2015 BMW i3 – It might just be the most perfect electric car on sale today!

DSCN3424DSCN3415I love electric cars – partly because of the green future to mobility they represent, and partly because, I grew up with them!
Allow me to explain. While there were no electric full-size cars being mass produced while I was growing up, radio controlled (R/C) cars was a different matter.
In my youth, I used to build R/C cars, and at the time, two types of kits were available. There were gas powered R/C cars, or you could get electric ones. I always chose the electric ones, simply because, while the gas powered motors required messy maintenance, the electric ones were clean and simple.
That remains the same today, even when you look at the full-size cars being offered. Gas powered machines require fuel, oils, spark plugs, and various other items to keep them going. Electric cars only need a charged battery to keep them going (although some cooling fluids are still necessary).
However, the problem most people have with electric cars, is the same one I had when I was playing with electric R/C cars, and that is range. The battery pack in my toy didn’t offer much play time, and recharging required time and patience, while those who had the gas powered R/C cars could fill up their tanks very quickly and keep playing.
Range is the nemesis of electric vehicles, and is the primary reason that many consumers are still hesitant to adopt one. However, spend a few minutes with the very clever staff at BMW, and you’ll quickly understand, that the network they have built around their new electric, four-seater, family car, called the i3, is very thorough. They certainly know what they are doing, and I will try to explain to you what I learned from them.
First of all, BMW has just launched a new division with their brand, simply called “i.” There are currently two models offered, a plug-in hybrid sports car called the i8 (which I will hopefully get to talk in great detail on a future date), and the i3 – which is a family hatchback.
DSCN3396The 2015 BMW i3 is currently offered in two guises. There is an all-electric version that has a range of about 160 km on a full charge, and has a base price of $44,950. Or, for just $4,000 more, you can get an i3 with a range extender, gas powered generator, which is capable of giving you a combined range of about 300 km. The 2015 i3 takes 12-hours to fully charge from its base charger, while a quick charger – which will set you back $1,200 – can do the job in just four-hours.
Unlike plug-in hybrid vehicles offered by other companies, the i3 with the generator motor works quite differently. It doesn’t offer the driver the option to switch between electric power and gas power, because it wants to be driven as much as possible, in fully electric mode. The generator – which is a 0.64 litre, two-cylinder unit featuring four-valves per cylinder, produces 38 hp and 41 lb-ft of torque – will only come into action once the charge in the vehicles lithium-ion battery pack drops below seven percent.
The 2015 BMW i3 also lets you choose between three driving modes. When you start the vehicle, it sets off in “Comfort” mode. This will give you most performance – working its 170 hp and 184 lb-ft producing electric motor to the fullest, allowing you to sprint from zero to 100 km/h in 7.2 seconds, while top speed is electronically limited at 150 km/h. This mode will however use up the battery quite quickly. To help improve your range, you can switch to the “Eco Pro” mode, which makes everything quite lean, helping you to eek out a few more kilometers. If you’re driving in the city, the best mode to use is “Eco Pro+” for maximum range. BMW reckons this mode can possibly help increase your driving range by up to 20 percent, which is very good. However, this mode does limit your top speed to 90 km/h, so don’t use it while on the main highway.
DSCN3397Being able to switch drive modes does give the 2015 i3 driver a new type of fun game to play with, i.e. to get the maximum range out of your vehicle. If you have the model with the range extender motor (which works to charge the battery to drive the electric motor – the generator doesn’t actually power the wheels directly), then you don’t have to worry about your range as much, because even if you deplete the battery, you can get home, as long as you have petrol in its seven-litre fuel tank.
Why such a small fuel tank?
Because weight is the enemy of range, which is what a larger fuel tank will result in. Trust me, BMW had their thinking cap on while developing this vehicle – everything is done for a good reason. Hence, even the curb weight of this vehicle is just 1,195 kg, making it a lot lighter than other electric or hybrid vehicles. BMW achieved this by giving the car an aluminum sub-frame, on top of which sits a carbon-fibre shell, which uses lightweight plastic body panels. Told you, these BMW guys are clever.
Like most BMW models, the i3 is also rear-wheel drive, but not to worry for winter driving, because it has a very clever traction control and stability control system, which will ensure that you keep travelling in the direction you intend it to.
Most will be shocked to learn that the i3 only has a single speed gearbox. But the reason is, an electric car doesn’t really need anything more. It uses the same principal as in your electric fan, you can change its speed by adding or dropping electrical energy, and you don’t need a gearbox to do that.DSCN3421
DSCN3412While the 2015 BMW i3 is full of what seems to be futuristic technology, it doesn’t feel like an alien vehicle. It feels quite normal to drive, plus it handles like a good vehicle should. The only thing that felt a bit odd was its electric steering system, which doesn’t offer a lot of feedback and seems quite sharp in its response – trust me, I had to dig deep to point out my only criticism for the i3.
BMW has not only developed a wonderful electric car, they have even thought about their customers, who live in the real world. Hence, navigation system DSCN3413is standard on the i3, which is programmed to find you public charging stations. The nav system can also show you your realistic range on the map and can work out the most efficient route to your destination. If you need to go further, BMW even has a program installed for i3 customers to reserve a conventional car, if you need to go far out of town.
See, I told you, BMW has thought of everything to support its electric cars. The amount of money they have spent will take years to recover, but for BMW, it is an investment into the future that was well worth it.
I was somewhat skeptical of the 2015 BMW i3 before I got the chance to drive it, and talk to the people behind it. Now, I’m so impressed with this vehicle, I want one.
Oh, and if the $44,950 base price seems a bit high to you, just remember, the government will give you a green car rebate of $8,500 in Ontario, if you buy an i3. Seriously, I can’t think of any reason why anyone should not buy a 2015 BMW i3.DSCN3417

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