Ex­tended, splen­did

Even with a tiny petrol en­gine, the i3 is green through and through ... but too ex­pen­sive

Herald Sun - Motoring - - THE TICK -

ALL the car talk at the mo­ment is about au­ton­o­mous driv­ing.

If the eg­gheads and early adopters are right, we’ll all be hand­ing the con­trols to our cars within a year. But that’s never go­ing to hap­pen. A re­al­is­tic date for the full-scale adop­tion of au­ton­o­mous tech­nol­ogy is more like 20 years from now.

But elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of cars is well un­der way with a grow­ing num­ber of bat­tery-pow­ered ve­hi­cles and a huge num­ber of hy­brids, es­pe­cially plug-ins with more than just a to­ken elec­tric range.

The Chevro­let Bolt is one of the new­est and best sparky cars and has just been named Car of the Year in the US, although it’s never go­ing to get right-hand drive for Aus­tralia and Holden lost a packet on its mis­er­able sales of the Volt that came (and went) be­fore it.

But the BMW i3 is here and now and has just had a tweak to im­prove its range and de­pend­abil­ity. It’s still way, way too ex­pen­sive and too much like a sci­ence ex­per­i­ment than a main­stream baby car.

It’s time for another look and a test for The Tick. I have to re­port that one half of The Tick team is in love with the i3. She wants one for her daily com­mute, thinks it’s great for week­end er­rands and is pre­pared to over­look the $72,000 base price, prob­lem­atic ac­cess to the back seats, long charg­ing times from a home socket and the four-star ANCAP score thanks to a lack of pedes­trian pro­tec­tion.

But back to the car, which is what it al­ways was — and more.

There are the skate­board­style bat­tery pack, odd­ball-but-love­able four-door car­bon-fi­bre re­in­forced plas­tic body, elec­tric mo­tor with sin­gle-speed au­to­matic gear­box and rear­wheel drive and the usual BMW suite of tech­nol­ogy and safety equip­ment. The big change, how­ever, is a boost to the bat­tery, which is now rated at 94 Amp-hours, giv­ing up to 245km of elec­tric mo­tor­ing. The range-ex­ten­der model tested has a tiny two-cylin­der petrol en­gine that charges the bat­tery but never drives the wheels. It has a ba­sic elec­tric range of 220km with another 150km on in­ter­nal gaso­line charg­ing for a to­tal of 370km.

BMW be­lieves the BEV — Bat­tery Elec­tric Ve­hi­cle — range is more than any­one needs for a city-and-sub­urbs run­about, while the range ex­ten­der car now has a gen­uine long-dis­tance cruis­ing abil­ity.

But there’s also the mat­ter of recharg­ing.

It can take seven-and-a-half hours to recharge from a nor­mal wall socket, com­pared with 10 min­utes at the pumps for a petrol car, although find­ing a rapid charger re­duces that to 3.8 hours and the best plug-in juicers can do it in less than an hour.

The car also has a claimed 0-100km/h sprint time of 8.1 sec­onds and a top speed of 150km/h, with rated fuel econ­omy of 0.6L/100km for the range ex­ten­der.

Its green­ness is re­flected in real wood and re­cy­cled ma­te­rial for the trim pan­els in the cabin, as well as ef­fi­cient elec­tric steer­ing and air­con to re­duce bat­tery drain.

BMW among other brands talks about zero lo­cal emis­sions. What that means is noth­ing

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