The BMW i3 is a B-class, high-roof hatchback manufactured and marketed by BMW with an electric powertrain using rear wheel drive via a single-speed transmission and an underfloor Li-ion battery pack and an optional range-extending gasoline engine. The i3 was BMWs first mass-produced zero emissions vehicle and was launched as part of BMWs electric vehicle BMW i sub-brand.
Styled by Richard Kim, the i3 uses a single five-door configuration with bodywork consisting of a passenger module of high strength, ultra-lightweight CFRP carbon fiber reinforced plastic glued to a lower aluminium module holding the chassis, battery, drive system and powertrain. The bodywork features two smaller clamshell rear-hinged rear doors. The i3 debuted as a concept at the 2011 International Motor Show Germany, and production began in July 2013 in Leipzig, Germany.
The i3 ranked third among all-electric cars sold worldwide from 2014 to 2016. Global sales since inception totaled more than 133.000 units through the end of 2018. The U.S. is its best-selling market with over 37.000 units sold through 2018.
The BMW i3 has 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. The i3 received an iF Product Design Gold Award, and won both UK Car of the Year 2014 and Best Supermini of 2014 in the first UK Car of the Year Awards.
It is reported that BMW has no plan for an i3 successor, as the company plans electrification of more models.
In February 2011, BMW debuted its sub-brand, BMW i, to market the vehicles produced under Project i. BMW i vehicles were to be sold separately from BMW or Mini. The first two production models are the all-electric BMW i3, formerly called the Mega City Vehicle MCV, and a plug-in hybrid called BMW i8, which is the production version of the Vision Efficient Dynamics concept unveiled at the 2009 International Motor Show Germany and has an all-electric range of 50 kilometres 31 mi. Production of both plug-in electric cars was scheduled to start in Leipzig in 2013.
The i3 concept car was unveiled at the 2011 International Motor Show Germany. BMW showcased a BMW i3 prototype during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, and the production version was unveiled in July 2013.
BMW unveiled the i3 Concept Coupe study at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show. The carmaker developed the concept car to demonstrate the potential for extending the model range. The three-door hatchback coupe, like the five-door i3 electric hatchback sedan, is propelled by an electric motor developed by the BMW Group, with a maximum output of 125 kW 168 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 cars range to 320 km 200 mi.
2. Design and technology
The i3 was the first mass production car with most of its internal structure and body made of carbon-fiber reinforced plastic CFRP. BMW took advantage of the absence of a forward internal combustion engine, giving the i3 a "clean sheet design" with a sports-like appearance. The i3 has door panels made of hemp, which mixed with plastic helps lower the weight of each panel by about 10%. Hemp fibers, left exposed, also form a design element of the cars interior and contribute to sustainability. Further environmental consciousness is reflected in the optional seat leather, which is tanned with olive-leaf extract and the dashboard trim, which is made from environmentally refined wood from certified cultivation in Europe. By November 2010, BMW had demonstrated the passenger compartments light weight, and the automakers chief executive said they had already decided on the basic design of the car and that road-testing prototypes began soon after.
The i3 includes four doors and seating for four occupants with rear suicide doors. The i3 uses a newly developed powertrain consisting of a 130-kilowatt 170 hp electric motor running on lithium-ion batteries and driving the rear axle. BMW aimed 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 ActiveEs 30 kWh.
The BMW i3 has two pedals like all cars with automatic transmission. The accelerator pedal acts as both accelerator and engine brake. When the driver releases the pedal, the vehicles 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 has 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. BMW also expected the i3 to use the same type of battery and powertrain that is being tested in the BMW ActiveE trials.
The prototype presented at the 2011 International Motor Show Germany 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 62 mph in less than 8 seconds. The BMW i3 has 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.
BMW designed the i3 eDrive powertrain based on the premise that the battery would need to be recharged only 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.
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.
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.
2.1. Design and technology Charging and connectivity
The i3 allows the owner to charge the battery from a conventional socket. The BMW i3 has a number of charging functions. With the original 60Ah battery, AC fast charging can take less than 3 hours with the use of the BMW i Wallbox Pure or any 3rd party charging equipment EVSE supporting 32A, 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 to charge the 60Ah version from 0% to 80%. Later 94Ah and 120Ah models take proportionally longer. In the US, it can also be charged from any public charging station with an SAE J1772 connector. In 2016, BMW and the PGE utility in California expanded an experiment of delaying charge-up during peak demand and compensating i3 owners for the delay.
