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BMW i3 redefines electric mobility

Carmaker’s first full-electric compact boasts futuristic styling, driving agility

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Published : 2014-02-23 19:47
Updated : 2014-02-23 19:47

The BMW i3 charges in a parking lot. (BMW Korea)

BMW’s first full-electric car, the i3, will make its Korean debut in April.

The premium German carmaker is confident that its futuristic styling, combined with driving agility, will make the car a game-changer in the nation’s nascent electric car market.

“The i3 will be an electric car that doesn’t compromise performance,” was the promise from Kim Hyo-joon, BMW Korea’s chief executive.

The four-door compact features a wholly different design concept from the typical BMW family, with the brand’s signature kidney grill embracing a modern interpretation for the car’s future-oriented look.

Among other things, the “LifeDrive architecture” opens a completely new world of design possibilities for vehicle interiors, the carmaker said. With the energy storage put under the floor, there is no center tunnel dividing the interior.

The absence of a center tunnel allows a more efficient use of ample interior space while making it easier to exit the vehicle, which proves quite convenient in difficult and tight parking situations. 

The i3’s futuristic steering wheel and center console (BMW Korea)

Another key characteristic of the i3 is the separation of the so-called Life module (the carbon fiber-built passenger compartment) from the Drive module (the aluminum drive train and battery compartment).

The passenger compartment is completely covered by carbon fiber, a light and high-strength material that provides outstanding protection to passengers in the event of an emergency. Thus far, it has been mostly used in motor racing or sports car manufacturing.

The use of lightweight materials like carbon fiber and aluminum compensate for the extra weight of the battery. (The car weighs just 1,250 kilograms, including the 230-kilogram battery pack supplied by Korea’s Samsung SDI.)

The combination of the reduced weight, the lower center of gravity and an ideal weight distribution leads to an agile driving experience. Large 19-inch wheels also reduce rolling resistance and ensure high efficiency.

The i3 eDrive is also a new development in the scope of the BMW EfficientDynamics technology. Its electric motor is designed for use in city traffic and provides 170 horsepower and a torque of 250 kilograms per meter.

Four seconds is all the time needed for the car to accelerate from 0 to 60 kilometers per hour, and to get to 100 kph, it takes just over second seconds.

The 130 to 160 kilometers of driving range on a single charge, according to the carmaker, covers the majority of driving demands for a typical commuter’s driving style.

The optional Range Extender, a small combustion engine that runs on normal gas, will allow an increase of the range to 240 to 300 kilometers.

The BMW i3 is also the first fully connected electric vehicle in the world.

The connected BMW i Navigation, with a range assistant and display of charging stations, will guide drivers to their destination in the most efficient way, while the BMW i Remote App is the mobile extension of the car for drivers’ smartphones.

The car went on sale from November in Europe and will hit other markets in phases this year, including Korea in April. The price starts at 34,950 euros ($48,000) but its Korean pricing has yet to be announced.

By Lee Ji-yoon (jylee@heraldcorp.com)

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