BMW POWERS ON
BMW is claiming a world first with its i3 electric car.
NOT long now. Not long before electric cars like this that you plug in to charge are the norm rather than the exception.
They’re getting better with every outing and it is now more a question of if they fit your lifestyle, rather than if they perform as well as ordinary cars.
We can’t help wonder, though, why they have to make them so goofy-looking.
The i3 is billed as the world’s first purpose-built electric car, designed from the ground up to accommodate the necessary batteries and electric motor.
It’s made mainly of plastic and carbon fibre, the latter designed in part to offset the 200kg of extra weight that the batteries add.
The 125kW electric motor is powered by an eight-cell, 360 volt, lithium-ion battery pack that generates 22 kWh of energy.
Drive is to the rear wheels and it rides on skinny 19-inch wheels that amazingly still manage to hold the road OK.
You can add a 28kW 650cc, two-cylinder petrol range extender engine with a ninelitre fuel tank at an extra cost of $6000 that recharges the batteries, increasing range to 300km.
Priced from $63,900 it’s a four-seater with a cabin that looks like something from an Ikea catalogue, with interesting use of textiles, light-grained wood and grey car felt that is not actually felt at all.
Access to the rear seats is through half-sized doors that open backwards, once the main doors have been. This means front passengers must alight before those in the back seat can get out.
Standard kit includes parking assistant, rear view camera, climate control, navigation professional system, DAB+ tuner and convenience telephone with extended Bluetooth functions.
And this thing is quick — fun to drive too.
Hit the throttle and the i3 leaps forward, zipping away from the lights with an instantaneous burst of power. That’s the thing with electric cars — there’s no waiting for the revs to build up. All of the power is available right away.
The dash from 0-100km/h takes a brisk 7.2 seconds and top speed is limited to 150km/h.
We covered 470km in the i3 at a rate of 14.6kW/h and average speed of 50km/h.
There’ are only two gears — forward and reverse — selected from a stalk on the steering column.
Traffic is in some ways a bonus because every time you lift off the throttle recovered energy is directed back into the battery.
The i3 holds its own on the freeway too, but that’s probably the best way of burning through your battery in a hurry.
It’s estimated you can get between 160 and 200km from a single charge. We think the typical driver could expect to get about 130km — at a rate of 14-17 kW/h per 100km.
Charging from a standard wall socket takes up to 11 hours. A home charge station cuts this to six hours, while you can grab an 80 per cent charge in 30 minutes from one of the many commercial charging station that have sprung up.
Despite its odd looks we found the i3 surprisingly good and quick. Watch out for resale and for the cost of repairs, because we’re not sure what your local panel beater is going to make of this one.
Three stars out of five.