BMW has today launched the series version of its innovative electric vehicle, the BMW i3.
"Innovation drives change. The i3 is more than just a car," commented Norbert Reithofer, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG. "It's a revolutionary step towards sustainable mobility. It is purpose-built around an electric power train to serve the needs of our megacity customers."
The BMW i3 - the BMW Group's first pure electric series-produced model - has the same sporting genes as every BMW and is characterized by sheer driving pleasure. The vehicle achieves a range of 130 to 160 kilometers. Optionally, BMW also offers a range-extender, which maintains the charge of the lithium-ion battery at a constant level enroute, as soon as it falls below a specified value. This is performed by a two-cylinder gasoline engine with 34 hp, mounted adjacent to the electric motor above the rear axle. The range extender increases the car's maximum range in day-to-day driving to around 300 kilometers.
The BMW i3 will be released in Germany and other European markets in November 2013. The market launch of the BMW i3 in USA, China, Japan and several other markets will take place in the first half of 2014. The base price for the BMW i3 has been set at 34,950 Euros in Germany. If customers opt to purchase the Range Extender as an extra, the price in Germany will amount to 39,450 Euros.
The BMW i3 is the first premium-segment model conceived to run purely on electric power. And the car's innovative vehicle concept also shines through in its design. The exterior and interior design of the i3 are heavily influenced by its LifeDrive architecture and pioneering drive system. Indeed, not content with conjuring up an unmistakable feeling of space and extraordinary driving experience, these two elements also have a significant stylistic impact.
LifeDrive Architecture Forms the Basis for Innovative Design
The structure of the LifeDrive architecture represents the basic construction of the BMW i3. The central element of the Life module is the carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) passenger compartment. A robust plastic outer skin is attached onto this compartment, allowing extensive freedom in design. The Life module is fixed to the aluminium Drive module, which houses all the drive and chassis technology. This distinctive two-way split is reflected in the design of the BMW i3. Indeed, both the exterior and interior make a feature of this structural characteristic through the visible layering and intertwining of different surfaces.
Black Belt and Stream Flow
One of the signature features of BMW i cars is the "black belt" extending from the bonnet over the roof into the rear, where it spreads around the central section of the rear apron, framing the licence plate recess and reflectors. At the front end, the black belt is framed by the body-coloured front apron and side panels. This creates a striking segmentation of the car body, emphasising the lightweight construction of the BMW i3.
Another element of the standalone BMW i design language is the "stream flow" tapering dynamically to the rear of the car. This feature is formed by the convergence between the upward sweep of the shoulderline around the C- pillar and the downward slope in the roofline. The dip in the shoulderline just rearwards of the front doors creates a larger side window surface for the rear compartment, giving passengers a particularly generous feeling of space. Passengers are also immersed more deeply in the driving experience than ever before. The shoulderline and stream flow provide distinctive features to match the Hofmeister kink at the trailing edge of the rear side windows on BMW models, while also setting the tone for the aerodynamically optimized body shape of the BMW i3.
A powerfully formed front apron, eye-catching colour combinations and a fresh interpretation of hallmark BMW features are the headline elements of the front end. In the centre stands the distinctively styled BMW kidney grille, which has a blue- or silver-coloured surround (depending on the body colour) and is blanked off, as the electrically powered BMW i3 does not require cooling air to be channelled through its front end. Positioned at the same height are the headlights which extend well into the car's flanks. The headlights display an individual character and are framed by U-shaped LED light units. A black border connects the lower edge of the apron with the circular foglamps positioned to its outer edges.
Glazed Tailgate with Integrated U-shaped Light Units
The design of the rear section accentuates both the functionality and surefooted roadholding of the BMW i3. The large tailgate opens high and the slim, upright roof pillars make it easier to load items into the boot, whose capacity can be expanded by folding down the rear seat backrests as and when required.
The tailgate takes the form of a homogeneous black glass surface. It forms part of the black belt which continues down to the lower edge of the body at the outer extremities of the rear end. In combination with the side panels, which extend slightly into the rear, it creates an eye-catching colour contrast. This, in turn, underlines the car's planted stance as the "cascading" body gains in width towards the road. The light units appear to be floating in the tailgate's glass. Intricate LED lights provide a striking night design, their U- shape adopting the now characteristic BMW i headlight profile.
