BMW i3

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BMW i3
BMW i3
Manufacturer BMW
Also called BMW Mega City Vehicle
Production 2013–present
Model years 2014–present
Assembly Leipzig, Germany
Designer Richard Kim[1][2]
Body and chassis
Class City car
Body style 5-door hatchback
Layout Rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive
Engine 25 kW 647 cc, two-cylinder generator, with a 9-liter fuel tank (optional)
Electric motor 130 kW (170 hp)[3]
Transmission Single speed with fixed ratio[4]
Battery 22 kWh lithium-ion battery[5] (18.8 kWh useable)[6]
Range 130 to 160 km (80 to 100 mi)
240 to 300 km (150 to 190 mi) (with range extender)[4]
Plug-in charging 7.4 kW on-board charger on IEC Combo AC, optional Combo DC
Wheelbase 2,570 mm (101 in)[4]
Length 3,999 mm (157.4 in)[4]
Width 1,775 mm (69.9 in)[4]
Height 1,578 mm (62.1 in)[4]
Curb weight 1,195 kg (2,635 lb)[4]
1,315 kg (2,899 lb) (with range extender)[4]

The BMW i3, previously Mega City Vehicle (MCV), is a five-door urban electric car developed by the German manufacturer BMW. The i3 is part of BMW's "Project i" and is being launched as a new brand, BMW i.[5][7][8][9][10]

The i3 is BMW's first zero emissions mass-produced vehicle due to its electric powertrain, and BMW is the first company to launch a volume production vehicle on the market featuring carbon-fiber reinforced plastic to improve the vehicle's energy consumption.[11] Under the New European Driving Cycle the official range is 130 to 160 km (80 to 100 mi), and up to 200 km (120 mi) in the most efficient driving mode.[4] BMW is offering a range extender (“REx”) option powered by a 647 cc two-cylinder gasoline engine with a 9 L (2.0 imp gal; 2.4 US gal) fuel tank that engages when the battery level drops to a pre-specified point, acting purely as a generator to produce electricity to extend the range to about 240 to 300 km (150 to 190 mi).[5][4][12]

Mass production of the i3 began in September 2013 and retail deliveries started in Europe in November 2013.[13][14] The i3 concept car was unveiled at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show.[5][15] BMW showcased a BMW i3 prototype during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London,[16] and the production version was unveiled in July 2013.[17] Pricing in the United States will start at US$42,275 before any government incentives, and the range extender option will cost an additional US$3,850. Prices in Germany start from €34,950 (US$46,400).[7][17] Pricing in the UK starts at GB£30,680 (US$47,195) before the applicable government grant.[18]

Among other awards and recognition, the BMW i3 won two World Car of the Year Awards selected as 2014 World Green Car of the Year and also as 2014 World Car Design of the Year. Also won the an iF Product Design Gold Award, and in the first UK Car of the Year Awards, the i3 won in two categories, UK Car of the Year 2014 and Best Super-mini of 2014.

Project i[edit]

BMW's "Project i" is a program aimed to develop a lightweight eco-friendly urban electric car designed to address the mobility and sustainability needs for people who live in megacities.[9][19] According to BMW, "Project i" has three phases. The Mini E demonstration was the first phase of this project, and it was followed by a similar field testing that began in January 2012 with the BMW ActiveE all-electric vehicle. The ActiveE is based on the BMW 1 Series Coupe and is built based on the lessons learned from the Mini E trial. The last phase of "Project i" is the development of the i3 and i8 electric cars.[8][9][20]

First sketch of the Mega City Vehicle (MCV).

The automaker expects that its first series production all-electric drive vehicle will contribute to achieve an overall fleet fuel economy average of 6.63 L/100 km (35.5 mpg) by 2016, as mandated by the U.S. federal regulations. BMW expects high volume sales of the i3 to allow the company to continue selling in the U.S. several of its high-performance cars which have a low fuel economy.[8]

In February 2011 BMW announced a new sub-brand, BMW i, for the commercialization of the vehicles produced under Project i, and its vehicles are to be sold separately from BMW or Mini. The first two production models are the battery electric Mega City Vehicle, now called BMW i3, and a plug-in hybrid called BMW i8, which is the production version of the Vision Efficient Dynamics concept unveiled at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show and has an all-electric range of 50 kilometres (31 mi). Production of both plug-in electric cars is scheduled to start in Leipzig in 2013.[10][21]

The BMW i3 Concept Coupé exhibited at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show.

