There are always at least two ways to tell a story. You can see the BMW i3 as the car that arrives at the cost of almost ten popular, with autonomy of only 300 km, controversial design, fine tires, limited braking capacity and potentially stratospheric repairable due to the components used in the body. You can say that the i3 is a risky shot of the vanguard of BMW, whose price is as sweet as the Dead Sea – for both the manufacturer and the buyer. For $ 226 thousand you can buy a BMW M 135i, an Audi S3 or for fans of muscle cars, a Camaro SS.
But you can also see it as a traveling electric concept with monocoque carbon fiber composite body (whose rigidity allowed the elimination of column B, resulting in a one-way inlet) and external plastic panels with innovative modular architecture Divided into cabin, floor and powertrain, rear-wheel drive, which brings connectivity to a new level and has one of the most interesting cabins of recent times, mixing the organicity of fibers and wood with the cool touch of TFT displays. Leather? The same as the BMW 7 Series. The manufacturing process of the i3 uses 100% wind energy and consumes 70% less water and the same mentality permeates the materials that make up the vehicle. Not to mention the experience of running in a car that (almost) does not make noise and that you plug into the outlet when you get home, like a smartphone.
For all that, the i3 is not an alternative to any current production car: it is a clipping of the likely future of the top of the food chain of individual mobility, not limited to being a car adapted for an electric powertrain. Its price is high because it involves new design concepts and especially manufacturing processes. With the BMW i, more than making an electric car, the brand dared to question what it and all others do in their production lines, and sought different solutions to that. The sub-brand refers to “innovation,” but if Apple used the Σ prefix of its products, we would probably be talking about BMW Σ. Fortunately, Prince does not work in the automotive industry.
The fact is that both interpretations – negative and positive – are correct and are part of the same circuit. The i3 polarizes the opinions of lay people and experts with an intensity that we have not seen for some time. It fits between the prohibitive sophistication of the Tesla Model S with the practicality of the Nissan Leaf, and this results in a very expensive product whose profile does not fit the market, making it difficult to perceive value. The reaction to this, depending on the person, is either attraction or repulsion.
Carbon Fiber Bones for Green Muscles
Greater mass results in more inertia and consequently greater energy consumption for locomotion – and the biggest enemy of electric vehicles today is the weight of batteries, resulting in a contradiction in terms of energy efficiency.
To minimize the impact of the 181 kg lithium-ion battery (96 cells divided into eight 44.4 V modules installed on the floor to lower the center of gravity), BMW decided to build an exotic carbon fiber monocoque In McLaren MP4-12C) as a structure of the i3, which also composes the structure of the doors and covers, coated with a polymer layer similar to that of the Corvette.
The structure was named LifeDrive, complemented by the eDrive aluminum chassis that holds the batteries, hidden by the LifeDrive floor. The structural stiffness of the carbon fiber allowed the i3 to dispense with the B-columns, resulting in a huge entrance vane, with suicide-type doors (reverse opening) at the rear.
LifeDrive and eDrive add the iDrive, 125 kW electric motor (equivalent to 170 hp) and 25.5 mkgf instantaneous torque, installed on the rear axle. The i3 imported to Brazil comes with the so-called autonomy extender, which is a 647 cm³ two-cylinder gasoline engine (derived from BMW motorcycle engines) and 34 hp, used exclusively as a generator for the batteries – triggered when the load goes down 20%. In the photo above, the electric motor is on the right side of the image (silver color) and the extender on the left side (black cover).
With the extender, the range rises to about 300 km, 100 km more than the model without the equipment, and the driver is free from the dependence of an outlet in case of long trips inland – although it needs to supply it with More frequently. His tank holds nine liters.
Numbers: acceleration from 0 to 100 km / h in 7.9 s, top speed 150 km / h, 50:50 weight distribution.
Autonomy: between 230 and 260 km in normal use, 300 km can be reached with the Eco Pro mappings, which change the mapping of the accelerator, the operation of the LED lights and the air-conditioning compressor. Average consumption of 0.13 kW / h per kilometer.