BMW claims that the i3 is the first fully online all-electric vehicle, but the Tesla Model S has had full 3G Internet connectivity since 2012.
2.2. Design and technology Operating modes
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 between 130 to 160 km 80 to 100 mi in everyday driving conditions, while the i3 REx delivers between 260 to 290 km 160 to 180 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. The i3s, introduced for the 2018 model year, adds a SPORT drive mode.
2.3. Design and technology Range extender option
An optional petrol/gasoline range extender engine is marketed as REx and is powered by the same Kymco built 647 cc inline two-cylinder engine used in the BMW C650 GT maxi-scooter. The system is intended as an emergency backup to extend range to the next recharging location, and not for long-distance travel. The 647 cc engine as fitted in the i3 REx is derated compared to the engine of the same displacement in the C650 GT; the REx engine develops 34 hp; 34 PS 25 kW and 41 lb⋅ft; 5.6 kg⋅m 55 N⋅m at 4.300 RPM, achieving compliance with Euro-6 emissions standards compared to the 59 hp; 60 PS 44 kW at 7.500 RPM and 49 lb⋅ft; 6.7 kg⋅m 66 N⋅m at 6.000 RPM for the engine in the C650 GT, which complies with the less restrictive Euro-4 emissions.
The REx engine operates when battery capacity drops to a pre-specified level, generating electricity to extend the range to about 320 km 200 mi for the European version.
European models have a 9 litres fuel tank while American models have the same tank though software-limited to a capacity of 7.2 litres. Under EPA five-cycle testing, the i3 REx has a total range of 240 km 150 mi.
The vehicles official range is 130 to 160 km 80 to 100 mi for the 60 Ah battery option under the New European Driving Cycle NEDC, and up to 200 km 120 mi in the most efficient driving mode. Under the United States Environmental Protection Agency EPA cycle the official range is 130 km 81 mi with combined fuel economy of 124 miles per gallon gasoline equivalent - MPGe - 1.90 L/100 km; 149 mpg imp.
In July 2016, BMW released the 2017 model year MY BMW i3 94 Ah with an improved 33 kWh battery pack with 50% more capacity than the previous model resulting in an increase of its range to 183 km 114 mi under the EPA cycle, and 300 km 190 mi under the NEDC test. The Range Extender REx variant also has the same higher capacity battery as the all-electric model, with a corresponding all-electric range increase to 156 km 97 mi under EPA testing cycle, for a total range of 290 km 180 mi.
2.4. Design and technology Californias classification
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 is the first car ever 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, and delivers a minimum 75 mi 121 km electric range.
CARB classified the i3 with the REx option as a "Transitional Zero Emission Vehicle" TZEV, the same classification as other plug-in hybrids such as the Chevrolet Volt and the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid. This classification made the i3 REx eligible for Californias green sticker that identifies the vehicles allowed to be operated by a single occupant in Californias high-occupancy vehicle lanes HOV, or carpool or diamond lanes, but not for the white sticker reserved for pure electric cars, such as the BMW i3 without REx. In addition, CARB certification of the i3 REx as BEVx allows the i3 with range extender to be eligible for a US$2.500 Clean Vehicle Rebate, the same amount eligible pure electric cars are entitled to. Other plug-in hybrids are eligible for only a US$1.500 purchase rebate.
The US configuration of the i3 imposes software restrictions on the car that do not apply to other territories. This prompted an owners lawsuit in 2016.
2.5. Design and technology Fuel economy and range
Under the New European Driving Cycle NEDC, the range of the 60Ah model is 190 km 120 mi. BMW estimates the energy consumption is 0.21 kWh/mile in everyday driving. The model with the range extender option has an official NEDC total range of 257 to 299 km 160 to 186 mi. From 2016, the range of the 94Ah model is up to 300 km 190 mi.
