2013 BMW i3
BMW’s pioneering i3 electric car is one of the most exciting cars of 2013. It employs BMW’s trademark, sporty rear-wheel drive, which marks it out from the front-drive electric cars from Nissan and Renault. It’s a clean-sheet design, using exotic lightweight materials to save weight and maximise the electric range. So, an aluminium chassis housing the batteries and rear-mounted, 170bhp electric motor is paired with a carbonfibre bodyshell; with the i3, materials typically the preserve of luxury cars and supercars are being used on a small hatchback.
When the i3 goes on sale in November, the standard electric i3 will cost around €40,000. To eliminate the i3’s vulnerability to running out of juice, buyers will be able to specify a range extender hybrid version for an extra €3000. This employs a 35bhp two-cylinder motorbike engine to act as on-board generator: it’s mounted close to the rear wheels and accompanied by a 9-litre fuel tank wedged behind the front axl
BMW has tooled up initially to produce 30,000 cars a year, but this can be extended to 50,000 units if the i3 takes off. But with electric cars so far proving commercial flops, there’s a lot riding on this car, the most radical BMW ever conceived. And today we’re riding in it at BMW’s Munich-Ismaning proving ground, with project i chief Ulrich Kranz.