The Truth About Cars » bmw i3 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 17 Apr 2015 16:18:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » bmw i3 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Review: 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender aka i3 REx (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2015-bmw-i3-range-extender-aka-i3-rex-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2015-bmw-i3-range-extender-aka-i3-rex-video/#comments Fri, 20 Mar 2015 16:24:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1018290 Some call it a hybrid, some call it an EV. Some have called it a REx, a BEVx, a landmark vehicle in EV production, and others simply call it ugly. One things is for sure however, the 2015 BMW i3 turns more heads in Northern California than a Tesla Model S. Not since I last […]

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2015 BMW i3 Range Extender
Some call it a hybrid, some call it an EV. Some have called it a REx, a BEVx, a landmark vehicle in EV production, and others simply call it ugly. One things is for sure however, the 2015 BMW i3 turns more heads in Northern California than a Tesla Model S. Not since I last drove the Jaguar XKR-S have I received as many questions while parked at the gas pump, or visited a gas pump so frequently, but I digress. In a nutshell, the i3 is technically a hybrid or an EV depending on the version you get.

 

BEVx

The “hybrid” i3 isn’t the kind of hybrid you’re used to, this is an all-new classification of car defined by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) as a “Battery Electric Vehicle with Range eXtender” or BEVx. BEVx is the key to understanding why the i3 operates the way that it does and why the Euro version operates differently.

California has decided (for better or worse) that some 22% of cars sold in the state must be zero-emissions vehicles (ZEV) by 2025. While that sounds straightforward, nothing cooked up by the government and lobbyists can ever be easy. Rather than an actual percentage of cars sold, CARB created a credit system where an alphabet soup of classifications (PZEV, AT-PZEV, TZEV, etc) get partial credits and true ZEVs can get multiple credits. Into this complicated world came the unicorn that is the BEVx. Despite having a gasoline burning engine, BEVxs get the same credits as a vehicle with the same range and no dinosaur-burner. The distinction is important and critical. If the BEVx requirements are met, the i3 gets the same 2.5 credits as the i3 EV, if not it would get a fractional credit just like a regular Prius. The requirements are: the fossil fuel range must be less or equal to the EV range, EV range but be at least 80 miles, the battery must deplete to a low level before the generator kicks in and may not be charged above that level. In addition the fossil fuel generator or APU must meet CA’s SULEV emissions standards and have a long battery warranty. There’s one important catch: the carpool stickers. While BMW gets to have the i3 REx treated like an EV for credits, i3 REx owners are treated like hybrid owners for the carpool sticker program. The EV model gets the coveted (and unlimited) white carpool lane stickers, while the REx gets the same quantity-limited green stickers as the Chevy Volt. If CA follows course, the green sticker program will eventually sunset like the yellow-sticker hybrid program did in 2011.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-004

Construction

The i3 is about more than just ZEV credits, it’s about putting new materials and processes into production for real drivers to experience with some funky modern style tossed in for good measure. In some ways the i3 is a return to body-on-frame construction, you see this is not a 100% carbon fiber car as some have incorrectly said.

The i3 is composed of two distinct parts. On the bottom is the drive module which is an aluminum chassis that holds the drivetrain, suspension, battery and crash structures. Connected to the drive module is the “life module” which is made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic or CFRP. While obviously a little heavier than a car made entirely out of CFRP, the aluminum crash structure is more easily repaired in the event of a minor collision. The result is an EV that tips the scales about a cupcake shy of a Mazda MX-5 with an automatic transmission (2,634 pounds). Adding the range extender adds just 330 more. That’s about 370lbs lighter than the already impressive 3,000 pound (approximate) curb weight of VW’s new eGolf.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior Turn Signal

Exterior

Up front the i3 gets a familiar BMW roundel and a blue interpretation of the signature kidney grill. What’s different about the i3 is that the kidney isn’t used for cooling, even in the range extending version. The biggest departures from BMW norms however are the headlamps which lack the “angel eye” rings BMW has been known for and the high beams that are placed lower in the facia. (No, those are not fog lamps.) Regardless of the trim or paint color you choose, the hood, lower valance, side trim and rear hatch will always be black.

