BMW’s elec­tric i3 gets more grunt

Pilbara News - - Property - Ewan Kennedy

BMW has in­tro­duced a sec­ond­gen­er­a­tion drive sys­tem to its al­l­elec­tric i3, giv­ing it about 50 per cent greater range, as well as in­creased per­for­mance.

The bat­ter­ies now have 94Ah (Amp hours). The orig­i­nal 2014 model i3 had 60Ah.

The BMW i di­vi­sion and tech­nol­ogy part­ner Sam­sung SDI have man­aged to gain the sub­stan­tial bat­tery ca­pac­ity im­prove­ment with­out any in­crease in the ex­te­rior di­men­sions.

We’ve just ex­pe­ri­enced a most en­joy­able week in this “car of the fu­ture”, cov­er­ing mainly sub­ur­ban use with oc­ca­sional runs on mo­tor­ways to test the lit­tle elec­tric Bim­mer in what we con­sider nor­mal mo­tor­ing.

Our test i3 94Ah with range ex­ten­der was priced at $71,990 to which on-road costs have to be added. Note the BMW i3 with the 60Ah pow­er­train is still of­fered.

The new 90Ah unit adds just $2000 to the price of that car.

Full marks to BMW for throw­ing away ex­ist­ing small-car ideas and start­ing with a fresh com­puter screen.

Cute and very dif­fer­ent was the opin­ion of all those who viewed it, in­side and out. The high-volt­age lithium-ion bat­tery con­sists of eight mod­ules with 12 stor­age cells lo­cated within each mo­d­ule.

Cooled via the air-con­di­tion­ing’s coolant sys­tem, the cell-in­ter­nal pack­ages have been op­ti­mised with in­creased elec­trolytes.

Gross bat­tery en­ergy in­creases to 33kWh, of which 27kWh can be ef­fec­tively used. The i3’s 60Ah ca­pac­ity pro­duces 22kWh gross with 19kWh of use­able en­ergy.

The BMW i3 94Ah’s eDrive syn­chro­nous elec­tric mo­tor gen­er­ates 125kW of power and 250Nm of torque.

There’s the op­tion of a range ex­ten­der en­gine, a small twin­cylin­der petrol unit that never pow­ers the i3 di­rectly but only main­tains the bat­tery charge at its cur­rent level, it doesn’t in­crease the amount of en­ergy in the bat­ter­ies, but sim­ply adds to the over­all range of the ve­hi­cle.

As in most elec­tric cars, there’s no gear­box as such. All “gear­ing” is done by the speed of the mo­tor.

The big­gest plus of elec­tric and hy­brid ve­hi­cles is en­ergy is put back into the bat­ter­ies when slow­ing down or de­scend­ing a hill.

There are sev­eral charg­ing op­tions, vary­ing in time from about 12 hours for a full charge through a stan­dard do­mes­tic 10amp power point; eight hours us­ing a BMW i Wall­box ac­ces­sory (ap­prox­i­mately $1750 plus in­stal­la­tion); and down to just 30 min­utes at a DC fast charg­ing sta­tion.

The lat­ter are sill a rar­ity in Aus­tralia, un­til we see many more full-elec­tric cars on the road.

Most of our driv­ing was done in Eco Pro mode. Un­like our pre­vi­ous i3 60Ah test­ing a cou­ple of years back, where we found this mode was too slug­gish for our tastes, the 94Ah has plenty of grunt.

Around town, 190km to 225km was pos­si­ble in the Eco Pro mode.

That’s more than enough for nor­mal sub­ur­ban daily use.

Mo­tor­way driv­ing, again in Eco Pro mode, gave an elec­tric-only range of about 160km.

That’s enough to get from the Gold Coast to Bris­bane with plenty to spare. The shorter range is due not to the higher speeds, but also be­cause con­stant speed run­ning means there’s lit­tle or no en­ergy re­gen­er­a­tion.

Eco Pro+ mode, mean­ing no air-con­di­tion­ing, was tested only briefly in the hot and hu­mid Gold Coast sum­mer weather at home.

It knocks a fair bit off the per­for­mance, but of­fers sig­nif­i­cantly ex­tra range.

We might try to bor­row an i3 again in win­ter and re­port on that. The de­fault mode is Com­fort. This re­duces range by about 1520 per cent, adds even more grunt, doesn’t limit speed, and gives the air-con­di­tion­ing more power.

We were happy to miss out on this and go with the planet-sav­ing Eco Pro mode.

In­ter­est­ingly, the 94Ah soothed our range anx­i­ety to the ex­tent that it barely ex­isted and we left the i3 with­out the charger con­nected for days at a time.

In pre­vi­ous tests, we rushed to plug in the charger af­ter ev­ery trip.

Per­for­mance is ter­rific, with the in­stant off-the-line re­ac­tion we love in all elec­tric cars. There’s near si­lence from the rear-mounted elec­tric mo­tor and the lit­tle petrol charg­ing en­gine is barely au­di­ble when it spins away at its fixed speed.

The BMW i3 can be a “one-pedal” car with a lit­tle bit of fore­sight in driv­ing. That is, you use the pedal on the right to in­crease and de­crease speed. We were able to ac­com­plish trips of 20km-30km around town with­out us­ing the brakes, not only putting en­ergy back into the car, but also cre­at­ing ab­so­lutely no brake dust.

Ride com­fort is gen­er­ally good, if a bit firmer than av­er­age.

Big bumps and dips can cause the sus­pen­sion to crash at times.

Road grip though the tall thin tyres is likely to be enough for most driv­ers.

But the steer­ing is on the dead side, some­thing BMW will have to sort out to re­tain its “ul­ti­mate driv­ing ma­chine” mar­ket­ing tag.

There’s good head and legroom for four adults.

The interior width is most im­pres­sive be­cause of the boxy body shape.

BMW has to be praised for this, as it makes its i3 a gen­uine day-to­day “nor­mal” car. The rear-hinged back doors can’t be opened till the fronts are open.

Once open, there’s ex­cel­lent ac­cess to the back seats.

How­ever, if there’s a car parked next to yours in a carpark, open­ing both doors at the same time means the doors tend to block you in.

Il­log­i­cally to our way of think­ing, if you choose an i3 with­out the range ex­ten­der you don’t get a big­ger boot. Pre­sum­ably the spot not oc­cu­pied by the petrol en­gine and its fuel tank just sits there va­cant. As well as the rear boot, there’s also a 35-litre boot un­der the front “bon­net”.

The bat­tery-only BMW i3 90Ah elec­tric car is priced at $65,900 with the range-ex­ten­der adding $6000.

Given the sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased range we wouldn’t be sur­prised if many buy­ers opt for the bat­tery only model. Less money, more per­for­mance, longer range — a no-brainer if you don’t plan long coun­try trips.

The bat­tery pack is de­signed to last for the life of the car and is cov­ered by an eight-year or 100,000km bat­tery war­ranty.

Pic­tures: Mar­que Mo­tor­ing

The dis­tinc­tive styling of the BMW i3 elec­tric car draws plenty of at­ten­tion.

There are sev­eral charg­ing op­tions.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.