BMW unveiled the i3 Concept Coupé study at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show. The carmaker developed the concept car to demonstrate the potential for conceivably extending the model range. The three-door coupe, like the five-door i3 electric sedan, is propelled by an electric motor developed by the BMW Group, with a maximum output of 125 kW/170 hp and peak torque of 250 N·m (184 lb-ft). Power delivery to the rear wheels is via a single-speed transmission. The li-ion battery pack is placed under the floor and can deliver an all-electric range of 160 km (99 mi), but a gasoline engine referred to as "REx", can be added to extend the car's range to 320 km (200 mi).[22][23]

Design and technology[edit]

The BMW ActiveE began field testing in early 2012 with several of the same electronic components proposed to be used in the BMW i3.

BMW explained that taking advantage of the fact that the vehicle does not need an internal combustion engine up front, the i3 is being designed from the ground up, but avoiding to look podlike, with a dynamic sweep of the roof and the beltine to make it look sportier than most electrics.[19] In order to achieve a lightweight car, the i3 will be the first mass production car to have most of its internal structure and body being made of carbon-fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP).[11][16][19] As of November 2010, BMW has only demonstrated the light weight of the passenger compartment, and the automaker's Chief Executive said they have already decided on the basic design of the car and that road-testing prototypes began soon after.[24]

The i3 features four doors and seating for four occupants with dimensions being slightly larger than the Mini Cooper and the BMW 1 Series, but smaller than the BMW 3 Series. The i3 is powered by a newly developed powertrain consisting of a 130-kilowatt (170 hp) electric motor running on lithium-ion batteries and driving the rear axle.[16] BMW is aiming to achieve a range of 160 km (100 mi), the same range that was expected for the BMW ActiveE, but in order to reduce weight with a battery capacity of 16 kWh instead of the ActiveE's 30 kWh.[8]

BMW i3 concept car exhibited at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show

The BMW i3 has two pedals like all automatic transmissions cars. The acceleration pedal acts as both accelerator and engine brake. When the driver releases the pedal, the vehicle's kinetic energy is regenerated by the vehicle drivetrain to recharge the battery. This has the effect of slowing the car down. During the field testing of the Mini E, which features an accelerator that recharges the battery in this way, and consists of brakes that only apply to the rear wheels, BMW has learned that drivers tend to rely on the engine brake: around 75% of all deceleration maneuvers are initiated without the brake pedal in urban traffic areas.[8] BMW also expected the i3 to use the same type of battery and powertrain that is being tested in the BMW ActiveE trials.[9]

The prototype presented at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show had a 22 kWh (79 MJ) lithium-ion battery pack that is expected to deliver between 130 to 160 km (80 to 100 mi) and the battery was fully charged in about four hours with the 240-volt charging unit. The i3 was expected to go from 0 to 100 km/h (0 to 60 mph) in less than eight seconds.[5][15] The BMW i3 features a 130 kW (170 hp) electric motor mounted on the rear axle to drive the rear wheels and the top speed is limited to 150 km/h (93 mph).[3]

BMW designed the i3 eDrive powertrain based on the premise that the battery would only need to be recharged once every two to three days. The charging frequency was derived from field trial results taken from the BMW ActiveE and MINI E vehicles in Asia, Europe and the U.S., whereby the typical commuting use between the pilot users' homes and workplaces was calculated.[25]

In June 2012 an updated version of the BMW i3 concept car was unveiled at the opening of the first BMW i store, located on Park Lane in London, UK. The updated i3 concept consists of a new interior colour and materials concept. The seat covers combine responsibly sourced wool and leather naturally tanned with an olive oil leaf-based agent. The almost symmetrical curving dash is inlaid with treated eucalyptus wood that, according to BMW, is sourced from sustainably managed European forests.[26][27]