The side view generated the most head turns due to the undulating greenhouse and “pinched” look to the rear windows. I didn’t find the look unattractive, but it does reduce rearward visibility in what is ostensibly a practical city car. Out back the hatch is composed of two sheets of glass, one for the rear windscreen and the other forms the “body” of the hatch and actually covers the tail lamp modules creating a very sleek look. Turn the steering wheel and passers-by will immediately forget about the pinched greenhouse and focus on the tires. Yes, they are as skinny as they look, but the proportion is the real key to the “bicycle wheel” look as one passenger called it. Our tester was shod with 155/70R19 tires up front and 175/70R19 in back. For reference a Toyota Sienna uses a T155 tire as a spare. Thinking critically, there have been plenty of cars with tires this narrow, but I can’t think of a single one where the width combined with a nearly flat wheel that was 19 or 20 inches across.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior Seats Doors Open

Interior

Freed from the usual front-engine, rear-drive layout of every other BMW, the Germans decided to reinvent the cabin. Because the drive module under the cabin houses the majority of the crash structure, the CFRP body was built without a structural pillar between the front and rear seats. The suicide door design means that getting in and out of the rear seat is surprisingly easy, as long as you haven’t parked too close to another vehicle. Without the transmission tunnel the HVAC system was pushed as far forward as possible allowing the driver and front passenger’s footwell to become merged. (There are just two floor-mats, one up front and one in back.)

The doors aren’t the only unusual thing about the i3’s interior, the design is decidedly Euro-funky. From the steering column mounted shifter to the “floating” iDrive display and glove box on the “top” of the dash rather than the front, the i3 designers went out of their way to think out of the box. The concept-car like theme doesn’t stop at shapes, the materials are a little unusual as well. The upholstery in our model was a wool/recycled-plastic blend fabric and the dashboard and door panels are made from a bioplastic reinforced with kneaf fibers (a kind of jute.) Front seat comfort proved excellent despite lacking adjustable lumbar support. The rear of the i3 was surprisingly accommodating, able to handle six-foot tall folks without issue. Because the dash is so shallow, a rear facing child seat can be positioned behind that six-foot person without issue. As with other small EVs on the market, the i3 is a strict four-seater. My only disappointment inside was the small LCD instrument cluster (shown below) which is notably smaller than the i3’s own infotainment/navigation LCD.

Under the hood of the i3 you’ll find a small storage area (also called a “frunk”) that houses the tire inflater and the 120V EVSE cable. The i3’s frunk is not watertight like you’ll find in the Tesla Model S, so don’t put your tax paperwork inside on your way to the IRS audit in the rain. Cargo capacity behind the rear seats comes in at 11.8 cubes, about the same as your average subcompact hatch. Getting the i3 sans range extender won’t increase your cargo capacity as the area where the range extender fits remains off limits from your luggage.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Instrument Cluster

Drivetrain

Being a rear wheel drive electric car, the i3’s motor is located under the cargo floor in the back. With 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque on tap, the i3 is one of the more powerful EVs on the market. The light curb weight and gearing in the single-speed transmission allow a 6.5 second sprint to 60 in the EV and 7.0 in the REx. Powering all the fun is a 22kWh (18.8 kWh usable) battery pack in the “drive module” coupled to a 7.4kW charger capable of charging the car completely in just over 2.5 hours on AC. Should you need more electrons faster, you can opt for the new SAE DC-Fast-Charge connector capable of getting you from zero to 80% in under 30 minutes. 18.8kWh sounds much smaller than the  37kWh Tesla battery in the Mercedes B-class, but the i3 is much more efficient putting their range figures just 5 miles apart at 80-100 miles for the EV and 70-90 for the REx.

