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.
Nice article. I think those are Maclaren-style doors. I always liked those. Spectators are busy checking out the doors and maybe won't notice you gracelessly struggling to climb out of the deep bucket seats. The i8 concept looks cool. Kinda looks like a cross between a 6-Series and a Genesis Coupe. Too bad the price will be high. Decent charge-time, good styling, but the range is a bit limited for highway trips even with the range extender. I guess time will tell.
Yes, I hope those doors make it into the production version. I think it's safe to say this isn't just a compliance car. Looks like they put a lot of work into it and it brings quite a bit of inovation to an industry sorely needing it. I hope there's a market for the car. At the very least, this design should influence other brands.
I agree with you about it not being a compliance car, NiteOwl. Some of the vehicles that are being called compliance cars right now may be part of a longer-range plan. This may be one of those vehicles.
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.
One question for BMW is how they plan on selling gasoline, diesel, electric, AND fuel cell vehicles in high enough quantity to make profits on them all. Electric will die off fairly quickly once fuel cells hit, this unveil is probably nothing more than PR. Their fuel cell cars go on sale in 2 years so where does electric cars fit in their long term vision?
BMW is saying that this isn't a so-called "compliance car," Cadman-LT. All automakers say that, of course, but I tend to believe it in this case. We'll know better when the i3 hits the road late next year, though.
Arden Dulou: Maybe you don't understand the concept of fuel cells. A fuel cell is like a battery, only it doesn't store energy, it creates it (electricty) on-the-fly by harvesting the electrons from a chemical reaction. You would use the same exact Electric Vehicle, but instead of a giant battery, you would replace it with a small fuel cell and a container to house the fuel (H2?).
When will these cars get on the street? Such a good looking electric car will get everyone's attention. Perhaps not many people will get one though, some might prefer the supplier for auto body parts and repair their old cars instead.
Good questions, JayBee. Yes, the three-hour recharge time is for a residential location operating at 30A and 240V. The i3's battery is is not terribly big -- about 21 kWh, which makes it larger than the Volt's 16-kWh battery butsmaller than the Leaf's 24-kWh battery. It's also significantly smaller than the BMW ActiveE (an electric demonstration car from BMW) battery, which was 32-kWh. Regarding the DC fast charge: This is the SAE DC fast charge methodology. BMW is officially saying that the DC fast charge would be one hour, but I think they're being conservative. It's probably closer to 30 minutes. But that's a 480V, three-phase power, which homes typically don't have. Sorry we didn't mention this in the article.
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.)
What I would like to know is whatever happened to motor-in-wheel. That strikes me as the most efficient and cost effective system (no gearing losses, no drive train hardware). And an itelligent version of it could be linked to the steering to do a better job of allocating torque than a differential ever could.
Did the cost of the motors kill that? Why don't you ever hear about it anymore?
I think the main disadvantage of motor-in-wheel is the radical increase in unsprung weight. Perhaps it's affect on ride quality has kept it out of (most) electric vech. Active suspension systems could be required to make it work for production cars. Catapillar will continue to use it in their machines, at least until dirt goes digital! ;^)
Did BMW actually build one of these, or is it just an idea? There seems to be a lot of claims of what it "will" do, and very little actual details. Anyone can say that they will have an electric that goes 100 miles/(1 hr charge), but can they realistically deliver this by 2013?
Yes, BMW built it and showed it off at the recent LA Auto Show, akwaman. But this coupe is not as far along as the i3 five-door, which is the one that will come out in 2013. As to whether they will make their 2013 production schedule...I think they will. We've been talking to them about the i3 and i8 since 2011 and they haven't wavered from that schedule.
So what I want to know is, can you eject the "life module" in the event of an accident and be rescued by a passing space ship? Puh-leez!
But that aside, the i8 is sweet. The i3s look to be a bit of a Nissan Leaf "me-too!" sorta thing, only probably double the price. Having owned a number of BMWs in the past, and having to buy lots of replacement parts, the BMW pricing model seems to be assessing an item's fair market value and then added a zero to it.
The vehicle certainly looks good, and the performance sounds quite impressive. But my guess is that with the AC on in hot city driving the range will be more like 40 miles than the 100 claimed. Or perhaps, like any true performance car, it does not even have air conditioning. Is there any additional information that would address this topic?
Beautiful styling and I certainly think the timing is correct for a car of this type. I also agree with several comments that the "mileage extender" will be a desirable option. I have one client I do work for requiring a 74 mile round-trip commute. Mostly interstate driving, and as we all know, traveling the interstate system any more is a real crap shoot. Numerous times I have been in traffic that extends the drive 30, 40 minutes and even an hour when weather, wrecks, Friday traffic etc are necessary to deal with. I also see an issue with the probable cost of the car, if we are talking about $50K plus. A lot on money for what you might be getting. Great post Charles. Thank you for the update.
A half century ago, cars were still built by people, not robots. Even on some of the countryís longest assembly lines, human workers installed windows, doors, hoods, engines, windshields, and batteries, with no robotic aid.
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