BMW AG took another step in the direction of electrification at the recent Los Angeles Auto Show by rolling out a concept version of an electric, three-door coupe.
The i3 Concept Coupe is the third electrified car BMW has announced in the past 18 months. It joins the racy i8 hybrid and a five-door vehicle (also called the i3) that is slated to reach production at the end of 2013. Like the five-door car, the coupe will be designed from the ground up as an electric vehicle.
BMW did not offer a production schedule for the coupe, but it did call the vehicle yet another sign the luxury automaker is earnest in its plan to bring electric powertrains to the premium car segment. "We're very serious about getting real sales volumes from this," Matthew Russell, a spokesman for BMW, told us. "It's a car that will have an appeal to a huge number of mega-city residents, business people, and electric car aficionados. We're expecting a real demand for this car."
Click on the photo below to check out BMW's EV lineup.
Family members: The i3 Concept Coupe joins two other vehicles in BMW's i sub-brand. The i8 plug-in hybrid (right) will reach production in 2014, and the five-door all-electric i3 EV will come out in 2013.
The i3 Concept Coupe is the third vehicle to be proposed for the BMW i sub-brand. All three vehicles will use a body-on-frame approach consisting of two functional units -- a drive module and a life module. The drive module, made from aluminum, incorporates the suspension, battery, drive system, and structural components. The life module, which sits atop the drive module, is a high-strength passenger cell made from carbon fiber-reinforced plastic. The plastic is said to offer a huge weight reduction, which is why the i3 Concept Coupe checks in at just 2,756 pounds.
The coupe will be propelled by a 170hp electric motor developed by BMW that offers 184lb-ft of torque and works in conjunction with a single-speed transmission. A liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery (of unknown capacity as yet) will provide approximately 100 miles of all-electric range. BMW has said the i3 will offer an optional range extender -- an onboard generator coupled with a small gas tank. "It's kind of an emergency-only feature," Russell said. "It's for people who have some range anxiety and are transitioning into an electric vehicle. It helps them relax by roughly doubling the range."
Battery charging for the coupe takes about three hours. However, an optional, DC fast-charge setup (available only at public charging stations) can charge the battery in less than an hour.
Unlike two other electric vehicles unveiled at the L.A. Auto Show (the Chevy Spark and the Fiat 500e), the BMW i3 vehicles will not be built atop another vehicle's platform, Russell said. "It's not based on anything. The aerodynamics, architecture, propulsion, battery, motors, wheels, tires -- all of it's brand new."
Though BMW did not reveal a price for the concept car, Russell did say it would be positioned at the premium end of the electric car market segment. "We believe we are more in the category of the Tesla Model S," whose base price was recently boosted to $59,900. "Like the Model S, it's a unique vehicle. We see it as a key part of the future of mobility."