Electrifying BMW i Series
I have always wondered about the new revolution of making vehicles more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly. I attended launches of such vehicles years ago and, since then, have tried to keep abreast of what the options are and of possible or real solutions over time.
I have seen some really spectacular marketing hype just to find that it disappears like mist in the sun as new technology quickly renders what has been marketed, obsolete. I think that, with regard to new developments, this sector is more volatile than the cellphone business. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. It is a developing area and new ideas and techniques come to the forefront by building on what is already there.
OUT OF OFFICE | CAR REVIEW
by Carl Wepener
* Prices as at date of publishing
I am not an expert in all of these systems, nor do I venture to state which of the so-called technologies will be the best or will lead motoring into the future.
What I can report on is what I found at the launch of the all-new BMW i8 and i3 vehicles.
BMW has tackled the future of motoring by looking at how it will survive as a motor manufacturer in an environment in which resources are becoming scarce and where resources currently used will also become more and more detrimental to the environment in the future. BMW has called on its developers to find a balance between demand and the environment, especially in view of the prediction that 70% of the world’s population will be urbanised by 2050.
Electric and battery-driven cars are not a new concept and BMW explored this field as far back as 1972 with its revolutionary BMW1602. From small beginnings in this sector, things have changed rapidly and gone are the days when these BMW i vehicles were simply souped up, regular or so-called i vehicles. BMW has developed its own approach which establishes a unique, holistic identity and the i vehicles are built from the ground up by using innovative LIFEDRIVE architecture with carbon fibre and other composite materials. To show it is serious, BMW has contributed 530-million Euros towards this development. Both the i8 and i3 are the lightest in their classes, as they make use of modular lithium-ion battery systems and some good-looking composite materials that give a modern flair to especially the i3.
Performance from both the i vehicles is spectacular and power delivery is as follows for the two models:
BMW i3: Price from R525 000 for the i3 and R595 000 for the i3 Rex.
Charging box R25 000.
8-year battery warranty or 100 000 km.
BMW i8: Price R1 775 000.
The i3 is powered by a two-cylinder 647 cc engine 28kW, that is, a generator that maintains the battery-charge levels and is good for a range of 160 km.
The BMW i3 is a fresh design inside and out and is easily distinguished by the kidney air inlets – which actually do not let any air in. It further has coach doors that make entering for both front and back seats very easy. Space within the vehicle is good and it has a lovely modern and functional concept and feel owing to the new lightweight composite materials. The interior further shows a layered design with floating dashboard and lovely wood panelling in front of the passenger and elegant cloth and leather-blended seats. Two info displays further add to the uniqueness, as one has all the entertainment and navigation, and the display in front of the driver gives the essential information regarding the ‘fuel’ content.
A modern vehicle also needs technology that is both upmarket, efficient and user-friendly. The BMW i3 has it all, from connectivity features such as connective-drive hardware and navigation, to a heads-up display and a platform to check status. There is also a smartphone map with a profile to check for charging stations and even where your vehicle is parked.
Driving in the Cape with the Southeaster blowing was quite a challenge, as it did affect the stability of the car. Pulling away from a robot leaves most other vehicles behind and the BMW i3 easily accelerates up to 120 kph. It is no slouch and the top speed is around 175 kph.
All in all, this is a great car for city use and for cutting those fuel bills to a minimum.
The BMW i8 is a true visionary supercar with inspiring and specific i design DNA features such as the carbon roof and lightweight interior panels, and it reacts like a supercar with small-car fuel consumption. We did not get near to the mark mentioned by BMW, but, then, we were having a lot of fun by silently driving or racing off the 1 499 cc three-cylinder TwinPower Turbo engine combined with BMW eDrive technology that offers the best of both worlds, with altered sound letting the cars around you know that this is a sports car. The BMW i8 is a spectacular-looking vehicle and this was clearly evident from the number of pictures taken by other people and the thumbs-up signs we got while driving. It looks fantastic with its U-shape front lights, iconic back lights, the closed kidney grill and – my favourite – the scissor doors. The interior is modern, ergonomically laid out and driver-oriented. It, too, has digital instrumentation with heads-up display.
Driving this unique car is a really great and pleasing experience, as it accelerates from 0 to 100 kph in just 4.4 seconds. Moreover, its amazing cornering abilities and ride quality make it a true contender in the field of the real sports cars. Of course, space for Vuitton suitcases is very limited, but then you may as well buy what you need on the other side considering the amount of money that you have saved on fuel.
A number of functions like positioning of the seats and steering wheel are manual in order to save weight, but this does not take anything away from this lovely vehicle. Getting in and out for a person of my size is not so easy, but you tend to develop a certain way or rolling rhythm to help with it.
There are questions around charging on long journeys, but this is receiving attention. Other factors on electrical cars are, of course, what replacement batteries will cost and how these cars will be accepted in the second-hand market. There will be pioneers buying these vehicles, and then there will be people who buy the BMW i8 for its beauty and sheer brilliance as a sports car.