Next to the motor is the optional range extender. It’s a 34 peak horsepower 0.65L 2-cylinder engine derived from one of BMW’s motorcycle powerplants. Permanently to a generator, it can supply power to the motor, or charge the battery until it hits about 6%. The 1.9 US gallon gas tank is capable of powering the small engine for an additional 70-80 miles depending on your driving style. There is no mechanical connection at all between the engine and the wheels. Think of the battery as a ballast tank, you can pull 170 HP out whenever you want, but the supply refilling the ballast flows at a maximum of 34. This means that it is entirely possible to drain the battery and have just 34 HP left to motivate your car.

Battery Flow

Sounds like the Volt you say? Yes and no. The Volt is more of a plug-in hybrid with some software tweaks and the i3 is a range extending EV. I know that sounds like splitting hairs but some of this comes down to the way GM decided to market the Volt when it launched. The Volt’s transaxle and 2-motor/generator system is actually much closer to the Ford/Toyota hybrid design than anything else on the market. Because of that design it can operate as an EV, as a serial hybrid or as a parallel hybrid. Interestingly enough however, maximum performance happens in gas-burning mode, just like the plug-in Prius and plug-in Ford Energi products. With the i3 however, performance is always the same (unless the battery is totally dead.) Also in the Volt you can opt to “reserve” your EV capacity for later, and that isn’t allowed in US bound i3 models (you can in Europe) in order to get that coveted BEVx classification.

Technically speaking, it is possible for any hybrid (i3 included) to enter a “limp mode” where the battery is depleted and all you have left is the gasoline engine. The difference is what you have left when this happens. The i3 has far less oomph in this situation than even the 80 HP Volt, 98 HP Prius or 141 HP in the Fusion/C-Max Energi.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Shifter

Drive

The i3’s steering is precise and quick with just 2.5 turns lock-to-lock and the turning circle is 10% smaller than a MINI Cooper at 32-feet. Due to the combination of a fast steering ratio, narrow tires, electric steering assist and the incredibly light curb weight, the i3 can feel twitchy on the road, responding immediately to the slightest steering input. That feeling combined with low rolling resistance tires (that squeal long before they give up grip) make the i3 feel less capable than it actually is. Once you get used to the feeling however, it turns out to be the best handling non-Tesla EV currently made. Is that a low bar? Perhaps, but the i3 leaps over it.

BMW’s “one pedal concept” is the fly in the ointment. Here’s the theory: if you drive like a responsible citizen, you just use the accelerator pedal. Press on the pedal and the car goes.  Lift and the car brakes. Lift completely and the i3 engages maximum regenerative braking (brake lights on) and takes you to a complete stop. As long as the road is fairly level, the i3 will remain stopped until you press the go-pedal once more. On paper it sounds novel, in practice it annoyed me and made my leg ache. The reason is that in order to coast you either shift to neutral or hover your foot in the right position. If the i3 could adjust the “foot-off” regen, I’d be happy. Driving the i3 back to back with VW’s new eGolf didn’t make the one-pedal any better because the VW allows you to adjust the regen from zero to maximum in four steps easily and intuitively.

BMW i3 One Pedal Operation Concept Brake Neutral Go

The i3 EV’s wider rear tires mean that despite being RWD and almost perfectly balanced you get predictable understeer as the road starts to curve. You can induce some oversteer if you’re aggressive on the throttle, but BMW’s stability control nanny cannot be disabled and the intervention is early and aggressive. Toss in the range extender’s 300+ pounds and understeer is a more frequent companion. You can still get the REx a little tail happy if you try however. The i3 will never be a lurid tail happy track car like an M235i, but the fact that any oversteer is possible in an EV is a rare feat since nearly everything else on the market is front heavy and front wheel drive. Put simply the BMW i3 is the best driving and best handling EV this side of the Model S.