Information is provided to the driver through a 16.5 cm (6.5 in) freestanding instrument cluster and a 22.3 cm (8.8 in) central information display. The bench-derived front seats replace the center tunnel that bisected the cabin and a floor-mounted transmission, brake levers or center console are also absent.[26][27]

Charging and connectivity[edit]

BMW i3 charging
Main controls and digital screens of the BMW i3

The i3 allows the owner to charge the battery from a conventional socket. The BMW i3 has a number of charging functions. AC fast charging can take less than 3 hours with the use of the BMW i Wallbox Pure, when charging from 0 to 80%. The i3 also has a rapid charging option suitable for public DC charging stations and can take less than 30 minutes, when charging from 0 to 80%.[28]

BMW claims that the i3 is the first fully online all-electric vehicle,[29] however the Tesla Model S has had full 3G internet connectivity since 2012.[30]

In the US, it can also be charged from any public charging station with a SAE J1772 connector.[31]

Operating modes[edit]

The BMW i3 allows the driver to select the car energy consumption through three different drive modes: COMFORT, ECO PRO or ECO PRO+ mode. In the standard COMFORT mode the i3 delivers a range of 160 km (100 mi). The ECO PRO mode increases the driving range by around 12% through a different accelerator pedal mapping which uses less power. In ECO PRO+ mode, all settings are geared to achieving the maximum possible range, increasing the driving range by about 24% compared with COMFORT mode. In this mode the maximum speed of the BMW i3 is limited to 90 km/h (56 mph) and electrical devices such as the heating and air conditioning are switched to energy-saving mode.[32][33]

Range extender option[edit]

BMW is offering a gasoline range extender engine as an option.[16] The range extender is powered by the same 647 cc two-cylinder gasoline engine used in the BMW C650 GT motorcycle. The range extender engine only engages when the battery level drops to a pre-specified point, acting purely as a generator to produce electricity to extend the range to about 320 km (200 mi).[12] The i3 performance in range-extending mode may be more limited than when it is running on battery power, as BMW clarified that the range extender is designed not for long-distance travel but purely as an emergency backup to keep the electric system going until the next recharging location.[34]

The range-extender option of the BMW i3 was designed to meet the California Air Resources Board (CARB) regulation for an auxiliary power unit (APU) called REx. According to rules adopted in March 2012 by CARB, the 2014 BMW i3 with a REx unit fitted will be the first car to qualify as a range-extended battery-electric vehicle or "BEVx." CARB describes this type of electric vehicle as "a relatively high-electric range battery-electric vehicle (BEV) to which an APU is added." The unit, which maintains battery charge at about 30% after the pack has been depleted in normal use, is strictly limited in the additional range it can provide.[35] As of late March 2014, the i3 with the range extender option has not been certified by CARB. Only after it is certified the agency will evaluate its eligibility to participate in the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project.[36]


The European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) awarded the i3 a four-star car safety rating, resulting in the following ratings for each criteria:

Euro NCAP test results
BMW i3 (2013)[37]
Test Points %
Overall: 4 /5 stars
Adult occupant: 31 86%
Child occupant: 40 81%
Pedestrian: 21 57%
Safety assist: 5 55%

The BMW i3's overall ratings are lower than the other six best-selling plug-in electric vehicles, the Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid, Renault Zoe, Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi Outlander P-HEV, Chevrolet Volt and Opel Ampera, all of which were rated five stars.[38]

Additional mobility[edit]

BMW i is planning to offer additional mobility packages for trips where the range of an BMW i3 would not be enough to allow customers to cover longer distances, such as providing a conventional BMW vehicle on a given number of days per year.[25] BMW is also offering a roadside assistance program in areas of high sales. The assistance vehicle will provide a charge so the i3 can travel to the next charging station. In addition, the i3 digital display panel shows the location of nearby recharging stations to alleviate range anxiety.[39]


BMW i3 concept car cut-away showing the carbon fiber structure and the electric motor, exhibited at BMW i Park Lane showroom in London.

