It’s simple to contend with the notion that the world needs to move towards sustainable energy sources and away from petroleum if this planet is going to survive and reduce the impact of Global Warming. This theorem is especially impacted by the auto industry which has relied on internal combustion propulsion from the beginning. Yes, electric vehicles were conceived over 100 years ago but never became mainstream. Today is a new day as the term “sustainability” has risen to the forefront. BMW has joined the ranks with the release of their first all-electric plug-in dubbed the i3.
Awareness initiatives revved up when BMW launched the i3 simultaneously in London, Beijing and New York mid-summer to much anticipation. These specific metropolises were identified to grab the attention of the German automaker’s intended market — consumers in mega-cities in need of convenient and energy efficient travel. With a passenger compartment made wholly from carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) as well as other recycled materials, the i3 is designed to redefine sustainable vehicles while providing premium appeal. The end result is a vehicle that is lightweight, safe and characteristically retains the amenities expected from a BMW.
Consumers are still wrapping their heads around the technology and earth friendly traits of Electric Vehicles (EVs), but there is still a long road to travel before the world is totally unified. One thing is for sure; the reduction of the use of petroleum products will help the planet breathe better and live longer. Especially since the energy from the gasoline needed to accelerate your vehicle is only 15% with the remainder wasted to the ozone. And only 2% is utilized to move the vehicle’s occupants. We might as well ride bikes, walk everywhere or simply drive EVs. “Range anxiety” or the fear of running out of juice before reaching your destination should be the least of your concerns. BMW i has you covered.
To experience this innovative people mover Automotive Rhythms headed to the City of Angels where EVs are welcomed with big hearts and open arms. Our one hour drive was short but effective. However, this is the intended purpose of the current fleet of EVs. They are not ready for cross-country drives just yet! Behind the wheel you begin to feel like those man-made androids on Fox’s new show Almost Human. Erase your current memories of driving a basic gasoline-powered automobile. The four-passenger premium i3 is not only spacious, but it looks, feels and smells as clean as a rain forest. In fact, some of the interior woods are crafted from eucalyptus trees. BMW ConnectedDrive, 360 ELECTRIC services, and of course iDrive are pivotal technologies to keep drivers engaged in all aspects of the i3. Once the quiet electric engine is ignited, acceleration is quick but a bit clumpy. But that’s the joy of electric torque, it’s instantaneous.
Born electric, the i3 is engineered with BMW’s LifeDrive architecture which is structured into two categories, the Life Module and the Drive Module. Comprised of high-strength carbon, the Life Module protects and provides comfort for the driver and passengers. The CFRP passenger compartment is 50% lighter than conventional steel and much stiffer. Overall, this development has helped the i3 improve to a 2,700 pound weigh-in, making it the lightest BMW since the 1991 3 Series. The second platform, the Drive Module, encompasses the electric drive system, the suspension and the HVAC. Constructed from lightweight aluminum, the modular design of the 96-cell battery is intrinsically safe. For example it disconnects itself upon impact to reduce the onset of an electrical fire. Since the car is lighter, the liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery (developed in-house by BMW) is smaller and only needs three hours for a full stage-2 (240-volt) charge. Of course these units can be installed in your home. Additionally, BMW attempts to use as much renewable energy as possible for the manufacturing process (including supply chains) of the carbon fiber i3.
Driving around LA was fun and whimsical. The i3 looks like an EV which means it draws attention. From Marina del Rey, through Beverly Hills to downtown, the euphoria created from the electric miles was everlasting. The i3 offers fulfillment and conscious living, and does so with parallel performance attributes of smaller BMWs. By far the most advanced and luxurious EV in its category, its 170 horsepower and 125 kW motor also puts out 184 lb-ft of torque and accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds. Stated range is 80 to 100 miles before a charge is needed. Obviously, if pushed hard you’ll hit the 80-mile limit while a relaxed and efficient drive will get you closer to 100 miles. iDrive, through the navigation, monitors topographic and traffic info and warns of the available juice left and subsequently asks if you want to switch to Eco Pro or Eco Pro Plus mode. For EV customers who still need a bit of reassurance, BMW offers a $3,850 optional 2-cylinder, 2.4-gallon gasoline Range Extender which doubles the mileage capability. It’s used solely to produce energy for charging the battery and does not drive the wheels.
Humanity is becoming increasingly aware of the concerns that matter most by eating fresh, organic foods, staying active and mobile, and relying on technology that is part of the solution and not the problem. BMW is doing their part with the $42,275 (excluding eligible credits) i3 and impending i8. Isn’t it a beautiful truth?