Not the first, but the best? BMW i3 launched

Yesterday – in the midst of some truly unbearable lifestyle-centered overstatement – BMW gave us the first official look at the i3 megacity car.

It’s taken five years and a supposed £1.5 billion in R&D to pull off a car – and a brand – like BMW i, but if we’re all looking back at the i3 in forty years in same way we currently look back at the Volkswagen Golf, BMW i will have been a masterstroke.

The i3 is BMW’s first real electric car (there have been others in the company’s history, but more experimental in nature). And although everyone already knew exactly what the car would look like, how far it will go and even how much it will cost (not that much, surprisingly), there was some genuine excitement in the air as the covers came off.

The excitement partly stemmed from the fact that this was the birth of a new brand – electric or not – with the weight of BMW’s £15.6 billion behind it. That the i3 is a zero emissions car assembled using energy from wind power alone is less obvious but no less impressive. And that the carbon fibre used extensively in the car - its entire monocoque - is fashioned solely using hydroelectric power just seals the deal. There’s a holistic quality behind BMW i that Renault’s Z.E. sub-brand, to perhaps unfairly single out one would-be rival, can’t hope to match.

Those who genuinely care for the environment have been left with very little choice; they can either walk or buy a new BMW i3.

In it’s favour the ZOE is roughly half the price of the i3, which starts at £25,680, including a £5,000 government grant, and comes loaded with charisma and verve. BMW ,however, will help soften the blow by offering a lease of the car with a deposit of £2,995 followed by thirty-six monthly payments of £369.

BMW wants to set the i3 apart from other EVs. It has focused the i3 on urban driving with much talk about future megacities. And athough a theoretical range of over 200 miles will be possible with the optional range-extender fitted (pushing carbon dioxide emissions to 13g/km), the pure electric i3’s range of 90 miles is just one reason why the car will thrive in cities.

BMW are pushing connectivity to the forefront with the i3. The car will not only have the ability to locate and reserve parking places but will also take into account different forms of urban transport when route-planning. Simply put, if the tube is going to get you your destination faster than the i3 will, the car will let you know. BMW refer to single transportation forms – a car, the metro, the bus etc. – as ‘transportation silos’. The i3 will be the first car to link them.

Performance is superb for a compact electric vehicle. 93mph flat-out is respectable but a 0-60mph time of 7.9 seconds puts the i3 within touching distance of most junior hot hatches. Instantaneous torque from it electric motor also gives it a better initial getaway than the most recent BMW M3.

The BMW i3 will sit at the top of the EV tree (Model S excluded) when it hits the road in Europe later this year. What it means for cars like the Nissan LEAF remains to be seen, but BMW i's investment in green manufacturing will likely encourage environmentalists to spend the extra money. The i3's avant-garde aesthetic mayt also be more of a draw to new buyers more effectively to electric cars than the LEAF's aged design.

Configure your own i3 here.

Motor: synchronous electric motor Power: 168bhp Torque: 184lb ft 0-60mph: 10.5 seconds Top speed: 93mph  Weight: 1,195kg Emissions: 0g/km CO2 Price: From £25,680

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