Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Is This The Production BMW i3?

Autoblog scored some spy photo's of the BMW i3. The car is noticeably different from the original spy photo's that were taken last year of the car during cols weather testing. This looks VERY close to the concept i3 which is definitely good news.

At last weeks LA Auto Show, Richard Steinberg told George Parrot, reporting for Greencarreports that the concept i3 is “95 percent final” as compared to the production version. These photo's would seem to concur. The one obvious difference I can see is the doors. The concept had much larger doors that extended all the way into the wheel wells. The car in this photo clearly has smaller doors that do not extend to the wheel wells. Also, the rear "coach" doors do not have a handle so apparently they can only be opened once the front door is open, much like the MINI Clubman (and my Toyota Tacoma extended cab pick up).

Fake "Hybrid" badge on ActiveE
What Autoblog also reported was that they believe the car is fitted with the range extender (REx) option. I disagree. I think it's the pure BEV version. I see no sign of a tailpipe and the single reason they gave for this conclusion was that the car has badges that say "Hybrid Test Vehicle" That means nothing. When BMW was testing the ActiveE it had the same badges and that isn't a hybrid. I think BMW puts that on cars to confuse spy's and it worked!

Whether it is the BEV version or the REx version it really doesn't matter. What's important here is this proves the car will look very similar to the concept i3 and that's good news. The i3 that was photographed last year during testing look too boxy, this has much smoother lines. Can't wait to see it without all the camouflage! Here's some more pictures:

Sunday, November 13, 2011

BMW i3 "Special Sneak Peek" in NYC

I was invited to attend what BMW called the "Special Sneak Peek Event" for the BMW i3 & i8 on November 9th in New York City. It was the first time BMW has shown these two cars in North America. Later this month they will make their formal NA debuts at the LA Auto Show and this event was set up so journalists can get some information, interviews and pictures in advance of the show. There was well less than 100 people in total in attendance, including the BMW representatives, so even though it was a small space we all had easy access to get up close with the cars. In addition to the i3 & i8, there was an ActiveE, although I think I was just about the only person interested in looking at it. Next to the bold concept i3 & i8, the ActiveE looked very pedestrian.
Richard Kim discusses the exterior design of the i3
After about an hour long photo session, there were presentations by Richard Kim, exterior designer of the i3 & i8, and Rich Steinberg, manager of electric vehicle operations and strategy for BMW. Kim talked about how the designs for both cars were conceived, and how he and his team really started with a clean slate when they began the process. They even worked out of a new office that wasn't even in the same building as the other BMW employees and kind of isolated themselves so their thoughts and ideas for these two ground-breaking vehicles could be pure. Steinberg then spoke about how the extensive use of CFRP & aluminum will make the i3 extremely lightweight and efficient and how the LifeDrive architecture that these cars employ is revolutionary and allows for more efficient cars and lower assembly cost.  LifeDrive is basically a return of the body-on-frame design that consists of two components: the Life Cell and the Drive Module. These two components combine to form the vehicle, with the life cell secured to the drive module with remarkably only four bolts and glue.

After the presentation, we had an opportunity to talk individually with both men and get some more photos. The whole event lasted for about three hours and since there wasn't a lot of people there everyone had the opportunity to talk with Kim & Steinberg if they wanted to. Being in the MINI-E program for the past two and a half years it was really rewarding to see the i3 for the first time in person. A lot of the feedback that I and the other MINI-E pioneers have given BMW has gone into shaping the car, both aesthetically and mechanically. BMW has been criticized by some for not selling an EV yet, only leasing the MINI-E and ActiveE to a relatively small group of people in special lease only programs. It's been called anything from greenwashing to a California CARB credit grab. I don't doubt the CARB credits were a part of why these programs exist, and BMW has never denied it. However anyone that thinks or writes that BMW isn't committed to e-mobility and sustainable automobile manufacturing is either blind or has some sort of an agenda against them. Being first to market isn't BMW's plan for electric vehicles, being the best when to arrive is. In 2013 the BMW i3 will be the first fully electric BMW ever sold, and from everything I've seen about this car so far, and I've seen much more than most, I think they are on target to achieve their goal. If they can manage to keep this car at a reasonably price ($40 to $45k), then I think they are going to sell very well.

I was asked by GreenCarReports & PlugInCars to cover this event. You can read my reviews at these links: