Written by: Calvin Chan
Photography by: Calvin Chan
The world of electric vehicles harbours between the fine line of technology and acceptance. In the back of our minds, we know that electric vehicles are the way of the future, but whether or not we are ready to accept that into our daily lives is a different story. To change from a gasoline-powered car to a fully electric one isn't easy, and undoubtedly comes with its own burdens.
Here in Toronto, we actually have the fewest number of electric vehicle charging stations when compared to Montreal and Vancouver, the latter of which has the most. And with skyrocketing fuel prices and raised subway fares, Canadians are looking for other methods of transportation that will keep their wallet nice and plump. Sustainability and saving the environment - it all sounds nice and dandy, but what incentives are really pushing buyers into the market for electric vehicles? It took seven years, but here is BMW's answer - the 2014 BMW i3.
Two weeks after the i3 hit the Canadian market it had sold 22 units. One of their first customers actually switched from a 2009 BMW M3 to the i3 - just goes to show you the promise of this vehicle and its potential buyers. But the question lingering in our minds is if it drives like a BMW? And though it is divided into its "i" sub-brand, does it adequately prove that it's worth the German moniker?
We were invited out to the BMW Canada Headquarters in Richmond Hill, Ontario to test out the i3 on urban city roads and highways. We hopped into the vehicle thinking it would be just another gimmick from Leipzig, doused in a vial of range anxiety. But after spending a few hours with the i3, I can safely say with confidence that the i3 has got to be one of the sleekest, roomiest, and most luxurious electric vehicles we've ever driven.
The i3 is produced in Leipzig, Germany, where the production process of the i3 is surprisingly shorter and more eco-friendly than its other BMW vehicle counterparts. It takes 50% less time to build an i3 than a 2014 BMW 328i.
25% of the i3 actually uses recyclable materials, fitting in with its ecological theme. It uses a variety of different eco-friendly materials and textures such as 100% certified eucalyptus wood interior trims. Now the interesting thing about eucalyptus wood is that it ages and changes colour over time, meaning no two i3 interiors will ever look the same. Even the key fob is made with castor oil. And though it looks chunky, it is actually very thin and light - you might even forget it's in your pocket.
Unlike other vehicles, the design of the BMW i3 started with the engineers rather than the designers, and they wanted the sturdiest but lightest material they could get their hands on. Hence, the production version of the i3 is made entirely from carbon fibre reinforced plastic, making it extremely light and rigid.
The question that is bound to be asked at every BMW dealership - how far can it go on a full charge? Well the simple answer to that is, it depends. BMW says that it can go 200km on a full charge on its most fuel-efficient drive setting, ECO PRO+. While it is quite a conservative number, they stated that most drivers will probably end up netting a range of 160km on a mix of city streets and highways.
BMW will also sell you a $4000 Range Extender that adds a fuel combustion engine to the i3's rear axle, so that when the juice is running out, the gasoline will kick in and act more like a generator to power the battery rather than separately powering the wheels. For that extra four grand, you bump up the range to a maximum of 300-340km. BMW predicts that 50% of buyers will opt for the Range Extender option, and for those who choose not to get it but feel like they might change their mind in the future, you're out of luck. You can't externally add the Range Extender after its built.
But think about it. Do you really need that extra 100km? 80% of Canadians commute less than 60km a day, so unless you're planning on road-tripping to Montreal or unable to find a charging station in your area, you might want to reconsider. Especially when its adding 120kg of weight and keep in mind, a fuel combustion engine means more maintenance.
And as with any electric car, there will always be an aura of range anxiety. Will my battery run out? Will I be stuck in the middle of the highway? Did I forget to charge my car? For these reasons alone, many will snatch the Range Extender without hesitation.
There are a fair share of public charging stations around downtown Toronto and in the GTA. Some are free, and some charge (no pun intended). Luckily, there is a locking mechanism for the plug, so that when you are charging in a public area - the mischievous ones can't pull it out and leave you with an empty battery. BMW has also partnered with Bosch to get charging stations installed in your home. They are also financeable through BMW.
We grabbed the keys to our test cars and made our way outside to ogle at the row of i3s charging at their respective stations. We spent a few minutes glancing and doing our 360 degree stare-downs, and in my opinion, I think they should have grabbed more input from the designers. The i3 isn't the prettiest electric vehicle on the market - the Chevrolet Volt and the Tesla have more sophisticated designs that don't scream out "I, Robot" like the i3 does, yet it still looks like a proper BMW. It's got the infamous kidney grilles, sharp headlights, and a front hood that will always be painted black no matter what hue you choose for your body colour.
