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2013 BMW i3: New York City Launch

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Megan Green December 2011

BMW couldn't wait to show North America its i Brand, so they decided to give New York City a sneak preview before showcasing the i3 at the LA Auto Show next week. First unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September of 2011, this urbane yet compact purely electric vehicle is designed specifically for personal metropolitan transport.

The i sub-marque was launched in early 2011 to aggressively pursue the design and manufacture of innovative, environmentally conscious vehicles that don't lose the performance and luxury BMW is renowned for. The i3 Concept was previously known as the "megacity vehicle," then renamed to launch the i brand line-up.

In creating the i3 Concept, the project i team eschewed the last century of automobile manufacturing with the premise that retrofitting electric power to traditional car shape and construction is not thinking hard enough. The smaller electric motor, along with the gear assembly and drive electronics, is placed in the back-end of the car, the source of power - a large battery - placed in the front, and batteries replace the gas tank, transmission and drive shaft. Add the suspension and primarily aluminum structural and crash functions, and this section is termed the Drive module. The second module, the Life module, is the passenger cell made principally from carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) commonly used for Formula 1 race cars, essentially bolted on top of the Drive module. This material negates the need for airbag safety structures that metal car bodies require to absorb the energy generated by a crash - CFRP is an extremely strong material that can withstand impact without crumpling like metal. Not only does the combined use of aluminum and CFRP result in a lighter weight vehicle conducive to more economical use of energy to power the car, but a nice side effect - especially in a locale such as New York City with a range of sometimes brutal weather conditions - is that there is no corrosion from the elements. Furthermore, the modular build concept theoretically allows for easy repair or replacement should a component need it.

Looking at the i3, you see that there is a lot more glass than in cars as we know them. The windshield extends up and over, becoming the roof of the car, while on the doors, the smooth handles come through the glass from the armrest, which is incorporated into the visual lines running the length of the car. The design is however functional, increasing visibility dramatically. The front and back doors open outwards - there is no B-pillar, the back door is hinged to the back of the car - to a sleek interior housing brown bench-like seats with individual seat backs accented with blue belts. The dash is minimal with electronic displays. Since the Drive module is powered by battery and doesn't rely upon a traditional drive train, there is no "hump" running through the middle of the car creating more space and ease of movement in an out of the vehicle.

According to the i3 design team, not a bit of driving capability is sacrificed to electric batteries or non-traditional materials, although hardcore Bimmer fans will declaim the loss of manual drive. Alas, it is one-speed sans gear shift, rear-wheel drive that can accelerate to up to 93 mph before a governor kicks in. Remember, this is purposefully created as a vehicle for city driving, and rarely do speeds in an urban area exceed 50-65 mph. Kinetic energy generated when the car is not accelerating is converted to electricity to regenerate the battery. Maintaining the advantages of using this electric vehicle rely upon staying in a certain range of speed to function as intended and to keep the electric driving range of 80 to 100 miles. In fact, not using the brake, keeping lifting your foot from the accelerator pedal and simply coasting can extend the range by not consuming power and allowing the battery to recharge with this kinetic energy. At lower speeds, it boasts a tight turning circle, agility, and responsiveness at any speed.

BMW anticipates the i3 to be available in 2013 in two versions; the BEV, a purely electric vehicle, and Range Extender Version (REX) with another 80-100 miles of range added by means of a small gas tank and engine to replenish the battery. No price range was mentioned.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2013 BMW i3: New York City Launch - Autotrader