Under its five-cycle testing, the United States Environmental Protection Agency EPA rated the 2014 through 2016 model year all-electric BMW i3 60 A h energy consumption at 27 kWh/100 mi 16.9 kWh/100 km with a combined fuel economy at 124 miles per gallon gasoline equivalent – MPGe – 1.90 L/100 km; 149 mpg imp with an all-electric range of 130 km 81 mi. With these ratings the all-electric BMW i3 was the most fuel efficient EPA-certified vehicle sold in the United States of all years regardless of fuel type until November 2016, when it was surpassed by the Hyundai Ioniq Electric, rated at 136 MPGe 25 kWh/100 mi. The range-extended model has lower ratings than the all-electric i3 due to the extra weight of the twin-cylinder gasoline engine used in the i3 REx. Nevertheless, the i3 REx in 2014 replaced the Chevrolet Volt as the most efficient EPA-certified current year vehicle with a gasoline engine.
The BMW i3 with the 94 A h battery has a range of 114 mi 183 km, an increase of 33 mi 53 km over the 60 A h variant. The i3 94 A h combined fuel economy rating is 118 MPG-e, down from 124 MPG-e for the model with the 60 A h battery. The 2017 BMW i3 REx with the larger 94 A h battery has an EPA-rated range of 97 mi 156 km, and combined fuel economy rating is 111 MPG-e. The range using the gasoline-powered engine increased to 83 mi 134 km from 78 mi 126 km in the previous versions. The battery rating was again increased in 2018 to 120 A-h, which results in a total capacity of 42.2kWh. The 2019 BMW i3 REx with 120 A h battery has an EPA-rated battery-only range of 126 mi 203 km, a combined gas and electric range of 200 miles 320 km miles, and a combined fuel economy rating of 100 MPG-e.
The following are the EPA ratings for both all-electric variants and the range-extended models.
2.6. Design and technology Safety
The European New Car Assessment Programme Euro NCAP awarded the i3 a four-star car safety rating, resulting in the following ratings for each criterion:
The BMW i3s 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.
2.7. Design and technology Additional mobility
BMW i introduced the BMW i Flexible Mobility Program for trips where the range of a BMW i3 would not be enough to allow customers to cover longer distances, such as providing a conventional BMW vehicle for a specified number of days per year. The program started in October 2014 in the US and individual dealers can choose whether to participate in this program. 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.
2.8. Design and technology 2017 model
In May 2016, BMW announced that the 2017 model year MY BMW i3 will have a 33 kWh battery, up from 22 kWh in the previous model, allowing increased range. The battery pack capacity was increased by more than 50% without changes in exterior dimensions. BMW and Samsung SDI optimized the cell-internal packages with more electrolyte and adapted the active material, resulting in higher energy density of the lithium ion cells that increased battery capacity to 94 A h and overall battery energy to 33 kWh of which 27.2 kWh can be effectively used. The previous battery capacity was 60 Ah and produced 22 kWh gross with a net capacity of 19 kWh. The improved battery has an upgraded electronics package that has new software mapping for the battery cooling system and the electric motor. The 94 A h battery pack fits both the all-electric i3 and the i3 with the range extender.
The Range Extender REx variant features the same battery as the all-electric model. The 2017 REx model offers additional range in the American market thanks to a fuel tank that is 25% larger than the previous model with capacity for 2.4 US gal 9.1 l; 2.0 imp gal. This is actually the same tank the i3 has always been manufactured with and used outside the U.S., but BMW had locked out the tanks last half-gallon of capacity in the American market to meet Californias ZEV requirements for vehicles with range extender, as the car had more gasoline-powered range than all-electric range, which would affect its status as a zero-emissions vehicle ZEV in California. Since the 2017 model years delivers an increased all-electric range that now exceeds its gas-powered range, BMW was able to unlock the full tank without affecting its ZEV status.
The 2017 model year i3 was released in the United States and Europe in July 2016. According to BMW, as of 10 August 2016, orders for the larger battery i3 exceeded 7.000 units, with a total of 2.358 i3s delivered worldwide in July 2016, up 33.7% year-on-year. Sales also surged in the U.S. with 1.479 units sold in July 2016, up 58.2% from July 2015, and 143.3% from June 2016. Both variants with the improved battery were scheduled to be available in the UK, Germany and France starting in July 2016. Owners of previous i3 models in selected markets have the option to retrofit their vehicles with the improved battery. BMW plans to use the used 22 kWh batteries in the manufacturing of stationary power storage units. The battery retrofit option is not available in the U.S.
2.9. Design and technology 2018 model and i3s
In 2017, BMW announced the addition of the i3s to its lineup beginning with the 2018 model year. The i3s features a lowered sport suspension, wider wheels and tires, faster acceleration, and a SPORT drive mode. The i3s, like the i3, is offered with optional Range Extender.
