A 170-horsepower electric motor can be supplemented with a range-extending gasoline engine/generator.
Kudos to BMW’s engineering and design teams. Instead of wrapping the i3’s electric drive system within a conventional passenger car body, they chose a radically different approach that included an aluminum structure to house the suspension, powertrain and the 500-pound lithium-ion battery pack. The passenger space was then formed from carbon fiber and the body panels molded from plastic. The upright styling does help maximize interior space and makes the i3 ideal for scooting around town. Additionally, rear-hinged demi-doors open clamshell style (similar to the late Mazda RX-8 and Honda Element) for easy access. Keeping with a “green” theme, the seats are covered in mostly recycled and organic materials and the optional wood trim originates from sustainably managed eucalyptus forests in Germany. The i3’s electric motor sends 125 kilowatts, or 170 peak horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, to the rear wheels via a single-speed controller. That’s enough for zero-to-60-mph in a claimed 7.2 seconds and a top speed of 93 mph. In normal driving, the system provides an 80-100-mile range. That can be extended by up to 12 percent in ECO PRO mode or up to 24 percent in ECO PRO+ mode. An optional 650-c.c. two-cylinder gasoline engine/generator extends the range to about 185 miles. Recharging requires 20 hours using a 120-volt household current, or eight hours with BMW’s optional 240-volt home charge port. Every i3 includes a navigation system, climate control, backup warning and 19-inch wheels. Option packages add 20-inch wheels, premium leather heated seat covers, rearview camera (with park assist) and a Harmon-Kardon audio system.