BMW is claim­ing a world first with its i3 elec­tric car.

Geelong Advertiser - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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