BMW increased its presence in the alternative energy arena with the July 29 announcement that mass-production of its electric vehicle, the i3, was underway. The vehicle should be available at Los Angeles dealerships in the second quarter of 2014. BMW claims that the vehicle has a range of 100 miles, which can be extended with an optional small gasoline engine. The German automaker claims that the vehicle can accelerate from 0-60 MPH in just over seven seconds and says the basic model has a range of 100 miles. The i3 should be a likely competitor to the Tesla, which has more impressive specs and, not surprisingly, a higher base MSRP of $69,900. The performance version starts at $94,900 (both prices before federal tax and other incentives). The i3 is expected to be priced at $41,350 before federal tax and other incentives. The optional gasoline engine bumps the price up to $45,000. If you are flush with cash and crave range and performance, you would likely opt for the performance version of the Tesla, which has a range of 244 miles on a single charge, and can accelerate from 0-60 MPH in 3.7 seconds. Its top speed is electronically limited to 125 MPH.VROOOM!
BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer noted that the German automaker would need to boost sales of plug-in and battery electric vehicles dramatically by 2025 to meet regulatory requirements. “If you build such a car…you have to look into the future, 10, 15, 20 years,” Mr. Reithofer said, “If you look around the world, [at] the emissions regulations, in the United States, in the European Union, even in China…cars like the BMW i3 are a must.” He added that the i3 is one of two “bookmarks” in the company’s initial plug-in model strategy. Next year, BMW plans to launch a sportier cousin to the i3 called the i8, which will have an electric motor driving the front wheels and a three-cylinder gasoline engine driving the rear. Project director Ulrich Kranz said on Monday the plug-in hybrid i8 isn’t a direct rival to the large Model S sedan. He explained, “It’s a super sports car.” He added that the i8 will be smaller than the Model S, and will offer the driving dynamics of BMW’s M3 high performance model but with the fuel efficiency of a small car.
BMW officials note that driving the i3 should convince prospective buyers that it is a better quality car than other lower-cost electrics. The i3 was designed to be a lightweight, battery electric vehicle. The substructure of the passenger compartment is made from carbon fiber and the chassis is aluminum. BMW says it will offer fast charging capability. The i3’s unique structure makes possible novel features such as clamshell doors. BMW used dried grass to create a wood-like dashboard material, and recycled plastics are the raw material for the seats. Mr. Reithofer notes that with electric vehicles, “you need range. And if you use lightweight construction, range will be better.”