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BMW unveils production i3 electric vehicle

"Born-electric" I3 will go on sale in Canada in the first half of 2014

Published: July 30, 2013, 5:00 PM
Updated: April 29, 2018, 3:05 PM

BMW finally unveiled the production version of its long-hyped i3 electric vehicle (EV) – originally called the Megacity car – at simultaneous events held yesterday in New York City, London and Beijing.

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Among its key features, the four-passenger I3's body is constructed of lightweight carbon-reinforced plastic (CRFP) – a first for a volume production electric vehicle. The CFRP body, which BMW calls the Life Module, is mounted to an all-aluminum chassis called the Drive Module.

Together, they result in an exceptionally light vehicle that was designed from the ground up to be electric – "Born Electric," as BMW CEO, Norbert Reithofer proclaimed at the New York unveiling.

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Because of its light weight, carbon fibre technology is expected to fundamentally change the car industry, allowing automakers to create lighter, more efficient and sustainable vehicles with reduced fuel consumption and lower emissions, according to BMW.

The Drive Module contains a 22-kWh lithium-ion battery pack and electric drivetrain, with the battery mounted in the rear, close to the drive wheels.

BMW says the I3 has a driving range of 130 to 160 km with the batteries fully charged, but that range can be increased by up to 12% or so if the car is driven in an Eco mode.

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t can be recharged in about three hours with a 220-volt Level 2 charger that can be installed in a home. Using a DC Combo Fast Charger, of the type becoming increasingly available at commercial outlets, an 80% charge can be achieved in 20 minutes, and 100% in 30, according to the company.

Alternatively, an optional range-extender gasoline engine is said to extend the i3's range to 320 km.

Thanks in part to its lightweight construction, the I3 can accelerate from 0-to-100 km/h in a little over 7 seconds, BMW projects, with an electronically-limited top speed of 150 km/h.

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In appearance, apart from the twin-kidney grille, the I3 is a complete departure from the sleek lines usually associated with BMWs and it bears only a vague resemblance to the I3 concept car that has been making the rounds of auto shows.

Perhaps BMW is betting that its ugly-duckling appearance will be more than offset by the I3's practicality and EV panache – or perhaps that it will even become an endearing feature in the mode of the original Volkswagen.

The car will be available in Europe in November and will go on sale in Canada and other markets in the first half of next year. The starting price in Canada will be $44,950.