There is no better way to spend a Wednesday afternoon in NYC than getting to experience first hand the BMW i3 and i8 prior to their US debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
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The BMW i3, formerly known as the “Mega City” vehicle, is a four-passenger electric vehicle, same as the ActiveE we tested last week. The i3 will be the first “premium electric vehicle” to launch from BMW’s new i sub brand. The i3 uses an electric motor over the rear axle generating an output of 125 kW/170 hp and impressive torque of 250 Nm (184 lb-ft). BMW i3 Concept accelerates from 0 to 60 km/h (37 mph) in under four seconds and from still to 100 km/h (62 mph) in less than eight seconds. The electric vehicle has a driving range between 85 and 100 miles on a single charge.
Whereas the BMW i3 Concept always drives on electric power, the i8 Concept combines the advantages of two different drive systems – an electric motor and an internal combustion engine. As a plug-in hybrid, it offers the best of both worlds, combining maximum efficiency with maximum performance. A 0-100 km/h (62 mph) acceleration time comes under five seconds, with a combined fuel consumption in the European test cycle of less than 3 litres/100 km (approx. 94 mpg imp) and average real fuel consumption of between five and seven litres (40 – 56 mpg imp).
The secret is the intelligent configuration of the two drive units. In the BMW i8 Concept, the electric motor is not a secondary power source, but rather an equal partner of the internal combustion engine. This way the BMW i8 Concept achieves a new, ideal balance between the two drive units which results in an optimal combination of efficiency and performance.
We also learned a few new things at today’s event. That the i3 will be available in a purely electric vehicle and as Rich Steinberg; head of EV development confirmed, with a “range extending” generator or REx. The REx allows the electric driving range to be increased. REx, a small, very smooth-running and quiet petrol engine, drives a generator which maintains the battery charge level and therefore extends the range of the electric motor. The later will make a huge impact on those with range anxiety. It will also allow the i3 to be sold across a broader range of markets.
The second thing we learned is that the i8 looks amazing from any angle. We already know that the i8 will be the first of its kind when it comes to performance and efficiency, but staring at the i8 from any angle evokes emotion, normally reserved for cars wearing the prancing horse, or raging bull. And after listening to the head designer of the i3 and i8, Richard Kim, we now have a deeper sense of appreciation for the small details that went into the design. For example, the design team spend quite some time on things like the the exterior door handles that flows through the glass to become part of the arm rests inside the car.
BMW is also thinking beyond the vehicle. An additional range of mobility services can also be used independently of the cars. These will allow BMW i to offer bespoke mobility solutions representing a perfect combination of premium vehicles and premium services. The focus is on solutions which will improve usage of existing parking spaces as well as intelligent navigation systems with local information, intermodal route planning and premium car-sharing services.
In addition to service packages developed in-house, the BMW Group is pursuing cooperation with partner companies as well as strategic capital investments with providers of mobility services. BMWi Ventures was established with this purpose in mind. The company aims to expand the product portfolio of BMWi over the long term with stakes in highly innovative service providers, such as MyCityWay and ParkatmyHouse.
Mobility is a term that is constantly changing these days and BMW i has put forth two impressive cars to get us started. I am excited at what the future of BMW is looking like.