• Compact and lightweight 4-passenger design
  • Electric range of 80 to 100 miles
  • Optional, range-extending gasoline motor

BMW revealed official specifications for its upcoming electric vehicle (EV), a lightweight, 4-passenger compact hatchback. The BMW i3 is the automaker's first all-electric production vehicle and the first model from the new BMW sub-brand called i, with other electric models expected to follow later. An official on-sale date has not yet been announced, but we expect the i3 to arrive sometime next year.

In fact, BMW has not even shared official photos of an undisguised i3, although we did see the i3 Concept Coupe last year at the L.A. Auto Show. As its name implies, that vehicle had just one door on each side. New images of the i3's body structure appear to show a 4-door hatchback.

BMW says the i3 is a lightweight, thanks largely to a carbon-fiber reinforced plastic passenger cell and other weight-saving components. Its electric motor weighs just 110 pounds, contributing to a total curb weight of about 2,630 pounds. That's less than many compact vehicles, despite the relative heft of a lithium-ion battery pack. Batteries typically make EVs heavier than similarly sized conventional vehicles.

That's important, because weight is the enemy of efficiency. Although no Environmental Protection Agency rating is yet available, BMW provides an estimated range of 80 to 100 miles, on par with or better than EVs already on the market.

When the battery pack runs low, i3 drivers have several choices. An overnight recharge at home may be simplest for drivers that don't exceed the 80-to-100 mile range in a day. Or, a charging station with a DC quick charger can provide an 80 percent charge in about 20 minutes. Drivers who routinely need more range can opt for a range-extending on-board gasoline motor to recharge the i3's battery pack on the go.

The optional 2-cylinder, 650-cc gasoline engine nearly doubles the i3's range. With a full, 2.4-gallon tank of gas, the car can travel 160 to 180 miles before requiring a recharge or refuel. The gas engine does not compromise trunk space.

Expect the i3 to deliver a driving experience and level of luxury befitting the BMW brand. The vehicle boasts 50-50 weight distribution and rear-wheel drive for sporty dynamics, and equipment such as collision warning, adaptive cruise control and automatic parallel parking will be available. More information, including fuel economy and pricing, should be forthcoming as the BMW i3 on-sale date approaches.

What it means to you: BMW has provided some details about the upcoming i3 electric vehicle, but there's still plenty we don't know. We'll keep you posted as more information becomes available.

author photo

Nick Palermo is an automotive writer and lifelong car nut. He follows new and late-model used vehicles for AutoTrader.com, writes about vintage cars for Hemmings Classic Wheels and blogs on all things automotive at LivingVroom. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and twins.

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