SPY PICS: BMW's i3 city-hybrid

words - Gautam Sharma
Bavarian car-maker hones its high-tech hybrid city-car, which is due here in early 2014

BMW revealed the concept version of its compact i3 at the 2011 Frankfurt motor show, and now the battery-powered inner-city commuter has been captured in near-production prototype form.

These images provide the best look yet at the showroom-ready article, as concealed beneath the psychedelic disguise are the ground-breaking new BMW’s real headlights and tail-lights.

The production i3 is expected to make its public debut (along with the i8 hybrid supercar) at next September’s Frankfurt motor show, exactly two years after the concepts were revealed.

Both electrified models have been confirmed for Australian release in the first half of 2014, with the i3 to be available here in range-extending plug-in hybrid guise rather than all-electric form.

Fittingly, the company’s tagline for the new ‘i’ sub-brand is “Born Electric” and BMW has bold ambitions for the i3 (previously referred to as the MegaCity Vehicle), targeting 30,000 sales in its first full year on the market - 2014.

Both models will be built at BMW’s Leipzig plant in Germany from later this year and both will be based on “LifeDrive architecture” that comprises an aluminium chassis and a carbonfibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) passenger cell, minimising weight while maximising rigidity.

It’s estimated the i3 will sell in Europe from around 40,000 euros (just over $50K in our money), while the i8 super-coupe is expected to cost around $300,000 here.

As evident from the accompanying spy pics, the design of the i3 has been toned down from the original concept, with standard doors replacing the see-through portals of the styling study.

Measuring 3845mm long, 2011mm wide and 1537mm tall, the five-door i3 is 120mm longer, 326mm wider and 132mm higher than the three-door Mini, and its 2570mm wheelbase is 105mm longer.

But while the i3 has a larger footprint than its Mini stablemate, it’s still smaller than anything else (with four wheels) that wears a BMW badge.

The i3’s dynamics should benefit from a centre of gravity that’s lower than all 1 Series models, thanks to a liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery housed within the central section of the floor.

With 125kW and a robust 250Nm, the brushless motor is claimed to propel the i3 to 60km/h in 3.9 seconds and to 100km/h in 7.9 seconds. No less impressive is BMW’s 80-120km/ rolling acceleration claim of just six seconds.

BMW is targeting a touring range of between 130-160km for the i3, and maximum speed is restricted to 150km/h to preserve battery charge.

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Published : Thursday, 3 January 2013
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