BMW is manufacturing carbon strands that form the basis of the i3's carbon-fiber reinforced plastic bodywork at a new US$100 million plant built in Moses Lake, Washington, using raw material shipped from Japan. This location was selected to take advantage of the abundant hydroelectric power available in this U.S. region because carbon-fiber production requires considerable energy and would otherwise emit much carbon dioxide. Electricity in this region also costs about one-seventh of what it costs in Germany, providing a financially beneficial reason for the Moses Lake location. The carbon fiber is then shipped to Landshut, Germany, where the carbon-fiber reinforced plastic parts are fabricated, and the vehicle assembly line is located in Leipzig.[8]

In November 2010, the Leipzig plant was inaugurated, with an investment in the production that amounts to €400 million euros (US$561 million) through 2013. The plant is located at BMW's complex that already produces variants of the 1 Series model.[24] A concept version of the BMW i3 Coupe reflecting the current status of ongoing development was presented at the March 2013 Geneva Motor Show.[25] The production vehicle was officially unveiled simultaneously in New York, London and Beijing on 29 July 2013.[17] Series production for retail customers began on 18 September 2013, and the first vehicle off the production line was handed over to German marathon runner Jan Fitschen. The car was used as the lead vehicle at the 2013 Berlin Marathon on September 29.[13][40]

As of February 2014, BMW was producing an average of 70 cars a day, about half the planned production. The lower production output is being caused by a high defect rate in the carbon parts. The company plans to invest about €100 million in the production of carbon parts in order to solve the supply problems. According to BMW, there were 11,000 orders globally as of January 2014, including 1,200 from U.S. customers. As a result of high demand and the slow production rate, delivery waiting time extends until September 2014.[41][42]


Production version of the BMW i3 at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show.

The first i3 deliveries to retail customers in Europe took place at an official market launch ceremony held in Munich on 15 November 2013.[43] As of mid January 2014, BMW reported that it had logged 11,000 formal orders worldwide for the i3.[44]


BMW plans to offer the BMW i3 in South Korea, China and Japan. Sales in Korean market are scheduled to begin in April 2014.[45] Deliveries in Australia are scheduled to begin by the end of 2014.[46]


Since July 2013 a total of 1,171 units have been registered in Europe through December 2013,[47] including about 400 press fleet vehicles and dealer demonstrators.[48]


Pricing in France starts at €34,990 before the applicable government incentive, and the range extender option costs an additional €4,710.[49] A total of 68 units were registered in the country during 2013.[50] Cumulative registrations totaled 96 units through February 2014.[50][51]


Prices in Germany start from €34,950[7] and deliveries to retail customers began in Munich on 15 November 2013.[43] As of February 2014, a total of 967 units have been registered in the country, of which, 559 were registered during 2013.[52][53]


Since October 2013 a total of 34 units were sold in Italy through December 2013.[54]


Prices in the Netherlands start at €35,500 and the range extender option costs an additional €4,490. Deliveries are scheduled to begin in November 2013.[55] A total of 252 units were registered in the country during 2013.[56] Cumulative sales totaled 339 i3s through February 2014.[56][57]


Deliveries of the BMW i3 in Norway began on 16 November 2013 at a price of 237,100 kroner, with a choice of three "trims" presented to consumers.[58] According to BMW, there are more than 2,000 orders in the country, and only 50 units were allocated for the Norwegian market in 2013; another 1,500 cars are planned for delivery in 2014, thus extending deliveries far into 2015.[59] Sales through December 2013 totaled 51 units.[60] Cumulative sales reached 361 units through February 2014.[60][61][62]

BMW i3 test drives in Birmingham, UK.

As of December 2013, a total of 27 units were sold in Spain since November 2013.[63]


A total of 11 units were sold through December 2013. Of these, 10 units sold with the range extender option, which in Sweden is classified as plug-in hybrid. The all-electric version is accounted separately.[64]

United Kingdom

The BMW i 3 was officially launched in the UK on 6 November 2013. The i3 is available in the UK with four different interiors: Standard, Loft, Lodge and Suite.[14] Pricing in the UK starts at GB£30,680 before the applicable government grant. Leasing for a 36-month contract starts at GB£369 per month including VAT, plus an initial payment of GB£2,995 including VAT.[18][65] Pricing of the BMW i3 with the range extender option starts at GB£33,830 before government incentives and leasing for the model with Suite interior is GB£480 per month including VAT.[14]

