2014 BMW i3 Electric Car: Full Details And Images Released

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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

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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

Enlarge Photo

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

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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.

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