Recharge: Standard AC cable (~ 2.8 kW), 16 hours at 110V, 8 hours at 220V. With the iWallbox Pure (3.7 to 100V and 7.4 kW at 220V) picture above, the recharge time is between three and five hours, depending on the voltage. IWallbox costs $ 7,450. In public charging stations (50 kW), an unloaded i3 reaches 80% of the battery charge in 30 minutes. BMW is negotiating with various partners to introduce these recharging stations into public spaces, which are already becoming relatively common in Europe and in some regions of the USA.
The i3 has forged aluminum suspension arms, with McPherson strut system at the front and multi-struts at the rear. To reduce rolling resistance, Bridgestone Ecopia directional tires use the intricate 155/60 R20 (or 155/70 R19) tire and run at 33 psi at the front and 41 psi at the rear.
Versions and prices
The i3 arrives in Brazil in two versions. The entrance costs R $ 225,950 and features LED lights, multimedia system with 10.25 “screen and navigator, sunroof, Harman Kardon audio system, wheels 19, twilight and rain sensors, cruise control, Digital air conditioning of a zone (not to overload the compressor and to increase the consumption), six air bags, ABS brakes with EBD and anti-collision system (automatic braking in emergency situations), stability control and assistant for ramp output. Available colors: White Capparis, Ionic Silver, Andesit Silver, Arravani Gray and Laurus Gray.
The full version comes out for R $ 235,950 (ten thousand extras) and adds leather seats in the seats (see the differences in the photos below), wheels rim 20, front and front parking sensors with Park Assist assistant and rear camera. Only this version has the Solaris Orange color option.
Considering that i3 has the concept of being a flagship of technology, it is unacceptable that the entry version does not come with parking sensors, equipment available in cars $ 200 thousand cheaper. The vehicle is guaranteed for two years, but the batteries are guaranteed for eight years or 100,000 km.
Cab and Connectivity
Carbon fiber, eucalyptus and wool from renewable sources, leather dyed with olive leaf extract and a lot of kenaf fiber in the panel structure; Whose design is clearly inspired by the modern office table. You can recognize the essence of BMW, such as the horizontal architecture, the layout and layout of the controls on the central consoles (the floor and the console) and the ventilation outlets; But the i3 is much less driver oriented than the gasoline powered models. There is no cockpit feel, but rather a sense of coexistence.
Because of the batteries, the floor is slightly raised, but as there is no engine in the front, the pedal area could be projected further forward, keeping something of the classic BMW driving position only at a higher height. You turn on the vehicle (well, do not expect starter noise …) by a button located on the thick lever that comes out of the steering column, where you also control the car’s progress – D, P, N and R.
With an extremely compact engine installed under the floor of the trunk, the interior of the i3 is proportionately much larger – the wheelbase is 2.57 m. The rear space is very good for the 4 m long and bears well four adults of 1.80 m, with the detail that the higher floor in the rear leaves the knees a little higher than in a luxury sedan.
The i3 is permanently connected to the network with a 3G m2m SIM card operated by Vodafone, integrated with the vehicle. With the connection, the i3 offers browser with wheel options based on real-mode traffic (rtti), which also dynamically displays the range according to vehicle autonomy and the location of nearest charging stations. In addition, the ConnectedDrive (service name) provides news, weather information, concierge services, and ongoing support.
However, to use social networks, listen to music over the internet or make use of any streaming service, it is necessary that you use the connection of your cell phone through a BMW app itself. The reason for this, according to the brand, is the costs of data traffic in Brazil, which made unviable a unified solution.
Five minutes behind the wheel
Our experience at the wheel of i3 was extremely limited. It all came down to five laps on an improvised circuit inside a luxury condominium under construction in the North Zone of São Paulo.
The first thing that calls attention, as in every electric, is total silence on board. Turning on the i3 is like plugging in a DVD player: a light on the lever to the right of the steering wheel lights up … and that’s it. At higher speeds, the electric motor emits a discreet noise, noticeable only with the sound off, whose timbre remembers something between an autorama and a subway. Immediate torque (equivalent to 25.5 mkgf) impresses, but the mapping of the accelerator and transmission, programmed to prevent “butts”, leave the starts unemotional.
