The BMW i3 is an electric car that company officials say will go on sale in the U.S. in the fourth quarter of 2013. The car the Munich-based company unveiled today at the Los Angeles Auto Show is a three-door, but the car that will hit dealerships next year with a very similar look will be a five door hatchback.
The i3 will mark the start of a new "i" sub-brand that designates electric and extended-range electric cars. Another "i" car, the i8, will show up in dealerships in the first quarter of 2014. The company also has an "M" performance sub-brand.
The show car BMW is displaying is copper colored with a black hatch and roof. The body panels are plastic, but the structure of the car is made of carbon fiber, a more expensive but much lighter weight material than steel. Indeed, the car weighs 1,200 pounds less than the BMW Active-E electric car that is based on the 3-Series sedan.
All auto companies are rolling out electric and extended range electric, as well as cars with smaller, more fuel efficient engines to meet new Federal fuel economy rules that take effect between now and 2025.
The i3 will have a range of about 100 miles, and the lithium-ion battery that powers the car produces 168 horsepower and 184-lb. ft. of torque. The electric motor drives the rear wheels of the car, and the weight is evenly distributed between the front and back, thus maintaining the perfect balance that BMW has long strived for with all of its vehicles.
The interior of the i3 coupe, which BMW is still technically calling a concept but says it is close to the final production look, is spare with no conventional dashboard or center console. There are two screens that display all the car's functions--one behind the steering wheel, and another in the center of the front cockpit. A controller sitting between the two front seats interfaces with the screens to control all the functions of the car. The floor of the car is flat, with the battery housed under the floor.
We have not driven the all-electric car yet, but BMW executives say the car has extraordinary acceleration in keeping with BMWs that run on gasoline.
As promising as the i3 may be, it will enter a market for electric vehicles that has been tepid at best. "We actually think that BMW will give the whole EV category a lot more credibility," says BMW Design Director Adrian Von Hooydonk.
Nissan's Leaf electric vehicle, as well as Chevy's extended-range electric Volt, which runs on battery-power alone, as well as gasoline, have not sold well with U.S. consumers. Ford has recently launched a Focus EV and a C-Max Energi extended-range EV similar to the Volt. Toyota has a plug-in electric version of its Prius.
But consumers remain wary of EVs because of the high price of the vehicles, as well as the nascent infrastructure for recharging them. The biggest endorsement of EV technology, though came earlier this month when MotorTrend and Automobile both named the Tesla Model S EC their "Car of the Year."
There are more pictures from the i3 here.
You can find complete coverage of the Los Angeles Auto Show by clicking here.