Six colour shades designed exclusively for BMW i are available for the paintwork of the side body panels and the front and rear aprons of the BMW i3. The two non-metallic and four metallic colours form a prominent contrast to the black belt. The accent surfaces on the side skirts and the BMW kidney grille surround come in BMW i Blue or Frozen Grey metallic, depending on the variant.
Interior: Freedom in Design Creates Freedom of Movement
The LifeDrive architecture, including the CFRP passenger compartment, also opens up new freedoms in the design of the BMW i3 interior. Opposing "coach" doors and the absence of B-pillars pave the way for the unusually generous levels of space and freedom of movement (given the car's exterior dimensions). Thanks to the positioning of the electric motor directly on the driven axle, the central tunnel - normally a feature of conventional vehicles - has also been omitted, allowing for a totally open connection between the footwells on the right- and left-hand side of the car. Again, this contributes to the generous impression of space on board and also has functional benefits - such as when getting in and out of the car in particularly tight city parking spaces. Sliding from the right rear seat to the left is as refreshingly easy as moving over from the front passenger seat to behind the steering wheel. Folding down the rear seat backrests creates a totally level load compartment floor and allows the car's variable load capacity to expand to 1,100 liters.
A slightly raised seating position optimises the view out over city traffic. The BMW i3 is fitted with lightweight seats whose slim backrests also provide additional legroom in the rear. The freestanding steering column has a two- section construction that exudes lightness and elegance, attributes that are underlined by the colour concept. The gear selector and start/stop button share a control element projecting from the steering column. The driver selects gears using a rotary control, which moves forwards or backwards according to the desired direction of travel.
Both the instrument cluster and the Control Display of the BMW i3 (6.5 inches in diameter as standard, 8.8 inches as an option) come in free-standing display form. The positioning of the displays lends further emphasis to the heavily three-dimensional design of the cockpit. In the centre of the cockpit, a flat control surface - tilted slightly towards the driver - for climate control and audio functions forms the lower edge of the instrument panel. The Controller and direct menu control buttons for the iDrive system are arranged between the driver and front passenger at seat surface height.
Combining Aluminium and CFRP
The new Drive module has also been carefully designed and structured with these exacting crash requirements in mind. Crash-active aluminium structures in the front and rear sections of the vehicle provide additional safety. In a front or rear-on collision, these absorb a large proportion of the energy generated. The battery, meanwhile, is mounted in the underbody section of the car to give it the best possible degree of protection. Statistically, this is the area that absorbs the least energy in the event of a crash, and the vehicle shows barely any deformation here as a result. Moreover, positioning the battery in the underbody allows the BMW Group development engineers to give the vehicle an ideal low centre of gravity, which makes it extremely agile and unlikely to roll over.
In the Euro NCAP side impact test, in which a pole strikes the side of the vehicle dead centre at 32 km/h (20 mph), the carbon fibre composite also demonstrates its extraordinary energy-absorbing capacity. The Life module absorbs the entire impact with minimal deformation, guaranteeing optimum passenger protection. Even when CFRP dissipates energy, there is no danger to passengers or other road users.
The high-voltage battery also benefits from the excellent deformation properties of the CFRP Life module. In the side crash test, the pole does not penetrate as far as the battery. The mix of materials used and the intelligent power distribution in the LifeDrive module ensure that the high-voltage battery is optimally protected even in the side sill area.
All in all, the high-strength CFRP passenger cell teams up with the intelligent distribution of forces in the LifeDrive module to lay the foundations for optimum occupant protection.
Tests by vehicle insurers and BMW Accident Research show that most accidents primarily result in minor damage. Comprising around 90 per cent of all recorded accidents involving conventional vehicles, these involve damage to the outer skin. The BMW i3 takes account of this and is equipped with robust screw/clip-on plastic plating all around. Minor bumps are absorbed without leaving dents, as usually occurs with metal parts. Damage to the paint does not lead to rusting. If a section of the external skin of the BMW i3 needs to be replaced, this can be carried out quickly and economically - repair costs are around 40 per cent lower compared with a conventionally built car. Overall, the accident repair costs are similar to those of a BMW 1 Series. It can therefore be assumed that the first insurance classifications will be at the usual compact car class level.