Now let’s talk range extender again. After hearing the complaints about the i3’s “limp” mode when you’re left with just 34 ponies, I tried to make it happen to see what the fuss was about. I hopped in the car with the battery at 6% and started off to work. Climbing from 700ft to 2,200ft worked out just fine at 45-50 MPH on a winding mountain road, going down from 2,200 to sea level at 60 MPH was uneventful as well. I hopped on CA-85 and set the cruise control to 65 since the rumor mill told me the top speed would max out at 65ish with the battery dead. 15 miles later my battery was still very much alive so I kicked it up a notch to 75 and switched over to Interstate 280 where rolling hills would tax the battery further. 20 miles later the range extender was humming like a dirt bike in my blind spot but I wasn’t slowing down. I decided drastic measures were needed. I kicked the i3 up another notch to [intentionally left blank] MPH and watched as the battery gauge ran to zero. Finally. Except it wasn’t that exciting. It didn’t feel like I hit the brakes, it simply felt like someone had backed off the throttle. It took me around 1.5 miles to drop from [intentionally left blank] MPH to 55 MPH which was more than enough time for me to put my tail between my legs and move four lanes to the right.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Instrument Cluster-001

Hitting the “34 HP barrier” as I started to call it proved a little easier at closer-to-legal speeds when hill climbing, and the effects were a little more drastic. On a winding road where driving a car hard involves heavy braking before corners and full throttle exits, the i3 ran out of steam after 4 miles. The i3 then spent the next 8 miles with the go-pedal on the floor at speeds ranging from 37 to 50 MPH.

When running on the range extender, I averaged 60-65 miles before I refilled the tiny tank which came out to somewhere around 38 MPG. The number surprised some, but personally it sounds about right because the energy losses in a serial hybrid can be high (up to 20% if you believe Toyota and Honda). What did surprise me is just how livable the i3 REx was. Despite BMW constantly saying that the REx wasn’t designed to be driven like a hybrid, over 300 miles of never charging I never had a problem driving the car just like I’d drive a Prius, only stopping more often for fuel. Way more often. The i3 REx can drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles stopping every 60 miles for gas, I’m not sure I’d do that, but it is nice to know I could.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior Dashboard

Starting at $42,400 in EV form and $46,250 for the REx model, the i3 has the same kind of sticker shock as all EVs. However if you qualify for the maximum incentives the i3 REx comes down to a more reasonable $36,250 which is a little less than a 2015 328i. That slots the i3 between the rabble and the Tesla and more or less the same as the Mercedes B-Class, the only real i3 competition. In this narrow category the i3 is an easy win. It is slightly more fun to drive than the B-Class, a hair faster, considerably more efficient, has the ability to DC fast charge and the range extender will allow gasoline operation if required. The i3 is funky and complicated and BMW’s 320i is probably a better car no matter how you slice it, but none of that changes the fact the i3 is probably one of the most important cars of our time. Not because the i3 is a volume produced carbon fiber car, but because we are likely to see may more “BEVx” category “range extending” vehicles in our future (for more unicorn credits) and this is now the benchmark.

 BMW provided the vehicle, insurance and 1.9 gallons of gasoline for this review.

 Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.0 Seconds

0-60: 7.0 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.5 Seconds @ 86 MPH

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Before The i3, There Was The E1 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/i3-e1/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/i3-e1/#comments Thu, 19 Mar 2015 13:27:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1025089 Tomorrow, we’ll have a review of the BMW i3, BMW’s first mass market electric car. Developed in just 10 months, the E1 used an aluminum spaceframe with plastic body panels – remarkably similar to the i3s use of advanced materials and construction given that the E1 was developed in 1991. BMW claimed that the rear-drive […]

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Tomorrow, we’ll have a review of the BMW i3, BMW’s first mass market electric car.

Developed in just 10 months, the E1 used an aluminum spaceframe with plastic body panels – remarkably similar to the i3s use of advanced materials and construction given that the E1 was developed in 1991.

