1 Nov 2014
By TUNG NGUYEN
BMW released the world’s first premium dedicated electric vehicle in Australia in late 2014.
Known as the i01-series i3, it was launched in two versions – BEV Battery Electric Vehicle and REX Range Extender iterations. The latter attracts a $6000 premium over the base $63,900 plus on-road costs pricing.
Both models’ rear wheels are driven by a BMW-designed and built 125kW/250Nm electric motor, with a 28kW 0.65-litre twin-cylinder petrol engine (from a Motorrad scooter) in the REX acting as a generator for the Lithium Ion battery pack.
Developing 21.8kWh, it is stored low and flat in the centre of the i3, as part of the ‘Life Drive’ architecture, and features a separate aluminium drivetrain module and a CFRP carbon fibre reinforced plastic passenger cell, to help keep both the centre of gravity and kerb weight (from 1195kg) low.
To this end, the body panels are made from recycled thermo plastic material, the roof is carbon fibre, and the tailgate is specially thinned glass.
The result in the BEV is a remarkable 7.2 seconds for the 0-100km/h dash and a 150km/h top speed. The REX adds about half a second due to its 120kg weight penalty.
Steering is electric rack and pinion while a MacPherson strut front and a five-link independent rear set-up suspend the i3. Note that the wheels are specially designed 19-inch forged light alloys with narrow low rolling-resistance rubber.
Measuring in at a millimetre shy of four metres in length, the i3 is barely any longer than a Volkswagen Polo but it is wider at 1775mm, much higher at 1578mm and with a wheelbase fully 100mm longer at 2570mm.
Being a four-seater five-door hatch (with a ‘Coach’ clap-hand system that requires the fronts be open first), the i3 has no centre pillar, aiding entry and egress.
The BMW is big on recycled materials, and includes kenaf plant-fibre extract material in place of regular plastic trim, Eucalyptus wood and chemical-free olive-leaf tanned leather upholstery where available.
When it was new