Wednesday, 31 July 2013


The finer details of the new BMW i3 electric car have been released at its simultaneous launch global in London, New York and Beijing. The i3 is BMW’s first electric car to go on sale in the market, and marks the first time a premium brand actually does this. BMW South Africa has promised to bring the i3 to Mzansi in the first quarter of 2014.

Thanks to a lovely concept base to work from, the i3 is quite a looker. Of course this is quite subjective, but from where we are sitting, it has a post-modernistic, futuristic design that sheds current flame surfacing philosophies for an even more complicated sheet. The two-tone launch colour scheme enshrines this as it accentuates certain aspects more than others. For instance if you look at the rear end you find integrated rear LED lights housed within the boot sheet itself. Front end is typical BMW with a kidney grille, but bonnet has been raised and takes the LED headlights along with it.

Interior features some familiar knobs. Instead of the familiar info cluster on the dashboard, a small information colour screen is fitted. Because this is an electric car, there is no gearbox tunnel separating the left and right-side occupants, which frees up space for other things. We expect the usual plethora of features, including Bluetooth connectivity, USB music playability with a built-in hard drive to store your music in, satellite navigation and climate control among others.

In terms of the powertrain, the i3 runs on an electric motor that sits at the back underneath the boot, while its 22kWh lithium-ion battery pack is located underneath the floor in the passenger cabin. Total body weight is a lean 1 195kg. Maximum power is 125kW, with matching torque of 250Nm. BMW says it will go from 0 – 100km/h in just 7.2 seconds and reach an electronically-limited 150km/h top speed. More importantly a full-charge range (FCR) of between 130km and 160km is claimed. That basically means BMW believes the i3 can travel between Johannesburg and Pretoria three times or between Durban and Pietermaritzburg twice before it needs another full recharge. A range-extending option will be available, which will mean installing a small (probably turbo) petrol engine somewhere upfront.

As previously reported on IN4RIDE, we’ll see the i3 in Mzansi in 2014, followed by bigger brother the i8 sports hybrid. In the UK, i3 is priced at £25 680 (about R350 000). We think BMW SA will hit us somewhat higher than this, say maybe R430 000 or so on a lease option.

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