BMW claimed that the rear-drive E1 was good for 150 miles from its relatively puny (but today’s standards) 32 kW electric motor and 19  kWh sodium-sulphur battery – which weighed 400 lbs.

The lone E1 ended up catching fire while charging, taking part of a building with it. But like the Geo Storm that ended up previewing the Chevrolet Volt, the E1 ended up leading the way for the Mini E, BMW ActiveE and the latest i3 and i8.

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Question Of The Day, Grandma Edition: Why Are EVs So Odd Looking? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/question-day-grandma-edition-evs-odd-looking/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/question-day-grandma-edition-evs-odd-looking/#comments Mon, 05 Jan 2015 16:46:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=971530 Today’s QOTD comes from Grandma, who is on vacation in Florida. Grandma writes: i have a a chevy sonic rental.  i parked it, it is so small it was a breeze   lots of 2014 mercedes sitting in dealer lots here.  saw 2 bmw electric cars.  the back lights look like the kia soul.  it […]

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Today’s QOTD comes from Grandma, who is on vacation in Florida. Grandma writes:

i have a a chevy sonic rental.  i parked it, it is so small it was a breeze   lots of 2014 mercedes sitting in dealer lots here.  saw 2 bmw electric cars.  the back lights look like the kia soul.  it looks cute, but none of the beemer [sic] sophistication.  don’t know why they have to make electric cars look so quirky.
Upon further questioning, it appears Grandma was asking about the BMW i3. Sixt is now renting out the i3 in the South Florida area, complete with burnt orange paint and giant Sixt logos. I didn’t really have a good answer for her, other than “people want to be seen driving an electric car”. In her mind, a Bimmer is still something you buy to show that you’ve “arrived” – but it’s not as good as a “Jag-you-are”.

 

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Generating Content http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/generating-content/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/generating-content/#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 14:16:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=913042 A heretofore unknown publication dubbed Gadget Review published a video outlining  “How to Charge BMW’s i3 Electric Car in a Desert (or Any Where)” using a Honda generator. I’m sure that somebody somewhere thought that this would be a great concept for “shareable” content (including the part where the host attempts to run the generator […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

A heretofore unknown publication dubbed Gadget Review published a video outlining  “How to Charge BMW’s i3 Electric Car in a Desert (or Any Where)” using a Honda generator. I’m sure that somebody somewhere thought that this would be a great concept for “shareable” content (including the part where the host attempts to run the generator inside the vehicle). The actual idea didn’t yield a ton of juice for the i3’s battery, but the idea of using generators to assist EV charging isn’t entirely unknown.

Long before the Chevrolet Volt, GM’s EV experimented were far cruder, and involved, you guessed it, Honda generators rigged to battery packs as an ersatz range extender. According to a former GM engineer and friend of TTAC, the generator would kick in as the batteries depleted themselves, allowing the prototype vehicle (a Geo Storm) to recharge the batteries and make its way home. “Some of those guys ended up working on the EV1 and are still at GM,” he told us. “I bet that’s where the inspiration for the Volt came from.”

This begs the question – why not just get the i3’s optional from the get-go, and avoid this problem altogether?

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BMW Uses Olympics, Chicago Auto Show to Market i Series in U.S., Offers Loaners to Offset Range Anxiety http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/bmw-uses-olympics-chicago-auto-show-to-market-i-series-in-u-s-offers-loaners-to-offset-range-anxiety/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/bmw-uses-olympics-chicago-auto-show-to-market-i-series-in-u-s-offers-loaners-to-offset-range-anxiety/#comments Mon, 10 Feb 2014 12:30:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=738289 BMW has reportedly spent billions of dollars so far on developing various aspects of its carbon fiber intensive and electric powered i series of cars. The Bavarian automaker obviously wants to get that money back and more so it is now using high profile events to launch the i subbrand in North America, including buying […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

