Friday, December 21, 2012

BMW i3 Photo's Emerge

It's been a few weeks since any new i3 spy shots have been published, but worldcarfans and carscoop blog have just brought us some recent pictures of a couple i3's with the REx range extender option taken in what appears to be Germany.
In these pictures you can see the lines of the headlights and body panels much clearer than the past spy photos.
 We also now know where the charge port and the fuel filler door will be for certain. Both are on the passenger side with the charge port in the rear and the gas filler door on the front quarter panel.

Even though BMW tried to hide the shape of the taillight, it's clear the concept i3's U-shaped taillight design made it to production.

The headlight lines are clearly defined for the first time.
Kinda looks like a Nissan LEAF from this view. Not a comparison I like to make. Hopefully we won't draw that comparison without the crazy camo-stickers all over.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

BMW i3 Concept Coupe Revealed

BMW i manager Oliver Walter introduces the concept i3 coupe at the LA Auto Show
BMW surprised a lot of people at the LA Auto Show and introduced a new variation of the i3, a 2 door coupe to compliment the 4 door hatchback that will launch towards the end of 2013. This new coupe is currently only a concept, but if BMW feels enough people would buy this variant, it could easily go into production.

It shares the same drive platform as the 4 door i3, so most of the engineering is already done. All BMW would have to do is make the different passenger cell and attach it to the same drive platform that the 4 door will be using. Now I'm sure it's not exactly that simple, but I am also confident most of the drive platform would be exactly the same.

The i3's life-drive platform
In fact, Oliver Walter referred to the "i3 family of vehicles" when addressing the crowd of ActiveE drivers at the LA Auto Show. I interpreted this as a sign BMW may use the i3's drive platform to make multiple different offerings.  Since the CFRP passenger cell is literally glued to the aluminum frame which houses the entire drivetrain and batteries, it wouldn't seem to be very difficult at all to offer multiple passenger configurations, provided there was a demand for different offerings.

Many of the people I spoke to were very excited about the coupe, even more so than for the 4 door which is going to be the initial i3 offering. While I liked the look of the coupe, Personally I'm more interested in the utility of the 4 door. The access to the rear seating area is so much better with the coach(suicide) doors on the 4 door. Getting in and out as well as loading and unloading cargo from the rear seats will be infinitely easier with the coach doors and I don't think it takes away from the styling at all, especially since there are no outside door handles for the rear doors. I also think another reason why many others were so excited about the coupe was because looked closer to a production car than the four door i3 does. Lets face it, the 4 door concept car is getting a little long in the tooth and people are getting tired of looking at the glass doors and roof. It was introduced about a year and a half ago and other than a different color interior there has been no changes to it. I get a lot of inquiries about when will BMW show us the production version. The concept coupe has a new, refreshed interior that quite honestly looks stunning and ready for production. I suspect this is very close to what the production i3 interior will look like and I hope BMW doesn't change much because it looks awesome as it currently is.

BMW North American manager of sales and strategy Jacob Harb was also at the event and he spoke for a while and then fielded questions from the ActiveE group. There really wasn't any new news offered. We talked a lot about the range extender option as well as DC quick charge. There was also a lot of discussion on the tires BMW seem to be using on the i3. They are tall and thin and don't look like they would be good for aggressive driving. The concept coupe at the show had 175/60 R20's on the rear wheels and 155/60 R20's on the front. No doubt the different tire sizes were a concept-only feature but the tall and thin nature of them had people wondering if too much road holding will be sacrificed in the name of efficiency. We also talked a lot about the use of run-flat tires. I can say with certainty the ActiveE drivers there, and many others that I have spoken to do not want run flat tires on the i3. I hope BMW got the message and decides not to use them. They are loud, harsh and heavy and we do not want them. Can I be any clearer?

The openness of the i3 is hard to capture in pictures. Although it is a small car, the interior is spacious. During the presentation Walter said the i3 will have roughly the same interior volume as a three series. That's considerably more space than our ActiveE's have now even though the i3 is much smaller. Because of the life-drive architecture and the elimination of the transmission tunnel needed on front engine internal combustion engine cars, the i3's passenger compartment is much more spacious than a comparable gas car of it's size would be.

