We won't see them in the States until early next year, but today the 2014 BMW i3 electric car was revealed in production form to the world at large.

Some images had already leaked, and BMW had previously released some specifications and also information on the i3's connectivity and navigation systems.

Now, we have a full suite of photos and details on many more aspects of the car.

Unique design elements

The most noticeable stylistic element is the waistline, which drops significantly under the rear side window only.

While the 2014 BMW i3 is a four-door car, the rear doors are hinged at the rear, so the front doors must be opened first to allow them to be opened, for safety.

The i3's bodyshell, made out of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP)--a first for any volume-production passenger car--is strong enough that BMW was able to dispense altogether with a central pillar, making access to the rear seat easier.

While the BMW i3 has roughly the footprint of a 1-Series sedan, BMW says it offers the interior volume of the larger 3-Series sedan.

The floor is flat, with no "transmission tunnel" to accommodate, which permits "slide-across" access from either side to ease parking--though that's a situation more likely encountered in European or Asian cities than in sprawling U.S. suburbs or mall parking lots.

2014 BMW i3

2014 BMW i3

Tall, thin tires

The BMW i3 cars shown in the carmaker's images all come with their short front hoods painted glossy black, another design element that sets off the BMW i range of electric cars from their gasoline brethren in the lineup.

And the twin-kidney grille, while outlined in blue, actually contains not access for cooling air but simple glossy black blanking plates to reduce aerodynamic drag.

The 19-inch wheels are tall, but very thin, using specially developed 155/70 low-rolling-resistance tires. Buyers can also select optional 20-inch alloy wheels, with similarly tall tires.

While they have the contact patch of a conventional 16-inch tire, their narrowness is one element that permits the i3 to have a very tight 32.3-foot turning circle.

2014 BMW i3

2014 BMW i3

Mega, Giga, Tera

BMW notes that the i3 will be offered with three levels of interior trim, dubbed Mega, Giga, and Tera.

The standard Mega trim level includes 19-inch forged aluminum wheels, a 7.4-kilowatt onboard charger, navigation, the BMW Connected Drive infotainment system, and full LED headlights, daytime running lights, and taillights.

The Giga level adds leather and wool trim, a sunroof, dfferent 19-inch alloy wheels, satellite radio, and an integrated garage-door opener.

And the top-level Tera trim adds to that a different set of 19-inch alloy wheels, a full leather interior using olive tanning processes, textile accents, contrasting stitching, and floor mats in "anthracite"--presumably the color, not the coal.

Full trim levels and specifications will be released later this year, BMW says.

About 25 percent of the plastics used inside the car are recycled, BMW notes, and the eucalyptus wood veneers used on high-end trim levels are "responsibly harvested."

The door trims and instrument-panel surround also use fibers from the kenaf plant, an increasingly popular sustainable element in car interiors these days.

2014 BMW i3 Electric Car: Connectivity, Navigation Highlights

2014 BMW i3 Electric Car: Connectivity, Navigation Highlights

Battery, range extender

The i3 is powered primarily by a 22-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack built into its floorpan. BMW says the battery weighs 450 pounds.

It powers a 125-kilowatt (170-horsepower) electric motor, mounted under the high rear load deck, that produces 184 lb-ft of torque.

The optional Range Extender is a rear-mounted 34-horsepower, 650cc twin-cylinder gasoline engine.

Its sole purpose is to generate electricity; unlike the Chevrolet Volt, there is no circumstance under which it can provide mechanical torque directly to the wheels.

Minimal gasoline range

While BMW has not released specific range ratings--saying only that the battery range is 80 to 100 miles, and that the range extender will "roughly double" that, it notes that the front-mounted gasoline tank has a capacity of only 2.4 gallons.

That would give the BMW i3 running in range-extending mode an effective fuel efficiency of 33 to 42 miles per gallon.

2014 BMW i3

2014 BMW i3

The range extender adds another 330 pounds to the i3, which has a curb weight of "roughly" 2700 lbs without the optional engine.

The design goal from the outset was to win the BMW i3 with range extender the designation of "BEVx," for battery-electric vehicle (extended), meaning that its electric range is greater than or equal to its gasoline range.

That, to the surprise of some, appears to qualify the BMW i3 for the coveted single-occupancy access to California's High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) or carpool lanes.

Preliminary performance specs

BMW quotes "preliminary" acceleration times of 3.5 seconds from 0 to 30 mph, and "approximately" 7.0 seconds from 0 to 60 mph.

Those figures will likely be obtained using the "Comfort" mode, one of three driving modes that adjust the vehicle's efficiency based on the driver's desire.

The other two are "Eco Pro" and "Eco Pro+," which restrict power output, adjust climate control, and make other changes in the car's electronically controlled systems to reduce battery draw and extend range.

The BMW i3's top speed is electronically limited to 93 mph.

With a weight distribution of close to the ideal 50-50, BMW promises the i3 will provide handling consistent with its "Ultimate Driving Machine" slogan.

2014 BMW i3

2014 BMW i3

Optional CCS fast-charging

As for charging time, the standard onboard charger can operate at up to 7.4 kW, meaning a full recharge on a 240-Volt Level 2 charging station will take 3 hours or less (if the station is rated at 32 Amps or higher).

The i3 will also offer an optional Combined Charging System (CCS) fast-charging coupler.

That will permit an 80-percent battery recharge in 20 minutes, and 100 percent in 30 minutes--once CCS fast-charging stations begin to roll out in Europe, the States, and elsewhere. It is not compatible with today's dominant CHAdeMO quick-charging standard.

"Urban car"

BMW refers to its new i3 electric car as an urban vehicle, one that's intended only for city use.

It says that its MINI E and BMW ActiveE drivers averaged only 30 miles a day, well within the range of the i3.

2014 BMW i3

2014 BMW i3

And the images provided by BMW show the i3 electric car against any number of urban backgrounds, including recognizable locations in New York, London, and Beijing.

The concept of an urban car is somewhat foreign to U.S. buyers, however, who tend to buy cars for a wide variety of uses.

Executives have said they expect early i3 buyers to opt for the range-extending engine in greater numbers than later buyers.

Analysts and other carmakers will be watching i3 sales closely; as the first car in the world to offer an optional range extender, it will test the market for pure battery-electric cars versus those with gasoline-fueled range extension.

The 2014 BMW i3 will go on sale in the U.S. early next year.

To watch the live reveal as it happened, see the video below.


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