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.
ON THE ROAD
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.