So while I'm really happy to see BMW thinking about expanding the i3's line to offer different variations, what I'm really looking forward to is finally seeing what the production i3 will look like. We are tantalizingly close now after nearly four years of waiting. I'm figuring I'll get my wish in about three months in Geneva? Anyone else care to guess when and where BMW will show off the real i3?

Here's some more pictures from the LA Auto show:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

BMW i Does New York

I found a nice place to hang in between the events
The BMW i Born Electric Tour had its only North American stop last week as they set up shop in New York City at a great space across the street from Bryant Park at 1095 Avenue of the Americas.

Just give me a mic and I'm ready to talk EV!
I actually went to the event twice. Once on Tuesday for a private event that only the BMW ActiveE lessees were invited to, and again on Sunday. I made a presentation on Sunday to the participants of the developers Hackathon that BMW i had over the weekend. BMW asked me to talk to the group about my experiences driving BMW's electric cars, the MINI-E and ActiveE over the past 3 1/2 years and I happily agreed to do so.

There wasn't much in the way of new information on the i3 there for me anyway, but this wasn't really meant for those of us following the progress of the i brand closely. It was meant to open the door to the general public for the first time and to show them a glimpse of what BMW i is all about. BMW i is much more than just the cars that are coming from it. It's about the future of urban mobility and where BMW believes we are going. BMW i will have strategic mobility partners like DriveNow, ParkNowMyCityWay and to compliment the cars they will be selling. These services will compliment their plug in line and make urban mobility easier. BMW i is also focusing on sustainable manufacturing and electric vehicle recharging. The carbon fiber used on the i brand cars is made with 100% renewable energy at BMW's Moses Lake, WA carbon fiber plant and the entire Leipzig assembly plant for the i brand cars will be powered by a wind farm that is currently being built. The materials used for the interior also reflect the sustainability theme: "The interior of BMW i3 Concept is characterized by the visible use of natural resources such as European eucalyptus wood. The natural materials underscore the premium standard of BMW i while conserving resources – and during disposal, they emit only as much CO2 as the plant stored during its growth phase. The leather used in the interior is tanned using a natural agent derived from olive leaves. The olive leaf extract provides natural protection against fading and wear while giving the leather a unique look and unmistakable character. The cowhide from southern Germany is thus not only environmentally friendly, but also produced for maximum durability. The wood used in the dashboard is made entirely of timber grown in Europe and certified as 100% sustainable by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). By crafting the wooden components in Europe, BMW ensures short delivery routes and sustainability in all stages of production." There were plenty of displays that focused on the sustainability side of the brand. Personally I think they could have benefited from balancing that off a bit with some more info on how the cars are fast, smooth and fun to drive.

Jose giving one of many i3 presentations
There were very helpful and well informed assistants there, in particular a woman named Barbara was very helpful. She led one of the tours on Tuesday and was on the main floor on Sunday answering questions about the i3. However the best presentation award in my opinion goes to Jose Guerrero of BMW i. Jose spent much of Tuesday night at the i3 display explaining every detail (that he can at this time) to the ActiveE drivers. Jose was great and the ActiveE Electronauts that I spoke to all thought he was very informative and entertaining to listen to. 

I think BMW did nice job on the whole event. They need to begin to inform the public as to what BMW i is all about. As I said before, this wasn't geared for people like me who have seen the concept i3 & i8 a few times already in person and follow everything that is announced. However for the person off the street it was an eye opener. I watched the people walk in on Sunday and marvel at the cars. A couple people even said to their friends "Yeah, but they'll probably never make these because they are too cool" I quickly jumped in and told them that these cars will be on sale starting next year and they were very happy to hear it. One of the real highlights for me was on Sunday. I was talking to Barbara on the main floor and a guy walked up to me and introduced himself. He said he recognized me from reading my blogs and that he's been following them for a while now and reads every post. That was really cool and I want to thank him for taking to he time to stop by and say hello as well as for following my blogs. Hearing people tell me they enjoy them is what really keeps me doing it.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
The i3 advertised range: You better deliver on this promise BMW!

