In a glitzy ceremony that featured a New Years’ Eve-style countdown in three cities around the world, BMW AG
unveiled its all-electric i3 this week.
The unveiling, peppered with references to sustainable power sources, marked BMW’s first foray into mass production of pure electric cars. “We are at the starting blocks of a new era -- the era of sustainable mobility,” BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer said in a web-based conference.
The rear-wheel-drive i3 is expected to hit the streets in the US in the second quarter of 2014. It is considered unique in its prominent use of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastics (CFRP), its optional range-extending two-cylinder engine, and in its from-the-ground-up design philosophy. BMW expects it to be priced at $41,350 before federal tax breaks.
Click on the image below for a closer look at BMW's all-electric i3.
BMW’s i3will cost $41,350 before federal incentives and will offer 81 to 99 miles of all-electric range. (Source: BMW)
During the press conference -- held in New York, London, and Beijing -- BMW executives emphasized that the i3 would appeal to environmentally smart buyers of premium vehicles. “We can see our customers’ values are really changing,” said Ian Robertson, BMW’s chief sales officer. “They want sheer driving pleasure, but with a clear conscience.”
The i3 will serve those changing values with its use of a 22-kWh lithium-ion battery. The battery, slightly smaller than the Nissan Leaf’s 24-kWh unit, will nevertheless produce an all-electric range of 81 to 99 miles, BMW said. Liberal use of CFRP helped enable that range. A CFRP-based passenger cell will sit atop an aluminum “drive module” that incorporates the suspension, the battery, the drive system, and structural components, thus minimizing vehicle mass.
”Our expertise in manufacturing with this material makes the passenger cell extremely strong and lightweight,” Reithofer said. He added that the company produces carbon-fiber components using hydro-electric power. It also employs wind power to build the i3, he said.
For those who want more than 80 or 90 miles for their investment, the company also said it is offering a range extender. By mounting a 650cc two-cylinder engine adjacent to the electric motor and above the rear axle, BMW said it could boost the car’s maximum range to nearly 180 miles. The optional range extender is expected to push the price tag to about $45,000.
Industry analysts estimate that BMW may have already invested more than a billion dollars in its i brand, which encompasses multiple vehicles, including the i3 and the hybrid-electric i8. That investment is proof the company is not just doing the i3 as a so-called “compliance vehicle” (to meet California-type mandates), but as a cornerstone of a larger plan. “It’s one thing for a startup like Tesla to do an electric vehicle from the ground up,” Thilo Koslowski, vice president and distinguished analyst for Gartner Inc., told Design News. “But for a vehicle manufacturer that sells over a million vehicles a year worldwide to do something like this, this is a big risk.”
Koslowski said that the 2,600-lb i3 will probably compete most directly with the Tesla Model S, a premium electric car with a price tag that’s about $30,000 higher than the i3’s. He wondered, however, whether the vehicle’s character will be right for traditional BMW buyers. “At the end of the day, it’s still a very small vehicle,” he told us. “It looks different from their other vehicles, and that could drive away some of those consumers who like BMWs.”
I agree, AnandY. The price of this vehicle is surprising, especially coming from an established luxury car maker. It's considerably beneath the Tesla Model S, which should make for an interesting competition between the two.
It is good to see that luxury cars are opting for the environmental way though I must say the price of the BMW i3 is not what people think when the model is mentioned, the price is very friendly in addition to the fact that it is an EV. Maybe this is the way to go for the like of Benz and the Rovers.
Charles, I think i3 is the first electric car from the automaker BMW. That's means it's going to be the age of either electric or hybrid cars; otherwise they won't step in to that segment. Since we canot rely on cruedoil always, there is no doubt that electric cars are going to be flurished in market
You raise good points, bobjengr. One of the points that some automakers have made is that the driver's life needs to be predictable in order for a pure electric to serve adequately. A 289-mile round trip ending at 2 a.m. doesn't fall in that "predictable" category.
I agree, it's not something they're likely to have handy, an as Burghermeister pointed out drag coefficients are typically only in reference to forward motion. It may well be that BMW has done their due diligence on this, but because carbon fibre SUV's are a relatively new phenomenon maybe not. Sports cars while affected by this.are to a much. Lesser extent. BTW fullstop after much was because whoever wrote the predictive typing.for Android never figured on anyone wanting to type the word lesser after the word much. :-)
Thank you Charles for the update and excellent slide show. Yesterday (Friday) I completed the second phase of a project for a client in Atlanta. It was a very long day ending with the accumulation of 289 miles round trip at 0218 hrs in the morning. This very fact highlights why I could not purchase a car such as this with an 81 to 99 mile travel distance. Even with the extended package, I could possibly be in trouble during the early morning hours. Now, using the i3 as a "commuter" car--OK, I'm on board with that. Drive, park, charge, work, unplug and drive home; maybe so but with the price tag being $41K plus, it's quite a challenge to undertake. Also, for me, there is the question of annual costs for maintenance and possible reliability issues. One thing that seems reasonable to state: BMW feels this is the "wave of the future" if they are willing to make the sizable investment in design, fabrication and assembly.
I understand your concern better with that clarification. Certainly an SUV is not aerodynamically optimal especially regarding the exposed side sail area and dynamic wind load gradient (gusts). I have experienced this specifically when blowing by semi trailers during strong sidewind conditions, in days gone by.....since there is a strong pressure wave propagating off the front. It is somewhat like a bow wave off the front of a boat, except water is not a compressible medium.
Small tweak suggestion to your statement "This is all driven by exposed surface area to weight for a given geometric form "SUV" in this case." I recommend appending "Up to the frictional limit of the four contact patches" since this is the point where frictional limits end and an "exciting" ride begins...in the case of real world vehicles. I had the direct thrill when crossing this transition point experience.....long ago.
From analysis perspective, the Finite Element Analysis and Compressible Fluid Dynamics model simulation runs of this vehicle would be interesting to see in comparison to a "normal" vehicle configuration. I do not believe vehicles are really wind tunnel tested in cross vehicle platform modes....perhaps might be a heads up additional test to confirm cross vehicle gust response....while running on a vehicle chassis roll tester. (Would be an interesting wind tunnel/tester design problem.)
BMW has resources and German fine engineering aplenty....they can do all these simulation runs, and the German engineers also are pragmatic about building/testing real vehicles at the end to learn real lessons and not make end customers "Beta testers" of the real world vehicles. I have worked with the Germans in different life adventures and it is a positive experience to see both theoretical and real world engineering, culminate into real nice products.
I say we now need to test drive one of these vehicles fast and furious, to really experience it.
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