Like all electric, the i3 uses the kinetic energy of the vehicle’s bearing to recharge the batteries. So when you take your foot off the accelerator, the vehicle decelerates with a certain emphasis – it’s just when the electric motor switches from propulsion mode to generator mode. The brake-motor feel is similar to that of a second-gear vehicle, with the difference that the effect continues to full immobility. Knowing how to use it, you can increase the battery life by up to 20% – you can drive almost without using the brake.
Speaking of the brakes, tires that are only 155mm wide are a severe penalty for braking distances. The total contact area of the tires is unquestionably smaller than that of any premium hatch, and this greatly limits the vehicle’s ability in emergency braking. It’s a safe vehicle to stop, but definitely not up to the gasoline BMWs. Curiously, the brake pedal is quite communicative.
The suspension has a relatively long stroke and a soft charge, significantly greater than that of 118i. In such a limited way, it was not possible to have the slightest idea of the dynamics and the communicability of the steering system, much less to know how it behaves on the road or on bad asphalt. Too bad the conditions were so limited and artificial. There was only the curious (and, I confess, addictive) taste of walking in a vehicle that does not make noise, that you plug in the outlet when you get home and that has a BMW emblem in the center of the steering wheel – a mark that, for us enthusiasts , Has always been linked to beautiful combustion engine screams and precise and sharp dynamic adjustment.
Yes, the i3 has rear-wheel drive, symmetrical weight distribution on the axles and relatively sporty steering position, with forward legs and small steering wheel. But that’s all. Definitely do not expect a sportive from this guy. For this there is the i8 …
Bottom line: a sniper shot in the dark
In the early 1990s, a premium PC cost the same as a popular car – whose processing power was much lower than that of any smartphone today. In 1997, Fujitsu brought the first 42 “plasma TV – retailing at $ 15,000. An almost comical insanity for almost everyone at the time, but today, how many people use smartphones and have thin-bodied televisions in their homes? Of course, dead technologies like the Laser Disc show that no hypothetical future becomes reality.
The technological vanguard always involves costs (for both the manufacturer and the buyer) and skyrocketing risks – especially when there are no tax incentives, in the case of the backward stance of the Brazilian government. It comes with 25% of IPI and all other premium vehicle taxes, regardless of the differentials in the manufacturing process. The only benefit is the exemption from caster.
For these and others (for example, the profit margin of all brands in the country is higher than in the parent companies), BMW expects to sell about 100 units of i3 in Brazil this year, a strong contrast to the 10,000 units sold only In January in the UK. Regardless of price in Brazil, if individual mobility takes this direction in which the manufacturer has advanced, it will be many steps ahead. We just hoped they would never give up the combustion engine on that coupe that was once called the M3 because the i3 (and even the i8) is made for a buyer profile that sees an automobile more as a gadget than as a machine , From its mechanical solutions to the design concept. And in this broader sense, for better or worse, it opposes all the foundations on which BMW has structured its history.
For urban use every day? Perfect. It is enough to have incentive and production in volume that will cheapen the processes.
Data sheet – BMW i3
Motor: synchronous electric motor with 125 kW of power, maximum rotation 11,400 rpm; Combined with a gasoline engine (generator), with 647 cm³, two cylinders and 34 hp at 5,000 rpm
Power: equivalent to 170 hp
Torque: 25.5 mkgf
Transmission: direct (maximum speed 150 km / h is determined by maximum engine speed of 11,400 rpm), rear-wheel drive
Suspension: McPherson type front and rear of multiples
Brakes: ventilated front and rear discs with ABS and EBD
Tires: Bridgestone Ecopia 155/70 R19
Dimensions: 3.99 m long, 1.77 m wide, 1.57 m high and 2.57 m wheelbase. Capacity of the trunk: 260 liters
Weight: 1.315 kg
Standard items: LED lights, multimedia system with 10.25 “screen and navigator, sunroof, Harman Kardon audio system, wheels 19, twilight and rain sensors, cruise control, digital air conditioning A zone (not to overload the compressor and increase the consumption), six air bags, ABS brakes with EBD and anti-collision system (automatic braking in emergency situations), stability control and assistant ramps.
Price: R$ 225,990 (September 2014)