When autoExpert attended the recent Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto, one of the highlights was over in BMW's section of the show floor. Normally coming across a concept car is a treat, because while popular, manufacturers don't bring them out very often. This year, BMW brought two.
Their i3 concept car definitely caught people's attention. It's not a flashy sports car like many of the concepts seem to be, the company saved all that for it's sporty i8 concept instead. The i3 conjured up memories of the 4th grade, when the teacher asked us to envision cars of the future. The i3 definitely surpasses "modern", and definitely looks and feels futuristic. Fortunately this doesn't mean that the model is doomed to remain a concept forever, the i3 is expected to make it into production soon and is rumoured to hit large-city showrooms in November. Obviously, not all aspects of a concept car make it to the production line, but we're hoping that BMW keeps a lot of what makes this car so interesting.
At first glance, it's the look we loved; we're just not used to seeing city cars with so much style. It's got transparent side and trunk panels, with large door handles to protect the panels from dings, they act as a bumper. There is a coupe version too, but it didn't grab us in quite the same way. Unlike most podlike looking electrics, the i3 is definitely sportier and eye catching.
Keeping it light, BMW's i3 is the first mass production car to be made mostly of carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP). When questioned about safety, BMW points out that Formula 1 cockpits are made of the same material. This five door city car seats four, with slightly more room than you'll find in a Mini or 1-series, but less than in a 3-series. It rolls on 19 inch wheels, which help to provide clearance for the floor mounted battery pack.
BMW is aiming for a 160 km range on lithium-ion battery power, but for those suffering from range anxiety the company will make available a 2-cylinder gasoline range extending engine option that is sourced from their motorcycle division. It's batteries generate up to 168 HP, and the car can hit a computer limited top speed of 150 km/h. At this point, the batteries drain very quickly. Using a 240-volt outlet, the batteries will take about 6 hours to recharge. A high speed charger can refill the batteries up to 80% in an hour.
The i3 is the first of BMW's new "BMW i" brand, and part of their "Project i" program. The program aims to introduce a lightweight eco friendly electric vehicle that addresses both the mobility and sustainability needs of an urban megacity population. The company has paid close attention to material sourcing for it's interior, including the use of responsibly sourced wool and naturally tanned leather. It's the company's first mass produced zero-emissions vehicle.
While flying cars are going to be a while, it seems that the futuristic fantasies of 10 year old schoolchildren are finally coming to fruition.
By Linda Aylesworth - autoExpert.ca