The so-called i4 breaks cover in LA as the BMW i3 Concept Coupe. It’s not surprising that BMW will spin off a new concept on the i3. The use of CFRP for the passenger cell, especially BMW’s use of Resin Transfer Molding (which speeds up the build of carbon fiber chassis components) and its use of plastic non-load-bearing exterior panels, allows for the creation of more niche vehicles. It is the non-structural nature of the plastic skin that provides the ‘flexibility’ to customize a set of exterior panels quickly.
The i3 Concept Coupe will shares its drivetrain (eDrive) module with the i3. After all it uses the same electric motor and battery pack as the current pre-production i3. And because of that it will share the same wheelbase as the i3 it’s derived from. It’s the passenger cell (or Life module, in BMWspeak) that will be modified. While retaining the existing drivetrain, the i3 Concept Coupe will look fairly different, sportier if you will. The i cars signature profile, ‘streamflow’ is highlighted on the i3 Concept Coupe as is BMW’s love of the color orange. The concept is painted in ‘Solar Orange Metallic’, is that possibly a subtle nod to the vehicle’s ‘green credentials’?
The interior is in keeping with the sustainable theme. The door cards are assembled in part out of ‘kenaf’ fiber, also known as hemp (and no, I’m not going to do any Birkenstock lifestyle jokes at this point). Along with some clever dash displays, which distribute information between them, the nod to the next gen car buyer is its fully networked integration. The networking tackles recharging, energy usage, and GPS functionality and integrates the car with specific recharging infrastructure, GPS, and urban transportation data feeds. It is this integration which will help maximize the vehicle’s performance. The ability of the car to connect to the virtual world in ways that previously were unheard will be differentiators for BMW. When even Kias have keyless remote entry, on-board GPS, and push button start, it becomes harder to sort out the true premium from the ‘throw some gadgets at it’ approach.
The concept i3 shows how BMW can produce premium vehicles that should retain the BMW driving character while providing a level of sustainability that was unthinkable not that long ago. We look forward to sampling the i lineup in the real world.