BMW’s i3 electric car unveiled, hits South Africa in 2014

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Designed from the ground up to be free of petrol-era restrictions.
Designed from the ground up to be free of petrol-era restrictions.

With petrol prices fluctuating, many are looking at getting cheaper cars that use less of the dino-powered juice. And with today’s unveiling of BMW’s production electric vehicle (EV), the i3, the German manufacturer has entered the fray with a petrol-free option.

The cubic i3, unveiled simultaneously in New York, London, and Beijing, has cubic in design – the result of BMW choosing to build an electric car from the ground up, rather than adapting a conventional car and equipping it with an electric drivetrain. A large battery pack sits in the floor of the car, while the electric motor is mounted in the rear. This opens up all the usual spaces used for exhaust plumbing, gearboxes, and engines.

As a result, and despite its compact dimensions, the i3 seats four adults comfortably, with luggage space to spare.

There shouldn’t be any worry that electric cars are slow off the line and useless on the highway either. The i3 has a 125kW electric motor, which also produces 250Nm of torque. Those power figures are just shy of matching the Mini Cooper S, another BMW product, but more importantly, they’re more than ample when compared to other compact city cars. One of the major advantages of being electric is that all the torque is produced instantly: this allows it to accelerate swiftly, when the need arises.

That blocky design is compact for city use, but still seats four.
That blocky design is compact for city use, but still seats four.

It’s also the first series production car to use carbon fibre production for its chassis. The i3 weighs a mere 1270kg- a featherweight compared to most other modern cars, and no mean feat given the heft of current battery technology. The entire carbon fibre production process uses renewable hydroelectricity, and the factories where the cars will be built will use wind power. BMW’s gone to great lengths to reduce the carbon footprint of its eco-friendly vehicle.

BMW South Africa has confirmed that the i3 will hit South Africa, though it will only be in April 2014. Until then, those interested in electric motoring can also consider Nissan’s LEAF, which should hit dealerships by September this year.

 

Christo van Gemert

Christo van Gemert

Eleven years ago Christo started writing about technology for one of South Africa's (then) leading computer magazines. His first review? A Samsung LCD monitor. Hey, it was hot news, back then. Nowadays he gets more excited about photography, cars, game consoles, and faster internet connections. He's sort of an Apple fan, but will take any opportunity to remind you about his Windows-powered home theatre PC and desire to own a vanilla Android tablet.   Currently uses: Apple 13-inch Macbook Pro with Retina Display, Apple iPhone 5, Microsoft Laser Mouse 6000, Audiofly AF78 Earphones, Xbox 360, Nikon D50.

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