This is the future, and it's here | The BMW “i” brand is supposedly the future, and driving it made me more of a believer.
Richmond Hill, ON – “You must be the change you wish to see in the world” – Mahatma Gandhi. This phrase was, incidentally, in the presentation for the all-new 2015 BMW i3. With urbanization becoming such a huge global phenomenon, BMW has taken it upon themselves to inspire a new generation of electric vehicles. I had the chance to briefly drive the i3 at a drive event in Los Angeles last fall, but only this past week did I have the chance to truly learn what this exciting new genre of car is all about.
Over the past decade, BMW has been doing extensive research into the driving patterns, needs, and wishes of the average driver. This research shows that the average driver does 47 km per day, and the median distance for Toronto drivers is 23 km per day. One of the main concerns that potential buyers of electric vehicles have expressed is range anxiety – the fear of your vehicle running out of battery range prior to arriving at your destination. Need not worry, there is a solution for that. Yes, the BMW i3 has an exceptional range of 160km (plus about 20% more in Eco-Pro+ mode), which is more than adequate for the typical driver. However, for those who need more range, there is a range extender (essentially a two-cylinder motor with a fuel tank that generates the battery) that provides that extra cushion.
The BMW “i” brand is supposedly the future, and driving it made me more of a believer. You see, I consider myself a purist; more than the specifications, I appreciate each car for the sounds, smells, and soul under the hood. Up until now I hadn’t driven an electric vehicle that could provide that level of satisfaction, although the Tesla Model S came pretty close. However, the all-electric i3 somehow managed to. It packs a 130 KW electric motor and an 18.8 kWh lithium-ion battery. This motor puts out 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, which doesn’t exactly seem like a lot. The i3 must be driven to be believed though; it’s just that good.
Stepping on the accelerator gives you instant torque – all 184 lb-ft of it. The i3 takes 7.2 seconds to accelerate to 100 km/h, but it feels significantly quicker than that due to the instantaneous torque delivery. It only weighs 1195 kilograms, so it’s not like there’s much weight to lug around either. The regenerative braking system is a bit hard to imagine unless you’re truly behind the wheel, but I will try my best to explain it. When you let off the accelerator, the car actually brakes for you while regenerating energy. It’s a one-pedal way of driving that takes away the need to physically use the brake. I think the only time I needed to use the brake pedal was when disengaging Park.
Not only is the i3 a surprising performer, it’s exceptionally green. It’s important to note that this isn’t really a highway cruiser – its greenness is maximized on jaunts in urban centers. The car itself is 95% recyclable, and a huge percentage of the interior materials are made from recycled materials. It’s interesting to see that this is one of the few cars that barely changed at all from concept form to a reality. The i3’s concept-like design (“Stream Flow Design Language”) attracts plenty of looks from passerby, and people are continuously asking questions about the car at traffic lights.
The interior of the i3 is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. The dashboard has elegant accents of Eucalyptus wood, and the interior itself looks like a concept car. All of the controls are exactly where you would expect them to be across the BMW line, and it uses a slightly tweaked version of the corporate infotainment interface. The instrument cluster displays all pertinent energy information along with the speedometer, and isn’t hard to read in any way. Access to the rear seats is easily gained by the rearward opening half-doors, not unlike the Mazda RX-8. It’s a very simple yet classy approach.
BMW’s ConnectedDrive applications and interface is integral to the new “i” brand. Navigation is actually standard, and the built-in apps are able to use traffic conditions as well as topographic conditions to determine whether or not you will be able to get to a set destination on the current electric charge. The system will also find nearby charging stations, and in some cases, alert you as to whether or not they are currently in use. The basic navigation system is standard across the lineup, but certain features are only available in higher trim levels.
In Canada, the i3 starts at a very reasonable $44,950. It may look small, but the passenger and cargo capacity of this little car rivals that of the current 3-series. Plus, with current government incentives ($8,500), the Canadian can actually get an i3 for $36,450. It’s an especially good value considering all models come with navigation, LED lighting, cruise control with braking, heated seats, and a plethora of other options. The car may be here now, but the 2015 BMW i3 is definitely the car of the future.
2015 BMW i3 Gallery