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. (Source: BMW)
Cap'n, this is great stuff. By rethinking the design of a car, they have been able to save lots of weight. Isn't that what I have been going on and on about lately. Actually, the concept of having a break away frame with a passenger module is from Formula 1 racing. If you see one of those cars crash, they braek up all over the place and then the driver walks away from the wreck. It is an idea that is long overdue in the passenger car market. Let's hope this becomes a trend.
The hybrid is also very interesting in that the two types of motor drive separate axles. With modern Engine Management Systems (EMS) for the ICE and a controller for the electric engine, it should be very reasonable to use both types without the need for the complex gearing system found in parallel hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius. It seems that you can then have a front wheel drive electric car, a rear wheel drive conventional car and an all wheel drive car. Sounds great. And it is all controlled by a computer.
It's a shame we never see the concept look on the road. The typical USA consumer wants a more mundane look, or so car companies have admitted (via research). The 100 mile range is pretty standard for EVs. Since it is a BMW the price will reflect the brand. Too bad you can't just pay the "brand tax" for a larger battery.
Cabe, you are right about the "brand tax". Even the least expensive 1-series car starts at $31,200. That is not a lot of car for so much, but that is their approach to pricing. When they came out I thought that it would be a good thing. I saw a 1-series convertible and it was nice. For sheer driving pleasure I like smaller cars. At that price, though, it does not seem that many are buying them.
Certainly some of the "dumbing down" of concept cars is a matter of acceptance concerns.
There are also practical concerns. Can the exotic shapes be manufactured involume at an acceptable price? Can the designers desired shape contain actual humans of various sizes in a position they will accept? Will the drivetrain and other equipment all fit in the real car?
100 mile range? Range in an EV is still the most expensive item (opinion). WIth any car if you advertise the price "fully-loaded" a lot of folks will not even look at it. If you advertise the "starting at (try to find one on the lot)" price many who wouldn't look other wise will drive away with a 95% loaded model.
If you can't get them to look you can't get them to buy.
It's good to see that BMW is taking seriously the importance of reduced mass since schlepping a traditional all-steel vehicle wastes precious energy. Light weight fibrous composites therefore make sense. Thjis is not a new idea. The original electrics, like the Baker in the early 20th Century, also used a light strong fibrous composite for the same purpose. They called the stuff wood. (Just for the record, I am not proposing wood for structural elements today, although it should not be ruled out a priori.)
A half century ago, cars were still built by people, not robots. Even on some of the country’s longest assembly lines, human workers installed windows, doors, hoods, engines, windshields, and batteries, with no robotic aid.
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