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LA show: BMW wheels out three-door i3 EV

Charging ahead: BMW’s i3 Concept Coupe is powered by the same electric drivetrain as the five-door i3 that goes into production next year.

BMW points to expanded i3 electric vehicle range with Concept Coupe at Los Angeles

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BMW logo28 Nov 2012

By RON HAMMERTON

BMW’s family of ‘i’ electrified vehicles continues to grow, with a three-door coupe version of the all-electric i3 revealed in concept form ahead of its Los Angeles motor show debut this week.

The German company has not said if the coupe will go into production alongside the five-door i3 that is already slated for launch in Europe next year, but says it “demonstrates the potential for conceivably extending the model range”.

BMW Australia has committed to both the i3 and bigger i8 sports car hybrid from 2014, but at this stage will only take the i3 in diesel-electric range-extender form, which it sees as a better proposition for this market than full electric.

The i3 Concept Coupe is described by BMW as a “particularly nimble and emotive” version of the i3, indicating it is likely to be the sportiest of the potential i3 family.

It carries the unmistakable ‘stream flow’ styling of the ‘i’ cars shown to date, although with changes around the window line, and uses the same breakthrough carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) construction for light weight and strength.

BMW says the Concept Coupe has a broader, lower-slung look when compared with the production i3. Interestingly, the three-door concept is 119mm longer than the original concept of the five-door version, at 3964mm, as well as considerably narrower at 1768mm – down 143mm from the original’s whopping 2011mm. It is also a few millimetres taller, at 1555mm high.

The changed proportions might reflect the flexibility of the so-called LifeDrive architecture for the i3 range, which BMW has said from the outset will spawn a family of electrified vehicles under its ‘i’ sub-brand.

The architecture is built in two units – an upper passenger cell called the ‘Life’ module, sitting on the ‘Drive’ module that holds all the electrical and mechanical bits.

Despite its outward changes from the original i3, the Concept Coupe has an identical 2570mm wheelbase to the five-door model, and employs the same all-electric powertrain with 125kW/250Nm electric motor driving the rear wheels and drawing power from a lithium ion-battery under the floor.

The vehicle’s range is claimed to be up to 160km on a full charge.

A four seater with only two “lounge-style” bucket seats in the back, the Concept Coupe is said to provide a sense of spaciousness, thanks to a bigger glass area around the back of the boxy i3, compared with conventional coupes.

The side windows are frameless, with no B-pillar to block the view, and the side rear window not only dips lower along the waist line but also continues to the rear-most pillar, opening up the side view for rear-seat passengers and – importantly – the driver.

The vehicle gets all-digital instruments with a contrasting moulded eucalyptus blonde-wood insert weaving across almost the entire width of dash.

BMW says most of the interior fittings are from renewable materials such as wool, leather and wood.

Described as “the world’s first fully networked electric vehicle”, the Concept Coupe uses ConnectedDrive functions that have been devised by BMW ‘i’ for use in production vehicles.

“Operation of the navigation system as well as the information transfer between the vehicle, the outside world and the driver’s smartphone has been geared towards the specific requirements of e-mobility,” the company says.

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