BMW i3 Concept: Battery Electric Urban Minicar—Full Details

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The concept version of the 2014 BMW i3 unveiled today in Frankfurt shows just how radical a change BMW has made from its legacy of gasoline-powered, front-engine, rear-drive sporty vehicles.

For one, it’s entirely powered by electricity. The flat lithium-ion battery pack is built into the car’s floor, and it powers a 125-kilowatt (170-horsepower) electric motor located between the rear wheels.

For another, it has a pair of “coach doors” on either side, which open to expose the entire interior, without a B-pillar between the doors that might impede entry. The upright shape has strong wedge lines, with a rising window line and the “stream flow” styling theme of the I range, which uses different colors for the mechanical components and the passenger module.

See also: ­ BMW i8 Concept: Plug-In Hybrid Sports Coupe—Full Details

And when was the last time BMW fitted a car with bench seats, both front and rear? The i3 has them, allowing drivers in tight urban areas to park right next to a wall, then slide across the car to get out the other side—unimpeded by the tunnel in the floor, since there isn’t one.

The roof is transparent, and the tailgate (which houses the U-shaped LED rear lights) slides away rather than flipping up.

BMW promises performance that matches the brand’s image, with 0 to 62 mph acceleration of 7.9 seconds—not bad for an urban runabout—and a top speed governed at 93 mph. Because electric motors generate peak torque at 0 rpm, the i3’s responsiveness away from stop should be particularly good. Weight is given as 2750 pounds, about the same as a subcompact hatchback with a gasoline engine.

Perhaps most unexpected, BMW says it will offer the i3 with the option of a range extender, to be called i-REX. It will be a tiny gasoline engine—the company gave out no details—that powers a generator that sends electric power to the motor to take the onwards after its electric range of 80 to 100 miles is depleted.

Full recharging time for the battery pack is given as six hours on 240-Volt power, and BMW also referred to a one-hour time to recharge the pack to 80 percent of capacity using an unspecified quick-charge system.

BMW did not discuss pricing or availability dates for the i3, though it’s long been rumored to go on sale during 2013 as a 2014 model.

BMW provided airfare, lodging, and meals to enable High Gear Media to bring you this first-person news report.

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Comments (9)
  1. The car version looks really great as long as you don't look at the front or back too closely. I think BMW may have a sense of humor, or it could just be my sense of humor, but when you look at the front of the car, it looks like it is pissed-off about something. When you go around to the back and look, it looks like the ol'lady is pissed-off at you for forgetting to pick the milk up on your way home. I hope I'm not the only one who sees that in the car and "soccer mom" van.

  2. It's not a van it's more like a Smart for four.

  3. I think the i3 looks fantastic, though I'll never be interested in sub compact cars I'm still interested in seeing the i3 in person.

  4. I wouldn't bet the farm on it being for sale any time soon. GM tried a glass roof for the Volt. Every designer knows that's a no go as far as A/C efficiency. Car designers are well aware of how the face of a car looks so this is some kind of a joke. The car's designers are not happy. Good luck with US crash testing without a B pillar too. This car is far from production. But so was the Volt concept so many years ago. :) BMW I still think will be very late to the plugin party.

  5. Price??? You don't want to know, LOL. Hey BMW, enough with the "concepts". Show me a production ready car, or don't waste my time. "Lead, follow, or get out of the way."

  6. Thank you, thank you, thank you for changing the default for the Facebook/twitter posts to nil. Much less aggravating.

  7. John, are there any details on the pack size, cell type, or range?

    I like the overall design.

  8. At 2700 pounds I would dub this Bimmer the "rolling electric chair" - certain to kill any occupant involved in a 10 MPH accident with a solid object. Like a pedestrian.

  9. Looks great. Too bad we have to wait another 1 1/2 to 2 years for it! The glass roof and sides will obviously be replaced by CFRP and the interior will get more of a realistic/less concept finish but overall the lines should be about the same. Overall pretty much what I would expect from BMW. If they offer it between $35 and $40K they will definitely sell the 30,000 units annually they are projecting. It will be interesting if if range extender version will be available at initial launch or if it will be offered as an option sometime after the BEV version is sold. That will be a pretty cool car. 80 to 100 miles AER and then a range extender that can only charge the batteries and is never connected directly to the wheels. Nicely done BMW.

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