The BMW i3 – An electric car without the identity crisis
Previous generation electric cars – like the Nissan Leaf – have something of an identity crisis. They hide behind the facade of a conventional, fuel-powered appearance as if energy-efficient transport is something to be ashamed of. The BMW i3 has no such qualms about the differences between itself and the outmoded, petrol-guzzling vehicles we’re all familiar with. Measuring just less than four metres in length, with a layered exterior and an aerodynamically-conscious yet robust design; the i3 strikes a perfect balance between weaving, dashing agility and raw, unrestrained power.
Jeremy Clarkson commented on how the i3 makes it abundantly clear that it is no ordinary car, “There's no attempt to hide the narrow, low-drag tyres, or the advanced aero. No attempt to hide the fact that it's high because the battery is under the floor, or that it's snub-nosed because the motor and gearbox are in the back.” Despite these unique design features, the i3 sports the inimitable BMW kidney-grille, and immediately makes it clear that there is no compromise when it comes to manoeuvrability.
A clean, fully-electric power source and aerodynamic design is only part of the eco-friendly equation, though, because the lighter the vehicle, the less power required to move it. The i3 fulfils this need expertly, weighing in at just 1119 kg, making it a full 350 kg lighter than the Nissan Leaf. The effect of this is an increased range for the same energy-input, and it’s largely down to the lightweight, replaceable plastic exterior panels and carbon-fibre chassis. The i3 is beautifully and efficiently crafted.
Combating range anxiety
One of the main factors which hold people back when it comes to considering a fully-electric vehicle is “range anxiety.” The restrictions on maximum travelling distance, the anxieties about charging and the fear of breaking down far from a charging station are the biggest concerns when it comes to electric cars, according to research, so BMW has gone to pains to allay these worries. The most obvious way in which they’ve done this is by designing an electric car with a range of around 90 miles on a full charge (only taking eight hours to fully recharge on a domestic power outlet), but that isn’t all.
The built-in satellite navigation on the i3 doesn’t just do the expected job of directing you to your chosen destination; it also features the ingenious “multimodal route” option. This combines the ordinary navigation with the additional feature of being able to determine whether or not your chosen destination is within your range. If it is, the system will suggest nearby charging locations (as well as telling you if there are available sockets) and work out how you can reach your destination by public transport, if necessary. In addition, every BMW i3 comes with a free smartphone app, which allows you to check your remaining range and the amount of time required to recharge, from any location at any time. If you do need to leave your vehicle to recharge, the route you’re travelling on will be transferred to the app so you don’t have to find new directions.
You aren’t limited by the standard specs of the i3 if you’re likely to push the boundaries on a regular basis, either. You can add the optional range extender, which is a dual-cylinder petrol engine designed to extend the lifespan of your batteries when their charge gets low. This offers you an additional 60 miles of range –more than enough for emergency use. Finally, you can also purchase a BMW wall-box, which slices the recharging time in half, allowing you to get your battery from being drained up to 80 percent capacity in three hours and fully-charged in just four.
The BMW i3 neither hides its status as an eco-friendly vehicle nor falls prey to many of the issues which plagued previous generation electric cars. The days of petrol-guzzling or even hybrid engines are truly numbered. The i3 revolutionizes the world of green-energy vehicles, and makes it abundantly clear that the future is fully-electric.
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