen significantly. In fact, in mid 2013, Porsche dropped the price of their car by as much as up to 31%.
When you compare what you get with the BMW i3 with other offerings, the BMW i3 appears to be reasonably priced.
Also, I found the staff at Rolfe Classic BMW passionate about the i3, interested in talking to me about it, letting me have a look at it, keeping me up to date about what is happening in relation to the i3 and willing to take a deposit on the car. This is a positive attitude which I like to see from a dealer and I believe some Nissan and Mitsubishi dealers could learn from Rolfe Classic BMW when dealing with prospects looking to buy an electric car.
Although, this car is priced higher in Australia compared to other markets, it is comparable to what else is being sold for in Australia (gas or electric), plus the car looks great. I would personally like to see BMW sell more i3 cars and would urge them to drop their prices in line with BMW 125i prices or lower instead of BMW 135i prices, even it it means replacing the leather seats with cloth seats and dropping a couple of other features.
Summary and Conclusion
First impression is I love the BMW i3. The BMW i3 is a great car with great specifications and great looks. It is optimized to be electric from the beginning of development. The Range Extender (REX) is sensible for the Australian market as the current fast charging infrastructure is not as comprehensive compared to places like the United States or Europe. The carbon fiber body provides strength and safety with lightness, but has an inherent cost which is reflected in the anticipated asking price. I look forward to taking one for a test drive in the future.
This is Al Bunzel signing out.
P.S.Check out various videos showcasing the BMW i3
P.S.S.Check out more pictures of the BMW i3 below:
BMW i3 Center Console and Interior
- BMW i3 Left Side
BMW i3 Rear Trunk