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BMW previews its first i Store

Green space: BMW has refitted the cabin of the i3 concept with an interior with natural materials such as wood, wool and leather.

London showroom for BMW electric sub-brand previewed, alongside tweaked i3 concept

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BMW logo14 Jun 2012

By MIKE COSTELLO

BMW has displayed a more advanced version of its i3 concept car while previewing the first showroom dedicated to its new electric sub-brand, in the heart of London.

The revised i3 concept – featuring a new interior with extensive sustainable natural materials – is said to be representative of the production version that will hit European roads from late 2013.

The German car-maker’s first ‘i Store’ is next to existing BMW and Mini dealerships on Park Lane, and will initially display concept versions of the i3 and its i8 plug-in sports-car stablemate, both of which debuted in Frankfurt last year.

As we have reported, the i8 range-extender will go into production for global markets soon after the pioneering i3 and will hit overseas roads in 2014. Neither model is confirmed for Australia, but both are believed to be a strong chance to arrive in our market within two years.

BMW AG board member Ian Robertson said the new showroom – to formally open its doors on July 25 – would help educate the public on electromobility and allow future customers to experience first-hand the forthcoming range of EV and range-extender vehicles.

The company said it chose London as the site of its first i showroom because of its importance as Europe’s leading megacity and its influence as a global trend-setter.

BMW said it would sell its i cars through a network of its own authorised dealers – reported in Europe to comprise around 10 per cent of its existing sites – and will also establish a “mobile sales force” and look to establish an online showroom.

The unveiling of its new i Store also included the debut of BMW’s new Wallbox home fast-charger and a fold-up bicycle fitted with a small electric motor, called the Pedelec Concept.

The interior of the revised i3 concept is said to have a mixture of leather, wood, wool and other renewable raw materials, while the lighter hues give the cabin a substantially different ambience to the darker original concept.

Head of BMW i design Benoit Jacob told British publication Autocar that the latest i3 concept was “85 to 90 per cent” production ready, but said the distinctive see-through doors were unlikely to make the final cut.

Materials inside include sustainably managed eucalyptus wood from Europe, a tanning agent made from olive leaves and wool on the door trims, while the unchanged bodyshell retains a lightweight carbon fibre-reinforced passenger cell.

The more detailed interior design now features an instrument cluster and gear lever mounted on the steering column, while the rest of the controls have moved onto the fascia, removing the need for a centre console. Information is displayed on a trio of screens on the steering column and dashboard.

As before, the four-seater i3 is powered by a 125kW/250Nm electric motor matched to a single-speed transmission sending power to the rear wheels, and can dash from zero to 100km/h in under eight seconds on its way to a top speed of 150km/h.

As GoAuto reported last year, BMW will also offer the production i3 with an optional internal-combustion range-extender – as used in the Chevrolet/Holden Volt – to ward off public range-anxiety.

BMW detailed its extensive ‘360 degree ELECTRIC’ support package for i vehicles, which will include mobile recharging equipment, partnerships with public charging providers in various countries and fitting Wallbox units in customers homes.

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