BMW has reportedly spent billions of dollars so far on developing various aspects of its carbon fiber intensive and electric powered i series of cars. The Bavarian automaker obviously wants to get that money back and more so it is now using high profile events to launch the i subbrand in North America, including buying ads during the opening ceremony and other broadcasts from the Winter Olympics currently being held in Sochi, Russia. The first of three ads that BMW will be running during the NBC network’s coverage of the Olympic games is called “Hello Future” and uses a 1964 recording of futurist Arthur C. Clarke to promote the $136,000 i8 hybrid super car. A second ad for the i8 is called “Sighting“, showing people’s reaction to first seeing the car. The more mass market $41,300 i3 is being sold with “SHHH“, depicting a teenager using his father’s silent i3 to sneak a nighttime joyride with a girl he’s trying to impress. He gets the girl but dad has been tracking the car with BMW’s i remote app.

The Winter Olympics have some of the biggest television audiences of the year. The Chicago Auto Show has the biggest attendance of any car show in North America. The i3 and i8 were also a major focus of BMW’s display and press conference at the Chicago show. Journalists clambered all over and inside the i3, complete with production stickers on its hemp paneled doors, that was on the show floor.

The i8 is going on sale later this year and while it isn’t quite in production like the i3 is, by now BMW has enough preproduction and validation models made that instead of the charcoal grey i8 that they showed in Detroit, at Chicago’s McCormick Place a gleaming pearl white i8 coupe was behind glass barriers next to the i3.

While the i8 is more of a plug-in hybrid, the i3, even with its gasoline-powered range extender, has still compelled BMW to come up with a rather novel solution to range anxiety. Buyers of the i3 can reserve the use of conventional gasoline or diesel-powered loaner cars should they need one for a long distance trip.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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A Look at BMW Carbon Fiber Production for the i3 Electric Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/a-look-at-bmw-carbon-fiber-production-for-the-i3-electric-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/a-look-at-bmw-carbon-fiber-production-for-the-i3-electric-car/#comments Thu, 17 Oct 2013 13:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=625113 One of our readers, Noble713, commenting on a news items about the BMW i3, asked if TTAC could provide more coverage on BMW’s carbon fiber productions methods. The i3 EV, and upcoming i8, are built upon CFRP structures. Weight is the enemy of electric vehicles. The more weight you can take out of the actual […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

One of our readers, Noble713, commenting on a news items about the BMW i3, asked if TTAC could provide more coverage on BMW’s carbon fiber productions methods. The i3 EV, and upcoming i8, are built upon CFRP structures. Weight is the enemy of electric vehicles. The more weight you can take out of the actual structure of the car, the more battery cells you can carry for more power and better range, hence BMW turning to carbon fiber. It turns out that BMW has released a series of videos (bilingual, wait for the English) on that very topic. Their CFRP production uses materials made by SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers, a joint venture between the BMW and SGL groups and the effort spans the globe. SGL has expertise in carbon fiber and in 2011 BMW took a 15% stake in the company. Pure polyacrylonitrile fibers are made by Mitsubishi Rayon Co. in Japan and shipped to a state of the art SGL ACF factory in Moses Lake, Washington, where the PAN fibers are first oxidized and then baked into carbon. Wound on spools, the raw carbon fiber is shipped to a SGL ACF facility in Wackersdorf, Germany, were the carbon fibers are woven (actually sewn) into fabrics. The fabrics in turn go to BMW’s Landshut facility were they are laminated in the proper orientations, resins are added, patterns are cut and the finished parts are molded.

Click here to view the embedded video.

BMW has been publicizing how environmentally sensitive their CFRP manufacturing is, stressing how the Washington state facility is powered by renewable hydro power.

