It's a Guy Thing

BMW i3’s Battery Muscle

Beneath the quirks, this is still the best small electric car on sale

Spreading almost as quickly as the Corona Virus is the notion that your next new car purchase will be an electric car. Had you been allowed to enter the Geneva Motor Show, you would have done extremely well to spot a petrol or diesel engine in its rawest, un-assisted format and whether customers are willing to buy them might come down to a point where they have no other choice. The U.S market, alongside China, are leaders in EV adoption with juicy incentives phased in all the time. 

Still mourning the death of the BMW i8 (April 2020), BMW’s own i3 reminds us of the brilliance behind the technology, especially when paired with sustainable materials and quirky doors – the i8’s swing upwards while the i3 is equipped with suicide doors. These mavericks of the BMW i-range were perfect companions, with many of the opinion that no greater contemporary duo has existed in the last twenty years. So how will the new BMW i3 fare without its sportscar sidekick? EV evolution is unsurprisingly centered around maximizing battery performance and that’s fine because I think the i3’s vagaries of blue accents, thin wheels and double sunroof is perfectly Avant Garde in a flat sea of generic crossovers. The rear suicide doors are bittersweet; once over their wow factor the interlocking nature means they won’t open unless the front doors are opened first – undermining 5-door practicality with the daily usability of a coupe. There is no leather on the inside while the collection of inexpensive and abundantly available materials and fabrics prove that BMW’s overall mission with EVs is genuine right the way through. Pity that they lack the precision fitment of BMW’s traditional range. A floating architecture does create natural amounts of storage space while the car’s flat floor adds to the flowing volume.

Since launch the BMW’s i3 range has increased to 162 miles from the previous generation’s 125 miles. To be nerdy for a minute this is achieved by increasing cell capacity to 120 Ah and a gross energy content of 42.2 kWh for combined power consumption: 13.1 kWh/100 km; For context the first BMW i3 launched in 2013 was considered ground-breaking with figures of 60 Ah and 22.6. kWh. Charging the BMW i3 took us down two routes; firstly via a normal wall plug that requires 15 hours (and a long extension cable) to reach a full battery or at BMW’s showroom where the DC charger can perform 80 percent in 42 minutes, with the caveat that the few charging bays aren’t occupied when you arrive.

Even in the most refined petrol car there’s a bit of vibration. A clunk from the gear selector or a hum from the steering motor or aircon pump. Not so in the BMW i3, or any EV for that matter. Everything feels as though it’s swathed in sanitary wipes, which I’m sure you’ll appreciate is rather topical. With forceful regenerative braking the BMW i3 can be driven 90% of the time by one pedal with the powertrain being most effective in short accelerative bursts. The 167hp electric motor enables a 0-60mph time of 7.3 seconds. The range isn’t as mercurial as in earlier models, often matching the real-world distance, even with all comfort systems switched on. The only downside to the i3’s ride is that the narrow tires can suffer and crash on even surfaces. 

The BMW i3 has been the world’s best-selling EV ever since launch and we’re amazed that its competition hasn’t caught up – the VW ID3 could be the first serious challenger. The BMW i3 unequivocally answers the question that it’s possible to live with an EV, although ongoing research suggests that EVs aren’t as clean as they’re made out to be and it takes years for them to reach a carbon-neutral existence… Vijay Jugwanth