It’s elec­tri­fy­ing

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige -

A PLAS­TIC elec­tric car is about the last thing you’d ex­pect from the com­pany that builds the stonk­ing M3, X5 fam­ily hauler SUV and 7 Se­ries limo.

It sounds more like a kid­die’s toy than a break­through new BMWthat is head­ing down the road to the fu­ture.

But the i3 is not just a car.

It’s a new take on 21st cen­tury mo­tor­ing, from its body de­sign to the plug-in power pack and the way it’s built, and is se­ri­ously im­pres­sive.

The i3 is roomy, classy, perky, fun and al­most cer­tain to go into the his­tory books as a land­mark car. The new-age elec­tric car has a 200km range that grows to 300 if a buyer adds a tiny mo­tor­cy­cle engine for bat­tery top-up charg­ing. It pi­o­neers a new pro­duc­tion process that could see plenty of body de­signs sit­ting on the same rolling bat­tery pack.

Af­ter spend­ing time with the bril­liant di­nosaur called the Mercedes-Benz S-Class— one of to­day’s glo­ri­ous apex preda­tors— my first drive in the i3 is like dis­cov­er­ing the first mam­mal on the evo­lu­tion­ary road. I’ve got less than 10km and three hours to dip into the i3, at the first press preview drive in Mu­nich, but it’s enough. For now.

The big ques­tions will come for home-ground use from the mid­dle of 2014, where things like the cost of plug-in coal power and the real-world range on Aus­tralian roads will be an­swered. That’s also when we will know the drive­away pric­ing, the sup­port sys­tem (which sets a new stan­dard in Europe— and the on­go­ing war­ranty and ser­vice costs. For now, BMWAus­tralia says the i3 will cost more than $50,000 and less than $70,000.

This is not just a car. Apart from the land­mark con­struc­tion process, where its car­bon fi­bre-re­in­forced plas­tic body is bonded to a skate­board-style me­chan­i­cal pack­age like a life-sized Air­fix kit, the i3 is the start of a new BMWGroup sub-brand that’s been cre­ated in a sim­i­lar style to Mini. It will be closely fol­lowed by the i8 su­per coupe and other elec­tric new­com­ers.

‘‘ BMWis play­ing an ac­tive role in chang­ing the face of ur­ban mo­bil­ity. We come an­other step closer to re­al­ity,’’ head of plan­ning for Pro­ject i Dr Martin Arlt tells Cars­guide at, iron­i­cally, a for­mer World War II air­field.

‘‘ Our de­vel­op­ment work has spawned a car that dif­fers sig­nif­i­cantly from the cur­rent au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try norm in many ways. We haven’t

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