North America[edit]


The BMW i3 is expected to be available in Canada by mid 2014, starting at a price of CA$44,950 before any available government incentives. The optional range extender will cost an additional CA$4,000.[66][67]

United States
2014 i3 frontal view
2014 i3 rear view

Deliveries of the i3 are scheduled to begin in May 2014. However, during the first three months, U.S. bounded production will be restricted to a special "Launch Edition" i3, with the full option package and the Tera World interior. The only choices customers have are the exterior paint color, the 20″ Sport wheels, and the range extender. Production of normal custom ordered models is scheduled to begin until June. As thanks for their participation in the trial lease program, ActiveE drivers enjoy priority ordering and the first batch of i3s will be allocated to these customers with delivery scheduled for the end of April. ActiveE customers are allowed to order the i3 with any option they select and will receive the heated seats and DC quick charge options free of charge. Also, BMW created some unique features for the i3 cars of ActiveE drivers, such as embroidered front trunk liner and BMW i floor mats, and interior, exterior and door sill badging. BMW is calling these cars the “Electronaut Edition i3″ and they can only be purchased by ActiveE customers.[68] The American market launch will only include Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, San Diego, Austin and New York City, plus the suburban areas of New Jersey and Connecticut.[69][70] Pricing in the U.S. will start at US$42,275 before any applicable government incentives, and the range extender option will cost an additional US$3,850.[7][17]

The i3 will be available in three trim levels, Mega World, the standard model in the US, Giga World and the top-of-the-line Tera World. The base Mega World comes standard with 19-inch forged aluminum wheels, BMW Navigation, BMW ConnectedDrive with eCall, the BMW i Remote, an alarm, 7.4 kW on-board charger and LED headlights, DRLs and tail lights. The interior is donned in bright, lightweight Sensatec and sustainable cloth, which is made from recycled materials. It also features a leather trimmed steering wheel and grained dash trim. The next level Giga World has all the features of the Mega with the addition of Giga-specific 19-inch wheels and an interior wrapped in leather and wool cloth. A universal garage door opener is included for easy access to the i3's BMW i Charging Station. It also has Comfort Access, a sunroof, and satellite radio. The Tera World adds unique 19-inch wheels, luxury full leather, olive leaf-tanned interior with textile accents and contrasting stitching, and anthracite floors mats.[32]

Available for every trim is the technology and driving assist and the parking assist packages. The driving assist package includes the wide-screen Navigation Professional with advanced real-time traffic and the new touch pad, Traffic Jam Assist, BMW Assist with Enhanced Bluetooth and USB with BMW Apps, Online Information services, Deceleration Assistant, ACC Stop & Go, Speed Limit info, BMW ConnectedDrive services, Forward Collision Warning, Pedestrian Protection and City Collision Mitigation. The parking assist package includes a rear-view camera, Park Assistant, which helps take advantage of tight parallel parking opportunities, and Front Auto Park Distance Control.[32]


The BMW i3 was selected by the Green Car Journal as one the five finalists for the 2012 Green Car Vision Award.[71][72] In July 2013, the Wired and The Christian Science Monitor media sources published favorable reviews for the model.[73]

The BMW i3 won the Car Design of the Year award for 2013 in the production category at the 2014 Geneva Auto Show. The i3 was selected by a panel of senior design directors. The other runners up in the production category were the Jaguar F-Type Coupe and Porsche 918 Spyder.[74] The i3 also received an iF Product Design Gold Award for "the incorporation of sustainability in all facets of the interieur and exterieur design.”[75]

The BMW i3 was selected as finalist in three categories for the 2014 World Car of the Year Awards.[76][77] At the 2014 New York International Auto Show was announced as the winner of the 2014 World Green Car of the Year and also 2014 World Car Design of the Year.[78]

In the first UK Car of the Year Awards, the BMW i3 won in two categories, UK Car of the Year 2014 and Best Super-mini of 2014. The winners in each category were voted for by a panel of 27 motoring journalists in the UK.[79] The i3 was also a finalist of the 2014 European Car of the Year awards. It ended up voted in second place.[80]

See also[edit]


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