By on March 19, 2015

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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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9 Comments on “Before The i3, There Was The E1...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    There’s something very Guigiaro about this one. I like it. And I prefer the rear hatch and all the glass on the production one versus the concept photo one.

    Funny how the concept previews the headlamp design they’d be using 7 or so years later – but they stuck some current lamps on it when they built the running one.

  • avatar
    DeeDub

    There must have been more than one of these, as the red one in the top photo is a different car than the red one(s) in the other pics.

  • avatar

    Why must every EV be some ugly contraption completely unlike the cars they want to replace?

    Why must they make these things ridiculously small?

    Why aren’t they building a FAMILY SIZED 4-door sedan?

    How about a Dodge CHARGER (no pun intended) PHEV?

    That would be easily better than the model S.

    • 0 avatar
      LeMansteve

      Plenty of ugly cars sell very well and are otherwise very good – the Juke, the Grand Cherokee, the Charger, etc.

      small because batteries were and still are expensive, and who said they need to be big?

      “family sized” means very different things in different countries.

      If a Charger PHEV would easily be better than a Tesla Model S, and therefore FCA could charge Tesla prices for it, don’t you think they would have done it in a heartbeat?

    • 0 avatar
      Master Baiter

      eGolf is normal looking. I drove one and it’s a nice ride.

    • 0 avatar
      blueflame6

      First off, ugly (or beautiful) is a very subjective thing. There is no objective standard of measurement for beauty. (Well, perhaps the Helen, or more accurately the milliHelen – the amount of beauty required to launch one ship.)

      But also, when you look at almost any car you are seeing 1) a design optimized for a combustion drive train 2) a design full of references to a century of automotive design language. For example, why do we have a chrome grille on the front of almost every car? It goes back to the very, very early days of motorcars with external radiators in that location. Whitewall tires harken back to the days of white rubber tires before they started adding carbon black. Over time, all these references feel normal to you and when they’re different, or not there, people tend to think the car looks weird.

      So let’s say you’re designing an electric car from the ground up. Maybe the best way to do that is to have a skateboard architecture where the batteries and motors are in a low rolling platform and all the bodywork sits on top. This is basically how a Tesla S or BMW i3 is built. Now you’re the stylist, what are you going to do?

      On one hand, you could use the old design language as much as possible even if it isn’t really appropriate. Like, of course you’re going to have a chrome grille on the front, right? All cars do! But… um, why? There’s no radiator. Keep this up and you’ll end up building the equivalent of an early car with a fake horse on the front because that’s what people are used to seeing.

      On the other hand, you could try to let the design be more true to the nature of the thing. The potential rewards are big. If do it right, and everybody loves it, suddenly your car looks like THE WAY FORWARD, kind of like the original iPhone, and everything else looks ancient. On the other hand, we’re all new at this and we don’t necessarily have common understanding of good design language for electric cars yet and instead of thinking SUDDENLY ITS 2020! people are thinking WTF IS THAT?!

      Consensus seems to be that the Tesla S designers did a good job and that the BMW i3 is maybe not quite right. On the other hand, I think it’s clear that the Tesla styling is more conventional and conservative and the BMW i3 is more forward looking and bold but maybe not quite right. Although I have to say that I rather like the i3 and if they fix their terrible range extender implementation I’d seriously consider buying one. (And I especially like the interior.) I’ve driven one and it’s like a really, really nice VW Golf.

      One thing for certain is that none of these companies are deliberately trying to design an ugly car, despite what some people appear to think.

    • 0 avatar
      Marone

      Why must every EV be some ugly contraption completely unlike the cars they want to replace? Ummm, they’re not. Just like the BMW X5 EV you were making fun of a few days ago.

      Why must they make these things ridiculously small? See comment above. See Tesla.

      Why aren’t they building a FAMILY SIZED 4-door sedan? See all above.

      How about a Dodge CHARGER (no pun intended) PHEV? I’ll believe it when I see it. But truthfully, that’s up to Dodge.

      That would be easily better than the model S. No, you have no idea if that’s true, your Dodge bias as always is coming through.

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