BMW i3

Price: from £34,070

ELECTRIC cars - they're so 21st Century... aren't they? Well there's nothing new in this world and electric vehicles (EVs) are no exception.

In fact, as long ago as the late 19th Century EVs easily outsold every other type of vehicle. An electric prototype held the land speed record, battery-powered trams and cabs touted for business on the streets of London, Paris and New York and emerging hybrid technology promised a solution to the problem of range anxiety.

Battery-power had the upper-hand over petrol and steam propulsion which were unreliable and prone to explosions if not handled correctly. EVs were the first choice of royalty and wealthy patrons the world over.

But two decades later the EV had all but vanished. The internal combustion engine (ICE) won the day and as is common the victor rewrote history: EVS were all but erased from history.

Fast forward to the 21st Century and the set of problems we face are very different. Although ICE power plants are paragons of reliability their dirty exhaust causes air pollution and their nitrogen and carbon dioxide emissions contribute to global warming.

So EVs are back in vogue and, thanks to massive strides in technology, they have never been better.

The Germans were early adopters of EVs (Ferdinand Porsche invented the petro-electric hybrid in 1900) and they have enthusiastically embraced the EV concept in the 21st Century. None more so than BMW.


The i3 is the first mainstream EV you’d buy with your heart as much as your head. No wonder it is the best-selling compact premium EV in Europe.

The i3 is unmistakably a BMW but it looks unlike any other model from the German giant’s stable. In fact, there’s more than a hint of the much-missed Audi A1 about the mono-box body shape and the tiny overhangs front and back. The design has already picked up the iF gold award for product design and the World Car Design of the Year award along with other accolades.

The trademark BMW i Black Belt running from the bonnet over the roof to the car’s rear end is now complemented by A-pillars and roof lines that also sport a black finish. The range of paint finishes for the remaining body elements has been extended to include Melbourne Red metallic and Imperial Blue metallic. Besides these two new additions, customers can also choose from the non-metallic shades Capparis White and Fluid Black as well as Protonic Blue metallic and Mineral Grey metallic.

But it’s more than just a good-looker. Thanks to the one-box body the i3 seats four adults and can accelerate to 62mph faster than a Golf 2.0 TDI courtesy of its electric motor.

BMW’s engineers started with a clean sheet of paper so not compromises were made in creating the best electric car current technology allows. The battery uses lithium ion chemistry - the same stuff as used in laptops and iPads - for maximum power and minimum recharge time. The cells are housed beneath the i3’s floor, keeping the weight nice and low, and are air conditioned to avoid overheating.

It looks like a front drive car. But it’s not. The 168bhp electric motor is housed in the rear axle which it drives via a single ratio gearbox. The motor can deploy full power from the instant you touch the throttle which is one reason why the i3 will accelerate like a hot hatchback.

Now available in two flavours: the i3 and the sportier i3s, the eDRive powertrain enables drivers to enjoy locally emission-free mobility with wonderfully instantaneous power delivery, efficient use of energy and an optimised range for a level of everyday practicality that even extends beyond the demands of purely urban travel.

Both models draw their energy from a lithium-ion high-voltage battery developed by the BMW Group with a capacity of 94 ampere hours (Ah) or 33 kilowatt hours (kWh). A range extender engine can be ordered as an option for both the new BMW i3 and the new BMW i3s.

The synchronous electric motor powering the i3 generates a maximum output of 125 kW/170 hp. Its peak torque is 250 Nm (184 lb-ft), all of which is available instantly from a standstill, as is usual with electric motors. This means that stepping on the accelerator pedal immediately unleashes a thrilling burst of speed. The motor smoothly delivers the kind of performance that drivers expect from a BMW via a single-speed automatic transmission, with continuous power delivery that builds up the car’s tempo in a characteristically dynamic fashion. 0-100 km/h (62 mph) is achieved by the new BMW i3 in 7.3 seconds. Its top speed is limited to 150 km/h (93 mph).

The new BMW i3s provides an even sportier interpretation of silent mobility with zero local emissions and features a high-performance 135 kW/184 hp electric motor that generates peak torque of 270 Nm (199 lb-ft).

The new BMW i3s comes equipped as standard with sports suspension that includes a 10-millimetre drop in ride height. The additional 40 millimetres of track width compared to the BMW i3 is given added impact by the black wheel arch borders. The new BMW i3s is available with exclusive 20-inch light-alloy wheels in double-spoke design that are 20 millimetres wider than the previously available versions. They can be ordered in the Bicolour and Jet Black colour variants.


The carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) passenger cell has a wonderfully spacious feel about it and is dominated by a sense of lightness. The design principle of the two four-seater models means there is no need for either fixed B-pillars or a transmission tunnel.

WHAT DO YOU GET: The i3 has all the premium compact basics covered: air conditioning, power steering, parking sensors, electric windows and smartphone integration. Naturally, there’s a host of personalisation options available.

Both come with an updated version of the iDrive operating system, which provides an intuitive interface for controlling numerous vehicle, infotainment, communications and navigation functions. In vehicles equipped with the Navigation system Professional, the Control Display has a diagonal of 10.25 inches and an increased resolution of 1,440 × 540 pixels.


It looks like a two-door car. But it isn’t. BMW has cunningly concealed the rear doors in the bodywork. They open like a barn door from the centre outwards and, as there’s no central pillar getting into the back should be a breeze.

The new BMW i3 and new BMW i3s come equipped with all-LED headlights as standard, which employ LED bulb units for dipped beam and high beam as well as the daytime running lights. The new turn signal indicators also feature LED technology and are integrated into the front apron in the form of horizontal strips. This means that LEDs are now used for all lighting functions at the front of the vehicle too, as was already the case with the glass-covered rear light assemblies.


The range-to-empty figure on the batteries depends on lots of variables (how cold it is, how you use the air con and how much you lay on the accelerator) but the i3 should be good for a genuine 140 miles-plus before you need a plug-in. The range-extender petrol engine drives a generator that produces power as required while driving to maintain a constant level of charge in the high-voltage battery. This extends the car’s overall range in everyday use by 93 miles, increasing it from around 112 miles to a maximum of 205 miles.


Combining the latest technological innovations with an evolutionary development of the car’s design and the expansion of the model range has provided additional impetus for BMW’s now familiar take on premium electric mobility. If you want to know more visit: Cooper BMW Malton, on York Road, for a closer look.


Engine: battery electric

Power: 170/183 bhp


Top speed: 93 mph

0-62mph: 7.3 seconds

Fuel cons: n/a