While carbon fiber is regarded as almost magical stuff because of its superior strength to weight ratio and the ability to orient the fabric so the resulting parts are stiff in some directions and flexible in other directions, it is still relatively costly to work with, compared to aluminum and steel. Like the CFRP shop at Toyota’s LFA works, BMW is using carbon fiber for the i3 and i8 not just because of those inherent characteristics but also so they can develop processes for the inexpensive mass production of CFRP parts.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Strong Demand Has BMW Considering Increase in i3 EV Production as Carbon Fiber Problems Delay Builds http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/strong-demand-has-bmw-considering-increase-in-i3-ev-production-as-carbon-fiber-problems-delay-builds/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/strong-demand-has-bmw-considering-increase-in-i3-ev-production-as-carbon-fiber-problems-delay-builds/#comments Tue, 15 Oct 2013 17:46:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=624177 With demand for its i3 EV surpassing BMW’s expectations, the company’s chief financial officer, Friedrich Eichiner, told Bloomberg that the company is considering increasing production of the electric car. Though retail deliveries will not start until next month, over 8,000 orders have been booked so far. Originally, BMW hoped to sell about 10,000 i3s in 2014, but […]

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With demand for its i3 EV surpassing BMW’s expectations, the company’s chief financial officer, Friedrich Eichiner, told Bloomberg that the company is considering increasing production of the electric car. Though retail deliveries will not start until next month, over 8,000 orders have been booked so far. Originally, BMW hoped to sell about 10,000 i3s in 2014, but if demand stays high, the company “will adjust capacity according to demand,” Eichiner said at an Amsterdam press conference yesterday. “If demand holds, which is what it’s looking like, we will soon have to invest more.”

At a cost of 34,950 euros in Germany and $41,350 in the United States, the i3 goes on sale in it home market on November 16th, and sometime in the first half of 2014 in the American, Chinese and Japanese markets. The rollout of the new EV will continue as planned, Eichiner said, and that the launch will not be affected by normal rollout issues, a reference to a report in Germany over the weekend that BMW is having production issues with the EV’s advanced carbon fiber structure.

The Wirtschaftswoche publication reported a 10 day production halt for the i3 due to problems bonding the composite material. BMW has a dedicated plant in North America for producing carbon fiber components for the i3 and the upcoming i8 electric sports car.

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BMW i8 Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/bmw-i8-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/bmw-i8-revealed/#comments Tue, 03 Sep 2013 17:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=507713   Photos of the BMW i8 have appeared to emerge online prior to the hybrid sports car’s debut at the Frankfurt Auto Show. The three cylinder BMW, which uses the unusual straight-triple along with an EV motor to provide an all-wheel drive pseudo-supercar experience, is set to be a flagship for the brand’s upcoming “i” […]

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Photos of the BMW i8 have appeared to emerge online prior to the hybrid sports car’s debut at the Frankfurt Auto Show.

The three cylinder BMW, which uses the unusual straight-triple along with an EV motor to provide an all-wheel drive pseudo-supercar experience, is set to be a flagship for the brand’s upcoming “i” series of green vehicles. BMW is claiming 357 horsepower via the hybrid powertrain, along with triple digit fuel economy and CO2 emissions that are roughly half those of a Toyota Prius.

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BMW Partnering With Kymco For i3 Range Extender http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/bmw-partnering-with-kymco-for-i3-range-extender/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/bmw-partnering-with-kymco-for-i3-range-extender/#comments Tue, 19 Mar 2013 17:58:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=481736 The gasoline range-extender that will be optional in BMW’s i3 electric car will be built by Kymco, a Taiwanese firm that is best known for its scooters. BMW and Kymco have worked together in the past, with Kymco building engines for the BMW G450X dirt bike. The two-cylinder motor was designed in Germany but built […]

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The gasoline range-extender that will be optional in BMW’s i3 electric car will be built by Kymco, a Taiwanese firm that is best known for its scooters.

BMW and Kymco have worked together in the past, with Kymco building engines for the BMW G450X dirt bike. The two-cylinder motor was designed in Germany but built by Kymco’s Taiwan factory – and the i3 will likely have a similar arrangement, given the familiarity between the firms. The parallel-twin will apparently be given extensively changes for the i3, especially given that the requirements for a motorcycle engine and a range extender being run at a constant load are very different.