2.10. Design and technology 2019 model
In September 2018, BMW announced a larger 42.2 kWh 120 Ah battery for the i3. Minor alterations to the i3 included new color options and adaptive headlights. Early indications are that the REX model will not go on sale in the UK nor in Sweden.
BMW has implemented efficient manufacturing processes and is using recycled materials to lessen the i3s environmental impact.
BMW is manufacturing carbon strands that form the basis of the i34s 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. 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.
In November 2010, the Leipzig plant was inaugurated, with an investment totaling €400 million euros US$561 million through 2013. The plant is located at BMWs complex that already produces variants of the 1 Series model. A concept version of the BMW i3 Coupe reflecting the current status of ongoing development was presented at the March 2013 Geneva Motor Show. The production vehicle was officially unveiled simultaneously in New York, London and Beijing on 29 July 2013. 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 29 September.
As of February 2014, BMW was producing an average of 70 cars a day, about half the planned production, with lower production due to a high defect rate in the carbon parts. A subsequent investment of about €100 million in the production of carbon parts was made to solve the supply problems. According to BMW, there were 11.000 orders at the time, including 1.200 from U.S. customers. As a result of the high demand and the slow production rate, delivery waiting time extended to September 2014.
4. Marketing and sales
Production began in September 2013, and the first i3 deliveries to retail customers in Europe took place at an official market launch ceremony held in Munich on 15 November 2013. The first delivery to a retail customer in the U.S. took place in May 2014. At its market launch, pricing in the United States started at US$42.275 before any government incentives, and the range extender option costs an additional US$3.850. Prices in Germany started from €34.950 US$46.400. Pricing in the UK started at GB£30.680 US$47.195 before the applicable government grant.
As of May 2016, the BMW i3 was available in 50 countries. After its release BMW, like many other plug-in electric carmakers, faced weak reception of its electric car lineup. BMW planned to sell at least 30.000 units from 2014. Global sales passed the 10.000 unit mark in September 2014, 25.000 units in May 2015, and the 50.000 unit milestone was achieve in July 2016. As of December 2016, with more than 65.000 units sold since its inception, the i3 ranked as the worlds third best selling all-electric car in history after the Nissan Leaf and the Tesla Model S. The i3 ranked third by sales among all-electric cars sold worldwide for three years in a row, from 2014 to 2016. As of December 2016, the i3 ranked as the worlds seventh top selling plug-in electric car in history.
A total of 1.477 were registered in 2013 in Europe, 16.052 units were sold worldwide in 2014, and global sales totaled 24.057 units in 2015. About 25.500 units were delivered worldwide in 2016, up 6% from 2015, and 31.482 in 2017. In October 2017 the BMW Group reported that the 100.000th BMW i3 had been built. Global sales totaled 34.829 units, up 10.6% from 2017, and cumulative sales since inception totaled 133.397 units delivered through December 2018.
As of December 2017, the United States listed as the i3 top selling country market with 31.017 units delivered since its inception, followed by Norway with 13.483 new units registered, and Germany with 12.245 units.
The Norwegian market has the worlds highest i3 penetration per capita. In November 2016, the BMW i3 topped new passenger car sales in Norway. As of November 2016, Norway listed as the worlds second largest market for the BMW i3, accounting for more than 13% of total i3 production since inception. The i3 was the best selling electric car in Germany since it was launched in November 2013 through November 2015, and also at that time, ranked as the third best selling all-electric car in the United States.
4.1. Marketing and sales Global sales
The following table presents annual retail sales or registrations of the i3 top selling national markets through December 2018 for both variants of the BMW i3, except when noted.
The BMW i3 won the Geneva Auto Show Car Design of the Year award for 2013 in the production category; an iF Product Design Gold Award for "the incorporation of sustainability in all facets of the interieur and exterieur design".; the 2014 World Green Car of the Year; the 2014 World Car Design of the Year., UK Car of the Year 2014, UK Best Super-mini of 2014 and Green Car Journals 2015 Green Car of the Year Award.
In Australia, the BMW i3 received the 2014 Wheels Car of the Year by Wheels Magazine. In South Africa the i3 received "Design of the Year" and "Game Changer of the Year" in 2016 by the automotive website cars.co.za.
At the 2017 New York International Auto Show the 94 Ah i3 was named the inaugural winner of the "World Urban Car of the Year".