EUROPEAN luxury panache could be just the thing needed to kick-start Australia's electric vehicle market.
The BMW i3 officially went on sale this week, priced from $63,900 for the full electric powertrain which has a range of at least 160km. Expect up to 200km if you drive in Eco mode and use the radio and air con sparingly.
But it's the $69,900 range extender (REx) model, which looks identical but can travel up to 300km with the support of its scooter derived two-cylinder engine, that is expected to account for the majority of sales.
Australians have been slow to embrace electric cars, with the likes of the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV struggling to gain sales momentum Down Under.
Renault has recently upped the ante, with its Kangoo Maxi electric van being trialled by Australia Post in Melbourne and Sydney. The French brand also recently brought out its groovy Twizy quadricycle to showcase electric-powered technology.
This new BMW is another step in the right direction.
At just over $60,000 it is still expensive, but it's a price premium buyers are accustomed to with the propeller badge. And it's a whole lot less than the $300,000 BMW i8 hybrid supercar which will also hit our roads in the new year.
Recharging the i3's lithium-ion battery pack takes about 11 hours with your standard 10amp plug at a cost of about $4, but a $1750 BMW i Wallbox Pure option can nearly halve that time. There is also a $1000 DC fast charge option which can deliver about 80% of battery power within 30 minutes.
The four-door, four-seater is brimming with green appeal. Under the funky skin is lightweight carbon fibre reinforced plastic, interior trim derived from a cotton plant, while cabin and exterior finishes use 25% of recycled plastic - even the key fob is partly made of castor oil bean.
Boot space is 260 litres, and with the 50-50 split-fold seats flat that can expand to 1100 litres.
The BMW i3 is also no slouch in performance terms. It can achieve 0-100kmh in 7.2 seconds… which is quicker than many petrol and diesel powered cars.
Operationally the i3 is just like your conventional car, although it has a "single-pedal control system", which means as soon as the driver lifts off the accelerator, the system engages a speed-sensitive braking recuperation mode to regenerate energy and apply a controlled braking effect.
It also comes with a good features list, including climate control air con, cruise control with braking function, automatic parking, automatic windscreen wipers and lights, LED interior ambient lights, keyless start/stop, sat nav with 20GB hard drive, digital radio and a four-speaker DVD/CD stereo with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming.
Model: BMW i3.
Weight: 1195kg (1315kg REx).
Electric motor: Generates 125kW and a maximum torque of 250Nm from rest. Optional 650cc two-cylinder petrol range extender engine used solely for recharging batteries.
Power consumption: 0.13 kilowatt hours per kilometre.
Range: Up to 160km, REx up to 300km.
Fuel consumption: 0 litres/100km; 0.6L/100km (REx).
CO2: 0g/km; 13g/km (REx).
Performance: 0-100kmh in 7.2 seconds, 80-120kmh in 4.9 seconds; top speed 150kmh (limited, to maximise range).
Warranty: Three-year unlimited kilometres, battery has an eight-year 100,000km warranty.
Bottom line plus on-roads: i3 $63,900, i3 (REx) $69,900.
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