Elec­tri­cal re­sis­tance

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - First Drive - CHRIS RI­LEY

BMW’s new i3 elec­tric car prom­ises more range than its pre­de­ces­sor — for $23.50 a kilo­me­tre. The new 94Ah (amp hour) model has a higher ca­pac­ity bat­tery that de­liv­ers an ex­tra 85km in range but costs $2000 more.

Those with re­ally deep pock­ets can spend $71,900 on the 94Ah with an anx­i­ety-avoid­ing range ex­ten­der petrol en­gine.

And therein lies the prob­lem for EVs. Aussies aren’t re­motely in­ter­ested in them at th­ese prices. EV sales are down 50 per cent this year and BMW has sold just 63 ex­am­ples of the i3 in a to­tal of more than 20,000 cars.

Our longer com­mutes, lack of in­fra­struc­ture and vir­tu­ally no govern­ment sup­port means EVs are a hard sell.

The orig­i­nal 60Ah, launched two years ago and still on sale, gave up to 160km on a charge.

The 94Ah ex­tends the range to a the­o­ret­i­cal 245km (200km in real world driv­ing), while the range ex­ten­der ver­sion’s nine- litre petrol tank stretches this to 330km. It also uses less power — us­age is down 0.3kWh to 12.6kWh/100km.

That’s where the up­date ends — the only other change is an ex­tra colour, the blue shared with the i8 hy­brid sports car.

The up­date doesn’t im­prove the car’s value equa­tion and safety gear stan­dard on cheaper cars is op­tional. Au­tonomous emer­gency brak­ing is part of a $2700 op­tion pack.

The car comes with a fiveme­tre ca­ble that plugs into a house­hold power point and charges the car in 14 hours.

A $1700 home charg­ing sta­tion can de­liver 80 per cent charge in less than eight hours and a com­mer­cial charg­ing sta­tion takes four hours.

How­ever, the new model comes pre-wired to work with new rapid charg­ers that take just 40 min­utes. The charg­ers, which cost about $40,000 each, are be­ing rolled out slowly.

BMW says there should be about 1000 in Aus­tralia within four years.


The i3’s cabin is roomy and com­fort­able — and looks like an Ikea in­te­rior, with light grained wood and generic grey felt. A new darker oak wood trim is avail­able.

Get past the looks and the i3 is great fun to drive. It feels like a golf buggy on steroids — with rear-drive, di­rect steer­ing and a tight turn­ing cir­cle — and is stealth-fighter quiet, smooth and sur­pris­ingly quick off the mark, thanks to the elec­tric mo­tor.

Re­gen­er­a­tive brakes pro­duce a weird grind­ing noise and the ag­gres­sive en­gine brak­ing when you lift off the ac­cel­er­a­tor is con­fronting.

Range de­pends ul­ti­mately on many fac­tors in­clud­ing hills and how long you spend on the mo­tor­way, the lat­ter a sure-fire way to de­plete the bat­tery.

We drove the range ex­ten­der and had about 60km range left after 130km of mixed driv­ing.


As a car it works. As a prod­uct, it is way too ex­pen­sive. Petrolengined cars at the same price do ev­ery­thing bet­ter.

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