A green wave of renewable energy alternatives is about to flourish on the Australian landscape. With the launch of the new BMW i3 94Ah, the luxury carmaker looks set to ride this wave and attract a new generation of drivers in its wake.
For this, the second generation of the i3 electric car, a 50 per cent improvement in battery capacity should now satisfy those who live in a city environment: school drops offs and pick ups; trips to and from work; and even the occasional weekend trip out of the city, can now be managed on a single charge.
If you have power running to your garage, an electrician can install a BMW wall box that will have your i3 juiced up in several hours. If you live close to a public charger, which is usually free, it will charge in half that time.
And while Australia doesn't have the electric car infrastructure that our friends across the Tasman Sea do – there are more than 200 DC charging stations across New Zealand, which can charge a car like the i3 to 80 percent in less than an hour – with luck we may have an improved network by 2020.
Going the distance
The new i3 also incorporates a number of smart engineering tricks, in particular, regenerative power; a generator attached to the drive shaft engages when the accelerator is released to send electricity back into the batteries.
"It will actually change your driving style," said BMW's Brendan Michel. "With the accelerator you realise, 'if I back off just that little bit earlier, before I get to a red light, the car will come to a complete stop itself'. This also helps extend your overall range."
Indeed, it does. With a little practice, it would be child's play to adopt a one-pedal driving style and avoid the brake entirely, saving on repairs and parts for the braking system, and improving overall energy consumption.
Real world range
The two new versions of the i3 are the standard i3 94Ah and the i3 94Ah REx, which includes a petrol range extender to add a further 130 kilometres to your drive. Of course, the range you get depends greatly on your driving style and the roads you choose to forge – urban streets vs. highway. How does that translate into life? BMW has stated the 'real world' range of the i3 94Ah is around 200 kilometres.
Depending how much you pay for your electricity at home (at present, many charging stations in the wild are free), this electric car may only cost you around $5 per week to run. Add the range extender to your new i3, and a potential 330 kilometres are yours.
That's an attractive figure when compared to other electric cars in this market. The latest model Tesla Model S, for example, will get you around twice the distance (400 kilometres), but will also cost you twice the price.
Going for speed
Until you step behind the wheel of an electric car, it's hard to get your head around the concept of electric torque; instant and even acceleration available the moment you hit the accelerator pedal.
To give you an idea of the power, the i3 can do zero to 100 kilometres per hour in 7.3 seconds, with mid-range acceleration between 30 to 70 kilometres per hour, where most urban drivers will spend their time, in 2.6 seconds. In anyone's language, that's approaching supercar performance, all without the extreme petrol burn.
Driving the new i3 around Melbourne made what is usually a painful experience surprisingly easy. It darted through traffic with ease – BMW's handling offering a welcome level of control in tight urban streets – and accelerating swiftly on longer stretches of road.
The turning circle is also suitably impressive, making three-point turns a thing of the past.
In our time of need
While the new i3 goes some ways to address the range anxiety of electric cars, it is not for everyone. Sure, it will slot effortlessly into the life of a young couple or family as their sole vehicle, but until culture and lifestyle habits change a little more, this is a car for the future; albeit, one we may need sooner than we realise.
Until then, for a specific buyer, there are various aspects of the new i3 that will still make this new BMW ideal in many ways, priced at $65,900. The extended range, the operating cost and the price make it a very real alternative to the many petrol engine cars in this realm of the market.