Thursday 14 December 2017

BMW 'charges' into the future with electric i3

Eddie Cunningham was in London at the world premiere of BMW's first electric car

Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

I suppose one is bound to feel a sense of change when sitting into the first all-electric BMW. We're told about this being the start of something big.

It will cost, as we told you last week, €33,160, and goes on sale in November. There will be a version costing €40,190, which has a 'range extender', a little engine on board (650cc, 34bhp 2cyl) not to drive the wheels but to charge the lithium-ion batteries. In so doing it adds another 100km to the basic 130km range. It is beside the electric motor over the rear axle and doesn't affect luggage space.

It's worth noting that if you drive in ECO PRO or ECO PRO+ mode you can extend the basic 130km by around 20km more anyway.

You can charge it – the means are under the bonnet – from a conventional domestic socket, BMW i Wallbox or from a public station.

I agree, 130km is not going to break records. BMW told me publicly their research showed potential buyers were perfectly happy with this – average daily distance covered was around 45km for 1,000 participants.

Frankly, I'm not so sure about that from an Irish perspective.

Yet it would be churlish not to admire what has been done here. They have made a singularly striking looking car – you will love or hate the look of it. The appearance is strong to put it mildly, with little by way of fine aesthetic lines. It puts some distance between your 320d and your i3 believe me.

There are no middle pillars and so, with all four doors open, you have a massive aperture with the rear doors hinged on the back pillars.

The use of a light, but rigid, carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) body means you don't need conventional 'B-pillars'.

The instrument cluster and control display for the iDrive (6.5ins or 8.8ins) stand free.

It's a dash with a difference. You don't have petrol/diesel fuel gauge or the attendant dials and instrumentation to accommodate. And then there is the passenger's side. Dear Lord they've put this horrendous woody looking yoke there. It reminded me of a mini school bench. Please don't let it come to Ireland.

The seats are slim, supportive and help generate a lot of room all through, and there is a fairly decent boot.

Two big men sat in the back while I sampled the front. We all had good room.

The Joe Duffy motor group will look after sales and service here and will take care of you no matter where you live.

With far fewer moving parts than a traditional car, you shouldn't anticipate needing help too often. The carbon fibre body absorbs minor bumps without leaving dents.

Damage to the paint does not lead to rusting, obviously, and if some of the external skin does need replacement they reckon repair costs are 40pc lower than a conventional car.

CHANGE

Now comes the hard part for BMW – getting people to buy one. Few have bought an electric car this year – just 32 according to Motorcheck.ie.

Can the i3 sway hearts and minds?

BMW board member Herbert Diess told me that in five years' time we will look back on massive change in cars, and in who and what drives them.

Irish Independent

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