The 2014 BMW i3 plug-in electric city car has moved one step closer to showrooms, as production began today at the company's plant in Leipzig, Germany.

While assembly takes place at Leipzig, components from the i3 are sourced from BMW and joint venture facilities in various German cities--Wackersdorf, Landshut and Dingolfing among them--as well as Moses Lake, Washington.

BMW calls the i3 the first premium vehicle designed from the ground up as an electric car.

It has many unusual design features, including a carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) passenger cell and a separate aluminum chassis for the powertrain and suspension.

The i3 is powered by a 125-kilowatt (170-horsepower) electric motor and a 22-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack.

In another unusual move, the i3 will be available as a conventional battery-electric car, but there will also be an optional range extender: a 650 cc, two-cylinder gasoline engine.

While no official range number have been released, BMW estimates the i3's range as 80 to 100 miles--and about twice that with the range extender.

The i3 will be available with a Combined Charging System (CCS) fast-charging coupler, which can give a 100 percent charge in 30 minutes, but is not compatible with the current CHAdeMO standard.

The i3 goes on sale in Europe later this year, with U.S. deliveries beginning in early 2014. In the U.S., it will be priced at $42,275 before Federal and local incentives.

With i3 production finally starting, BMW will soon see if its Project i gambit will pay off, or if this radical city car is just too much of a stretch.

Until it arrives in the U.S., see our roundup of 2014 BMW i3 electric car driving impressions.


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