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BMW i3 Electric Car, i8 Plug-In Hybrid: First Rides For Journalists

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BMW i3 Concept MkII

BMW i3 Concept MkII

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Two of the most exciting electric vehicles due over the next few years both originate from German automaker, BMW.

The i3 city car and i8 sports car are both clean-sheet designs, developed from the ground up as plug-in vehicles. With carbon-fiber chassis, purpose-designed interiors and unique styling, each will be proof that electric cars need not be mere re-worked gasoline vehicles.

We've seen concept vehicles and disguised prototypes of each so far, but Autocar and Car have had the first passenger ride in each vehicle, during winter testing in Sweden.

The prototypes may be camoflaged in blue and white swirls, but their shapes are unmistakable--large wheels and a tall profile for the city-bound i3, low, sleek, and not unlike a modern-day M1 supercar for the i8.

i3 city car

The i3 will arrive first, in both battery-electric and range-extended electric versions.

It's longer, wider and taller than the BMW-built MINI Cooper, offering greater luggage volume and passenger space. As we've seen from the concept vehicles, the car's interior is also more minimalist, Autocar's reporter describing "a feeling of genuine space".

The car has no central B-pillar, opening wide to the spacious interior. The seating position is said to be raised and upright, and large expanses of glass make for excellent visibility--vital in a city car.

Naturally, range varies depending on how you drive it. According to Car, BMW project i chief Ulrich Kranz suggests 80 miles is a minimum if you "drive hard", 100 miles is "realistic", and BMW has recorded 140 miles on the EPA's urban test cycle.

Acceleration is "truly impressive"--7.2 seconds to 60 mph the quoted time--while a few sideways laps around the frozen lake suggest the i3 has lost none of BMW's handling talents.

BMW i8 Concept

BMW i8 Concept

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i8 sports car

The i8 should be even better for keen drivers, lower, wider and more powerful. Though it should be great fun to drive, BMW has designed it to be properly usable--so it also features a compliant ride quality.

In production form the i8 is said to weigh in at just over 3,260 pounds, with a 1.5-liter three-cylinder gasoline engine and two electric motors providing the power.

On its own, the engine produces 220 horsepower, and the main traction motor an additional 128-hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. A smaller electric motor develops 5 horsepower, mainly used as a generator and alternator. In the i8, peak combined torque of over 400 lb-ft should translate to a 0-62 mph time of only 4.6 seconds.

20 miles of all-electric range should help with economy too. No economy numbers have been officially announced, though BMW has previously touted a figure of around 80 mpg.

Pricing could be similar to mid-range Porsche 911 Carrera models, which doesn't seem unreasonable given the performance and technology. The i3, for comparison, will likely cost similar to a mid-range BMW 3-series.

Which BMW i-car are you most looking forward to? Leave us your thoughts below.

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Comments (17)
  1. Why do you (and others) persist in quoting torque figures for electric vehicles? They are totally meaningless unless related to a radius, from which one might derive thrust. But what radius? The effective value for an electric vehicle is probably quite small, and the torque value at the motor correspondingly tiny. The reason is that electric motors work well at much higher speeds than i.c. engines, and are then geared down much more to drive the wheels. Thrust at the wheels matters; power matters. Torque does not.
     
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  2. Well, for a class of cars, the tire radius is pretty much the same. As for stepdown gearing, I would think most electric motors like to run at the same speed, so that makes the torque figure meaningful.
     
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  3. I was hoping for double the all ev range for both of these then what the state now. At least they'll drive well being plug ins n bmws.
     
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  4. The i3 has a 140 mile range on the EPA's urban test cycle, yes! All I wanted it to be was a bit more then a Leaf in it's range. I can't wait to get my i3, I also decided that I want a Model S. So I've had my deposit in on the i3 since December and am planning to reserve a Model S next month. Bye bye gasoline.
     
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  5. The 2011/2012 LEAF scored 107 miles on the same urban test cycle so expect about a 30% better range or a 93~95 mile EPA range rating. I haven't seen any reports on the 2013 LEAF dong the urban test cycle, only the more difficult 5 cycle test which is what is actually used for certification.
     
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  6. I guess I'm just hoping the i3 with all it's advancements can at least one up a Leaf. With it's CFRP body and tall skinny EV tires I'm hoping it has some kind of advantage giving it a realistic range closer to or above 100 miles.
     
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  7. There is no way to get more range than a Leaf when the battery is 10% smaller. The i3 cant be that more efficient. Definitely not aerodynamically.
     
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  8. I think it says the 140 miles was exceptional driving - realistic is 100 miles. With 22 kWh, you will not get more range than a Leaf. Leaf is 24 kWh and 100 miles (in practice with some highway driving and cold weather, it is more like 80 miles).
     
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  9. If i8 really will sell at midrange Carrera money it would be cheaper than main PHEV rival Fisker Karma. Just when it looked things couldn't get any worse for that company...

    100 miles of "realistic" range for i3 is pretty good (if rather questionable considering a 22KWh battery) but maybe not quite $43-$50K good. Of course definitive pricing is still to be determined.
     
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  10. I am still "confused." Where are the actual driving impressions from "journalists?" This seems to be a rehash of much earlier BMW publicity.

    What is new or based on Anthony's or any other journalist actual time behind the wheel?

    I am trying to stay up on everything about these new BMW designs, and I, too, am still hoping to add an i3REX to my garage late this year. As I write this I am in Warsaw, Poland and I have not ruled out using my already approved press credentials to catch the action next week in Geneva.
     
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  11. Shame they couldn't do a (European) Tesla Model S beater - why not an all electric i8?
     
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  12. What makes the i3 exceptional is the option to include a 25kW genset with the EV - I.e. a serial hybrid - which is the wave of the future that car makers are avoiding because it will be an ICE killer, but BMW will be the first.

    Mind you that this genset is at least 2 times, maybe 3 times more powerful than required. I rather see a genset option for 8kW than 25kW.
     
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  13. BMW will be the "first"... to make an electric vehicle that also has an gas-powered engine to extend the range? Maybe Chevy should get to work on something like that.

    I'm also unsure how including an internal combustion engine as a range-extender is an "ICE killer." That seems like a bit of a contradiction.
     
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  14. Sorry Dan, read carefully -- it says "serial hybrid". Do you know what that is?

    There is a huge difference between an ICE and a SHEV.
     
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  15. @Mike: Actually, the correct term is 'series hybrid'. I think Dan is pointing that the Chevy Volt is also a series hybrid (with one exception under certain circumstances). So is the Fisker Karma. So BMW will hardly be the first maker to offer one.
     
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  16. Again, whatever you want to call it, if "gas-powered range extender inside an electric car" is an "ICE killer," the Volt would have already killed the ICEs. Particularly since it would take a minor miracle for the i3 to come in at an MSRP below the Volt.

    Furthermore, the range-extending engine... um, runs on gasoline (which it converts into electricity via internal combustion). That's kind of the primary feature of having one. So serial hybrids don't really "kill" ICE as much as co-opt it.
     
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  17. It'll be good to have another option in the market, but I can't see why you'd spend that much money for an i8 when a Tesla S performance pack gives you better acceleration, more usable space; and you're not tied to the gas pump. Maybe it's just me, but 20 miles electric range is lame (especially compared to 240).
     
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