A smaller battery means quicker charging. The i3 will fully charge in 3 hours compared to the ActiveE's 5 hour recharge time
BMW had a display that showed that New York City already has over 100 public charging stations installed

Friday, September 28, 2012

The i3 Shows off in Paris

The 2012 Paris Auto Show is underway and BMW has once again trotted out the concept i3, albeit with a new interior. There aren't much changes to the interior, just different materials and colors and the outside is still the same as we've seen for over a year now. With the launch of the i3 about a year away, I suspect we won't get our first glimpse of the real production version until after the New Year, probably at one of the early 2013 Auto Shows. While Paris didn't reveal anything new about the outward looks of the car, BMW did put out a nice display of the CFRP body shell and drive module, take a look:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

First i3 Interior Spy Shot Captured by Bimmerpost

Bimmerpost was the first to get a decent shot of an i3's dashboard. While much is still covered and the dashboard is obviously not in finished trim, you can see a lot of what BMW has kept and what they have changed from the concept i3. Compare this new photo with the concept i3 below:

BMW is keeping the gear shift know on the steering column. That oval 'Q' looking knob is the gear selector. If you push it forward you put the car in drive and if you pull back all the way you put it in reverse. I guess somewhere in the middle is neutral, there must be a distinctive click or resistance when you pass neutral or it would be difficult to know when you have placed it in neutral. The start/stop button is also on the steering column.

The two main instrumentation panels appear to be similar in size and location as the concept, and if you expand the picture to the right it looks like the display on the drivers instrument cluster is very close to what the concept i3 display looked like. It is fuzzy, but you can clearly see the main display is just about exactly what the concept display showed. You can see the current speed in the center, surrounded by an oval which displays the level of energy you are either using or gaining with regenerative braking. On the left is the outside temperature and on the right is the amount of miles you have driven on the current trip. Along the bottom there is line that represents the battery charge level with the estimated remaining miles you have before needing to plug in. If indeed I am correct about the oval circle encompassing the speed indicator, and all that is displayed is an amount of bars to show you if you are using or recapturing energy, then I will be disappointed. I want that to be represented in a numeric value for me to see like watt hours per mile. Five bars doesn't tell me anything about how much energy I'm using or how much I'm gaining by driving down a long hill. I'd like to see the actual energy flow in real value, not just bars please. I do like this small simple display unit though, and expect the production one to be all screen, unlike the one in the photo that has more painted surface than screen.

Now to the center stack console and here is where it gets a little dicey in my opinion. I'm not a fan of what I see in the picture. In fact it reminds me of the center stack console of my late 90's Honda Civic. I'm not going to go all out and slam it yet because the best feature, the large display screen is covered and hidden from view. However I can't help but look at what is visible, compare it to the concept i3 console and wonder what went wrong. They kept the tray to hold items between the controls and the display which I think is nice to have, but the button arrangement, vents and knobs remind me of something from the past, not the future of personal mobility. I loved the simple, modern, streamlined look of the concept i3's dash and I guess I was hoping for more of that look. I'm not giving up yet though because most of the dash is still covered and who knows, this might not even be the real production dash. The steering wheel was borrowed from a 3 series so perhaps what we see is only partially correct, however I have to believe what we see here is mostly what we'll get.

I know production cars never quite live up to the concept form. Designers can do wild things when they are making one car, and often some of the aspects of the things they dream up don't translate to making an affordable production vehicle, so changes are made. I doubt the manufacturers say "Yeah this concept is gorgeous, too nice for the public in fact so let's ugly it up a bit". I just really liked the look of the concept i3 interior (more so than the look of the exterior)and hope BMW manages to bring as much of it to the production version as possible.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

BMW i3 Carbon Fiber Discussion

In the video above Dr Jörg Pohlman, managing director of  SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers speaks to Altair ProductDesign about the company's partnership with BMW. BMW partnered with SGL Group to form SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers to manufacturer the composite materials with would be used on the i3 and other future BMW vehicles.

The extensive use of Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastics is a cornerstone of BMW i's plans on producing low weight, efficient electric vehicles. However BMW clearly has plans to integrate more and more composites into the production of their gasoline and diesel vehicles also to improve efficiency. Because of their 49% stake in SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers Dr Pohlman believes BMW is leading the automotive industry in the use of composites and is in fact three to five years ahead of any of their competition in this area.

The CFRP passenger cell of an early version of the i3 undergoing internal crash test simulations

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

BMW i3 Hot Weather Testing Video

Auto Motor Sport just put up a new video of an i3 caught doing hot weather testing in Spain. You can check it out here: BMW i3 Hot weather Testing video