Speaking of paint, all the paint choices for the i3 come standard and don't cost a premium penny. The only downside is that there are only six to choose from, and an unnecessary "frozen-blue" colour that accents the vehicle from the highlighted kidney grilles to the BMW badges. Our favourite paint option is the Arravani Grey. It makes the i3 look like a mean green electric-powered fighting machine, where as the Solar Orange makes the i3 look like it belongs with toddlers in a sandbox. Our test vehicle was fitted with Capparis White and looks striking! There are also two wheel options, 19s and 20s, which are insanely big for a car this size and make it look like an enlarged Segway.
Making our way into the i3 was smooth thanks to the suicide doors that eliminate the need for a B-pillar. Though the drawback to these fashionable doors is that if you are a kid sitting in the backseat, you're going to have to wait for daddy to come and open the door for you. There are no door handles for the rear doors, and you can't crawl into the backseats without having someone close the doors behind you either.
When you've figured out where you want to sit, you can enjoy the tasteful materials knit into the i3 interior. The black parts of the dashboard are made from a cannabis flower derivative, while eucalyptus wood and a cloth material cover the rest. Our test vehicle was fitted with the Lodge package, which gives the i3 a bright and open atmosphere. The steering wheel is wrapped in leather, while the two-tone seats are made from a wool and natural leather combination. It looks like a seat made from recycled newspaper, but it's sure damn comfy!
Absent are any analogue gauges. They are replaced by large iPad-size displays and control knobs that any BMW driver will feel familiar with. There are two screen sizes available for the infotainment display, a 10.2 inch and 7 inch.
Notably, there is an generous amount of headroom and leg space for my six-inch figure, something you wouldn't expect when peering at this car from the outside. Despite its compact look, the i3's storage space is actually quite similar to a BMW 3-series.
The i3's lithium-ion battery produces 170hp and 184 lb-ft of torque, and if you've ever driven an electric car you will be familiar with the instant bolt of torque when you mash the throttle. The battery is placed right at the bottom of the vehicle for a lower center of gravity, making this rear-wheel drive i3 feel like a proper BMW. It has great handling and smooth steering that gives just the right amount of feedback.
One of the first things we noticed when driving the i3 was the braking. With most cars, letting go of the throttle lets your car roll and slowly transition to a slower speed, and eventually to a halt. With the i3 however, the second you let go of the gas pedal you'll feel an instant forward jerk as the car aggressively slows down. We barely even needed to use the brake pedal, as letting go of the gas was about as equivalent to a light press on the brakes. The braking also serves as a regenerative option to generate some juice back into the battery.
The choppiness takes some fiddling around with to master, but before you know it you will be cruising smoothly down the 404 with no emissions coming out of your pipes - nevermind it doesn't even have an exhaust. Note that you cannot adjust how aggressive the regenerative braking is unlike the Tesla.
The 2014 BMW i3 starts at a steep $44,950, but comes well equipped with many standard options that you won't find in other premium vehicles - navigation, heated front seats, LED headlights, and Sirius XM satellite radio. There are also three packages you can choose from, dubbed "Interior Worlds" that change up the interior - Loft, Lodge, and Suite, the latter of which is a $4600 premium that wraps the interior in full leather. There is also a technology package for $2500 that includes a premium Harmon Kardon speaker system, Driving Assistant Plus, Internet, Advanced Real Time Traffic, and Bluetooth connectivity.
Don't forget, depending on where you live there are also government rebates that act as incentives for consumers to buy electric vehicles. These rebates can range from $2000 to $8000.
The i3 is a triumph of what can be done in our current technological age. We aren't there just yet, but BMW has reached quite a milestone with this emission-free city car. Don't forget about the i8 as well. We were hesitant to return the keys back to BMW. We would love to take the i3 for a long-term test to truly test out its range capabilities and the effect of a Canadian winter on its battery life. Though, it is hard not to be pleased with the i3. It's got the right materials, the right taste and the right price. It's just going to take that extra motivational push to make the move, and shift from simplicity to electricity.
型号 Model: 2014 BMW i3
顏色 Paint Type: Capparis White
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $44,950
試車售價 Price as Tested: $53,868
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2570
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 3999 / 2039 / 1578
車重 Weight (lb): 2634
引擎 Engine: 125 kW Electric Motor
最大馬力 Horsepower-HP: 170
最高扭力 Torque-LB-FT: 184
波箱 Transmission: Single speed automatic
擺佈 Drive Configuration: Rear-wheel drive
Range - Comfort / EcoPro / EcoPro+ (km): 160 / 180 / 200 (300-340 with REx)
輪胎尺碼 Tires: 155/70 R19