I am sure many of you will have read of the variety of attempts by motor manufacturers to find alternative sources of power for our cars.
So what is the BMWi3? Well lets steer away from all the techno talk. Its a pure electric car with an optional “range extender” as fitted to my test car. The range extender is for me what makes the i3 an excellent electric car as it removes all the worries about getting to charge points in time. The range extender which is an option but should be standard in my opinion is a small petrol powered motor that simply charges the battery when needed.
It provides no drive to the wheels just powers a generator which re charges the battery when required. So in effect should the battery level drop too low the range extender cuts in to charge the battery as you drive and keep a minimum charge in it. Therefore in effect giving the car an effective range of 200km or so. In fact the only limitation here is that the little fuel tank of about 2 gallons needs refueling every 100km when in constant use.
I used the BMWi3 as I would any test car. I went to meetings, did the school run, and so forth and it all worked really well. Performance is superb, with the torque provided by the electric motor driving the rear wheels it will hit 100km in just 7.9 seconds quicker than most cars in this class and has a top speed of around 150km/h all in almost complete silence!
The i3 on test also had BMW’s amazing “Connected Drive” option. This is available in all BMW cars as an option and gives, Navigation, Emergency assist, and real time help from a real person at the push of a button. So I decided to test it out. Driving from Dublin I pushed the iDrive controller, selected “concierge services”. Immediately the call was answered by a helpful voice asking what I needed. I requested directions to my nearest charge point. She told me I had just passed one in Rathcoole but the next one was in Naas. She sent the address to the cars Sat Nav, I selected Start Guidance and it took me to a car park in Nass where I put the i3 on quick charge in a free parking space and went off about my business for two hours. And by the way this lady was in a BMW call centre in Barcelona!
Its fantastic technology that is practical and helpful and really works! In the event of an accident “Connected Drive” can automatically call the emergency services, give the exact GPS location of the car, confirm the severity of the accident to rescuers as it knows if the airbags were deployed or not and even tell how many occupants were in the car from sensors in the seats. Incredible really!
So my week behind the wheel of the new BMWi3 proved to me that the electric car has a real and practical future. Yes it still has its limitations. But the i3 is fun to drive, performs really well, and offers good accomadation for 4 people. It is perfectly suited to urban motoring.
However there is one drawback and thats the price! My test car which admittedly had a host of options cost €48,530 and that was after the government VRT rebate!
Until these cars become more affordable they remain the preserve of the very well off and companies who can buy into this technology. However the BMWi3 is for me one of the best all electric cars I have driven and I could certainly live with it on a daily basis.