The BMW i3 Concept Coupe celebrates its European premiere in Geneva, while the BMW i8 Concept Spyder also makes an appearance. These two concept models reflect the current status of the ongoing development process and illustrate the potential breadth of an extended BMW i portfolio. At the same time they show how high-performance, zero-emission mobility is also able to deliver when it comes to emotional excitement and sheer appeal. Both models are built around BMW eDrive technology, which will provide a unique driving experience in all future BMW electric and plug-in hybrid models. These BMW eDrive powertrains, comprising the electric motor, lithium-ion battery and intelligent powertrain management, form the core of all BMW i models.
The BMW Group will start supplying customers with driver-friendly, premium-quality electric mobility later this year with the BMW i3, whose technology is a response to the social, ecological and economic challenges of our times.
Two principal challenges still faced by electric mobility are what are considered to be the short driving range of electric vehicles and an inadequate charging infrastructure. With the world’s biggest electric mobility field trial, the BMW Group has therefore been exploring these issues in depth since 2008. In the meantime more than 20 million kilometres (12.5 million miles) of testing by well over 1,000 pilot customers in ten countries has been conducted and scientifically evaluated. These trials, which took place with BMW ActiveE and MINI E vehicles in Asia, Europe and the USA, produced three main findings:
- The distances covered by the electric vehicles showed very little difference from the distances covered by conventional cars, at somewhat over 40 kilometres (25 miles) a day on average.
- On average, the pilot customers charged their vehicle two to three times
a week, for the most part at home or at their workplace.
- At the start of testing, more than 70 per cent of users said that access to public charging stations was very important to them. In actual practice, however, public infrastructure was used for less than 10 per cent of all charging.
Based on the field trial results, BMW i set out to design a BMW eDrive powertrain for the BMW i3 which in typical commuting use between home and workplace would only require the battery to be recharged once every two to three days. The BMW i3 goes well beyond this target, with a range of between 130 and 160 kilometres (80 to 100 miles) in day-to-day operation. This also allows it to cope comfortably with out-of-town journeys.
The drive system and all other vehicle functions in the BMW i3 are powered by a specially developed high-voltage lithium-ion battery. One of the hallmarks of this battery is that its energy output, and thus the range of the vehicle, is less affected by fluctuations in temperature than is typical of such batteries today. The technology behind this is an intelligent heating/cooling system which always keeps the battery at an optimal operating temperature. This improves the everyday practicality, stable performance and life expectancy of the battery.
A further priority in designing the BMW i3 was to reduce the energy consumption of electrical components. The cabin heating operates on the heat pump principle, which results in 30 per cent energy savings in city driving compared with a conventional electrical heating system, while the internal and external lighting uses energy-saving LEDs. Together, these two measures make a significant contribution to “range security” in the BMW i3.
The BMW i3 can also be supplied with an optional range extender, which increases the driving range to approximately 186 miles.
If it is likely that, even using all the measures listed above, it will not be possible to reach an intended destination in the BMW i3, BMW i also offers additional mobility modules which allow even longer distances to be covered – for example a conventional BMW vehicle can be provided on a given number of days per year.