The winds of change are blowing and whilst we may be a bit far from autonomous cars, pure electric cars are certainly upon us. Recently we tested the updated BMW i3 and whilst it retains pole position on luxury electric car sales, it is about to be given a run for its money by the likes of Jaguar I-Pace and Mercedes-Benz EQC. Both the I-Pace and EQC have a range of over 400 km. Things may not be as easy for the latter as the BMW i3 already has a bit of a following in South Africa.
The exterior updates of the refreshed BMW i3 are hard to spot on an untrained eye and unfortunately that is most of us when it comes to the i3, as it is a vehicle that we don’t see every day. Nonetheless, BMW has made updates to the front bumpers and the back. LED lights are now offered as standard which integrate LED bulb units for dipped beam and high beam as well as the daytime running lights.
The interior has not changed much. The BMW i3 is offered with three equipment lines namely Loft, Lodge and Suite. BMW claims that over 80 percent of the surfaces visible to the passengers are made from recycled materials or renewable resources. The exposed materials got mixed reactions from my passengers. Some thought this was cool and some thought this made the car look “unfinished”. The interior retains its overall quality look with two screens, one acting as the odometer and the other as the infotainment screen. The i3 also gets an updated BMW iDrive system. The cabin is a nice place to be in. The suicide doors make accessing the back easy and add to your number of party tricks. There’s also ample space for four occupants. The panoramic roof also adds to the fun aided by the Harman Kardon sound system.
The BMW i3 is powered by lithium-ion high-voltage battery with a capacity of 94 ampere hours (Ah) or 33 kilowatt hours (kWh). This battery extends the range to more than 200 km. In fact, I saw 220 kms after a charge. Power is a respectable 125 kW and torque is at 250 Nm. The i3 will do 0-100 km/h in 7.3 seconds. Its top speed is limited to 150 km/h. A 28 kW two-cylinder range extender petrol engine is available as an option. The engine drives a generator that produces power as required while driving to maintain a constant level of charge in the high-voltage battery. This extends the car’s overall range in everyday use by 150 kilometres, increasing it from around 180 kilometres to a maximum of 330 kilometres.
The BMW i3 is easy to drive. Use the gear selector on the wheel and you are off to a quick start as there is no delay in the power unlike with turbo-charged engines. The ride is comfortable but can feel slightly detached at times as the car is quiet.
You will charge less depending on how you drive as the BMW i3 operates much like the infamous, “you are what you eat” saying. If you drive the car fast, you will deplete the batteries and see yourself charging often. This was my third time driving an electric car so I took it easy. I drove the car on Eco Pro Plus mode and mostly under 80 km/h. Eco Pro Plus is not the answer to all your problems as it makes the car less responsive so that you are not trigger happy and wasting power. I received the car with a range of just over 170 km and charged for less than 8 hours at home and after 7 days; I returned it with a range of 130 km although I drove over 200 km. This was by no means due to any special skill or extra slow driving but the car’s ability to harness energy from braking really helps with adding to the range. This works when you are coming to a stop or driving downhill. The car’s brakes start kicking in and you start converting the energy to power.
The ease of running an electric vehicle will no doubt depend on your location at the moment. I do not travel long kilometres to work and public charging points are not too far from my residence and work. I also have an option not drive on the highway which would impact on the use of power. A person who is far away from the public charging infrastructure and has to drive on highways may have a hard time adjusting to driving an all-electric vehicle.
Leave a comment