BMW’s revolutionary i3 electric hatch is set to be revealed on the 29th of this month, and in the lead up the German automaker is drip feeding us some juicy information in addition to several new photos. Unfortunately, we still don’t have photos of the final car although our own spy shots leave little to the imagination.
If you're still unfamiliar to the i3, the car is essentially a rear-wheel-drive electric hatch due in showrooms early next year. It will be the first model from BMW’s i division for eco-friendly vehicles and feature innovative technology (for mass-produced vehicles) such as carbon fiber construction and new levels of connectivity.
Power for the i3 will come from a rear-mounted electric motor, rated at 125 kilowatts (170 horsepower) and 184 pound-feet of torque. The electric motor weighs just 110 pounds and is said to have linear power delivery through its rev range (up to 11,400 rpm).
The 0-60 mph sprint should take just 7.0 seconds while top speed is limited to 93 mph, quite quick for a minicar, and the range on a single charge of the i3’s lithium-ion battery should fall somewhere between 80 and 100 miles with moderate driving. An ECO PRO mode, which sets the car’s regenerative braking system to its maximum setting can help boost this range approximately 12 percent, according to BMW. Charging is claimed to be quick, too, with a high-speed DC charger juicing the lithium-ion battery pack to 80 percent in just 20 minutes.
If desired, the i3 will also be available with a range-extender engine, which maintains the charge of the lithium-ion battery at a constant level while on the move as soon as it dips below a specified value. This role is performed by a 650cc two-cylinder gasoline engine developing 34 horsepower. It’s mounted adjacent to the electric motor, above the rear axle. With a full tank of gas (2.4 gallons) and the battery at 100 percent, the i3 with the range-extender should be able to drive a distance of up to 180 miles.
For longer jaunts, such as road trips, BMW will be offering its i3 customers an exclusive vehicle loan program, details of which will be released at a later date.
To ensure the i3 remains sporty (BMW insists it’s still the maker of the Ultimate Driving Machine), a lightweight carbon fiber reinforced plastic body was devised, helping to achieve an overall curb weight of 2,630 pounds. The weight saving of the body helps offset the added mass of the battery, which itself is mounted low and in a central position to improve the center of gravity. A perfect 50:50 weight distribution has been maintained and four adults should be able to sit comfortably.
Underpinning the car is an aluminum supporting structure that also incorporates other lightweight materials such as carbon fiber and magnesium. MacPherson single-joint suspension is used up front and a five-link setup in the rear. The wheels are 19-inch forged aluminum and weigh just 15 pounds apiece. Standard tires are low rolling resistant and are sized at 155/70. BMW says the turning circle is a tight 32 feet, which requires just 2.5 turns from lock to lock.
Using lessons learned from its original MINI E and ActiveE electric prototypes, BMW engineers have made the i3’s acceleration and braking controllable with just the one pedal. Recuperation mode is activated the moment the driver lifts off the accelerator, though the severity of this can be adjusted by the ECO PRO settings. When the driver lifts his or her foot of the accelerator, the electric motor switches from drive to generator mode, feeding power into the lithium-ion battery. At the same time, it generates a precisely controllable braking effect. This recuperation is speed-sensitive, which means the car can still coast with maximum efficiency at high speeds and generates a strong braking effect at low speeds.
The i3 will also be the world’s first fully networked electric car. An embedded SIM card is the key that unlocks exclusive BMW ConnectedDrive apps and services for the car. For example, there will be navigation services specially developed to enhance electric mobility alongside familiar features such as concierge and emergency services. One new feature of the navigation is an intermodal route guidance, which incorporates local public transport connections into journey planning.
The navigation system also comes with a dynamic range display, which supplies drivers with exceptionally precise, up-to-date and reliable information on whether there is sufficient charge to reach their destination and, if so, how much power will remain at the end of the journey. Many factors affecting range are considered in the calculation process, which is carried out on a BMW server and sent to the navigation system via the SIM card installed in the car.
Moreover, drivers can use a BMW i Remote app to share information with their car at any time using their smartphone. If the car is hooked up to a charging station, the supply of energy can be controlled via smartphone, while the air conditioning and heating function for the battery can also be activated remotely. In addition, customers can use their smartphone to send destinations to their car’s navigation system. The app also shows the driver charging stations (both available and in use) and can establish if the car has sufficient power remaining to reach them.
Finally, to ensure the i3 runs smoothly during everyday operation, the battery and remaining electrical systems are monitored at all times. In the unlikely case of a malfunction, special BMW i Centers will be able to carry out vehicle diagnostics to pinpoint any faulty components remotely, and then make preparations to have the car back on the road as soon as possible.
BMW is still keeping quiet on pricing, but the automaker has hinted it’s targeting a final price in line with that of a well-equipped 3-Series, so somewhere in the low-$40k bracket.
Stay tuned for the 2014 BMW i3’s reveal in just a few weeks, but in the meantime hit this link to view our complete coverage on the car.
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