BMW goes electric with class and style
The i3 may not suit those looking for a bargain, but it will be economical over its lifetime, writes Martin Brennan
IF you want to be really posh and snob it around town next year, this is the car for you. There is only one dealer in the country at present, but from this week the most anticipated BMW vehicle for decades is in a showroom at Joe Duffy Motors, North Road, Finglas, Dublin.
It is the i3, the company's first all-electric production vehicle; a really classy-looking supermini-sized car that has an on-the-road price tag of €33,160, but will create zero pollution and cost just a couple of euro to cover most urban and commuter trips.
BMW has created a smart, two-tone car for its 'toe in the water' leap into the electric motor business and no expense has been spared to make it a desirable 'green' form of transport for the well-heeled environmentally conscious among us.
It is not a car for busy drivers whose price range is the €20,000-30,000 thrifty run-of-the-mill diesel models, but expect that in the not-too-distant future. As i3 technology is refined, this mode of transport will become much more affordable for the masses.
The same size as the BMW X1 or a Ford Fiesta, the i3 is powered by a 168bhp electric motor with single-speed gearbox which drives the rear wheels.
Its top speed is 155kmh (93mph) and it zips to 100km in just over seven seconds.
It has a range of 128-193km (roughly 80-100 miles) on a full, eight-hour domestic charge and a fast charge from a BMW wall unit (costs extra) will give an 80 per cent charge in just three hours, or a full charge in four hours.
There is the option of a range extender, a 600cc generator with a nine-litre fuel tank, which can double the length of the journey – easily extending a Dublin-Galway trip to a non-stop event. This relieves the range-anxiety factor associated with battery-powered cars.
But it comes at a hefty cost and can add €7,000 to the price tag, €41,040, as the i3 with generator on board then becomes no longer a totally electric pollution-free car and government grants and VRT exemptions are cut heavily.
But the generator has its good points. The journey can be extended further as the two-stroke engine cuts in to ensure that the batteries never run out completely.
The motor can also be activated when the battery is still a quarter full, so save 'i' power for urban areas or when returning home.
Statistics show that with 50km (30ml) being the average city/urban journey, the running costs will be a big saving over time. And with less moving parts, servicing costs will also be inexpensive.
However, it is expected that most customers will go for a package, maintenance included, all rolled into a PCP fixed-charge deal. So you don't have to lay out big money as payments are balanced over a number of years.
The 250Nm of torque from start acceleration is superb and in a test around London and suburbs (motorway driving included), with air con and lights and wipers all in use, 63 miles was covered with two onboard before the generator cut in.
The i3 benefits from a very small turning circle, one metre less than a Mini to parking is easy in tight spaces and there is a reversing camera.
The inside has many components found in other BMW models and depending on the trim level chosen there is a 6.5" or 10.5" screen. The sat nav is programmed to find charging points.
BMW expect to sell between 30 and 60 i3 models next year, despite the heavy price tag.
Another dealership for i3 sales will be appointed in the south Dublin area next year and there are plans for dealerships in Cork and Galway in the future.