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BMW: The Ultimate Range Anxiety Cure? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/bmw-the-ultimate-range-anxiety-cure/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/bmw-the-ultimate-range-anxiety-cure/#comments Mon, 25 Feb 2013 19:22:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=479017 The Tesla vs. New York Times controversy has finally left the news cycle, forgotten in less time than it takes a Model S to juice up at a Supercharger station.  Meanwhile, BMW is ready to introduce its new range of “i” vehicles, which will conveniently dodge the whole question of range anxiety. Select European outlets were invited […]

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The Tesla vs. New York Times controversy has finally left the news cycle, forgotten in less time than it takes a Model S to juice up at a Supercharger station.  Meanwhile, BMW is ready to introduce its new range of “i” vehicles, which will conveniently dodge the whole question of range anxiety.

Select European outlets were invited for ride-alongs in BMW’s new i3 city car and i8 supercar. The impressions gleaned from ride-alongs are generally next to worthless, but the technology being used by BMW is worth examining. Rather than a pure EV, BMW will be adopting a three-pronged approach – a pure EV, a range extender and a plug-in hybrid.

The i3, a small hatchback meant for urban driving, will adopt the BMW ActiveE’s drivetrain, with an electric motor mounted in the rear, making 168 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. Maximum range is said to be 140 miles, though 80-100 miles is a more realistic figure according to BMW. The i3 will be slightly bigger than a Mini Cooper, but will weigh just 2750 lbs and git 60 mph in 7.2 seconds. And unlike the Mini, it’s rear-drive.

But the most interesting aspect of the i3 is the range extender option. Unlike the plug-in hybrid option on the i8 supercar (which uses a three-cylinder turbocharged engine and an electric motor to power the wheels), the range extender in the i3 is strictly used to help maintain the battery’s charge if it falls below a predetermined level. It does not power the drive wheels under any circumstances. The 650cc parallel-twin could help increase the i3’s range to as much as 200 miles according to BMW, though specifics were scant.

As much as pure EV enthusiasts may scoff at the idea of any carbon-emitting technology sullying the zero-emissions dream, range extender technology could become prominent as a means of expanding the viability of electric vehicles. Small motorcycle engines (like the i3) and even rotary engines are being floated as possible solutions, while other more radical possibilities are being researched right now. Serenergy, a Danish firm, makes a fuel cell system based on methanol that could be adopted for this purpose. While methanol fell out of vogue in the 90s, the prospect of creating it from sources like solid waste has helped revive interest in methanol as a biofuel. On a broader scale, range extenders could alleviate one of the main psychological deterrents to EV adoption – the fear of running out of juice, rendering you totally stranded – by offering a reliable fail-safe in case of battery depletion. And if it’s a rear engine, rear drive compact, all the better for those of us who still enjoy the act of driving.

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BMW Planning “Neuer Elektro-Van” Prius V Competitor http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/bmw-planning-neuer-elektro-van-prius-v-competitor/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/bmw-planning-neuer-elektro-van-prius-v-competitor/#comments Fri, 27 Jan 2012 19:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=428305 BMW is said to be planning a new minivan-esque competitor to the Toyota Prius V, dubbed the i5. We like the name given to it in the original Autobild story; Neuer Elektro-Van. Given the gap between the diminutive i3 city car and the i8 sports car, the i5 seems like a logical bride between the […]

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BMW is said to be planning a new minivan-esque competitor to the Toyota Prius V, dubbed the i5. We like the name given to it in the original Autobild story; Neuer Elektro-Van.

Given the gap between the diminutive i3 city car and the i8 sports car, the i5 seems like a logical bride between the two. Autobild’s rendering suggests that it won’t be a stodgy, van like vehicle, but a slightly enlarged 1-Series hatchback as far as looks go. The i5 should seat 5, and offer a 170 horsepower electric drivetrain. A 3-cylinder gasoline range extender is also said to be in the works.

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