2015 BMW i3 Preview

Jeff Youngs | Aug 05, 2013
  • New electric vehicle
  • $42,275 before tax incentives
  • Maximum range of 125 miles on electricity
  • Optional range-extending gasoline engine doubles driving distance
  • Constructed using sustainable and recycled materials


The BMW i3 is designed from the start to be an electric vehicle (EV), an approach that the automaker says allowed designers and engineers to maximize the car's effectiveness as an EV. Additionally, the new i3 eliminates several of the barriers to EV ownership, as expressed in the J.D. Power 2012 Electric Vehicle Ownership Study.SM

For example, the i3 has a smaller footprint than a 1 Series Coupe, yet offers as much interior space as a 3 Series Sedan. Plus, thanks to an optional range-extending gasoline engine, the new i3 eliminates "range anxiety," the concern EV owners feel when the battery's remaining charge drops. Finally, while the BMW's price starts at $42,275 including the destination charge, the cost drops with federal, state, and local tax incentives that can significantly reduce that price and, in some states, make the i3 nearly as affordable as a top-of-the-line Honda Accord.

Exterior Features

The BMW i3 looks different than every other vehicle on the road, even as it employs traditional design cues that immediately identify it as a BMW. The rear-wheel-drive EV is constructed primarily of aluminum and Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic, and does not have a traditional roof pillar between the front and rear doors. Instead, rear-seat passengers enter through small coach doors. Standard equipment includes 19-inch lightweight forged aluminum wheels, full LED headlights, LED taillights, and rear park-assist sensors.

Interior Features

BMW says that 25% of the new i3's materials are crafted from renewable or recyclable materials, and most of those are used inside the car. The automaker calls this approach "Next Premium," and promises that the quality of these materials matches that of the current 5 Series model.

The i3 comes standard with "responsibly forested" Eucalyptus wood and seats wrapped in Sensatec fabric. Because the car has a flat floor, it offers what BMW calls a Slide Through Experience that allows the driver to slide over and exit from the passenger's door when desirable, such as when parallel parking on a city street or when parking next to a wall in a garage.

Optional Features

The new BMW i3 is offered in three trim levels, which BMW is calling "Worlds" for its new range of i-badged models.

The i3 Mega World is the standard model for the U.S. market. The i3 Giga World adds leather seats with wool cloth accents, a Comfort Access keyless entry system, power sunroof, and a different wheel design. The i3 Tera World gets its own unique set of wheels, plus a full leather interior upholstered with hides tanned using olive oil.

Options announced by BMW include a 240-volt home charging station, 20-inch aluminum wheels, and three option packages.

The Parking Assist package includes a reversing camera and a Parking Assistant with Front Auto Park Distance Control, which steers the i3 into a parallel parking space while the driver operates the pedals and the transmission. The Driving Assist Plus package adds an active cruise control system with Stop & Go capability, a forward-collision warning system with Pedestrian Protection, and a City Collision Mitigation system. The Technology package includes a wide-screen BMW Professional navigation system with touch-pad control and advanced real-time traffic reports, BMW Apps, BMW ConnectedDrive services, Deceleration Assistant, and a Traffic Jam Assistant that facilitates semi-autonomous driving in heavy traffic.

Under the Hood

Preliminary estimates peg the i3's base curb weight at 2,700 pounds, light for an EV. This means BMW can install a smaller, lighter, 22-kWh Lithium-ion battery that recharges faster and provides greater range compared with those in heavier EVs. The battery drives an electric motor that powers the i3's rear wheels.

Three driving modes are offered: Comfort, ECO PRO, and ECO PRO+. In Comfort mode, the i3 is expected to travel 80 miles to 100 miles before requiring a re-charge. In ECO PRO mode, the range rises to 90-115 miles. In ECO PRO+ mode, the i3 travels 100-125 miles, depending on terrain, weather, and driving style.

To recharge the i3, BMW recommends installing a 240-volt home-charging system, which replenishes the battery in 3 hours. The i3 is also compatible with DC Fast Charge public charging stations, which fully charge the battery in 30 minutes.

Because many people are concerned about range limitations with an EV, BMW offers a range-extending gasoline generator as an option for the i3. The 34-horsepower, 650cc, 2-cylinder gasoline engine has a 2.4-gallon gas tank and effectively doubles the BMW i3's range. When the generator runs out of gas, the driver must then plug the i3 in to recharge the battery, or visit a gas station to fill the generator's fuel tank.


BMW says that the i3's Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic elements weigh half as much as steel does, but are just as strong with impressive rigidity and an ability to absorb significant amounts of energy, making the material "extremely damage tolerant."

Standard equipment includes BMW Assist with eCall technology. In the event of a collision in which the air bags deploy, eCall automatically sends data related to the event to the BMW ConnectedDrive Call Center, which can send emergency responders to the scene of the accident. Additionally, the i3 can be optioned with a Driving Assist Plus package that contains a forward-collision warning system with Pedestrian Protection, and a City Collision Mitigation system.


As might be expected of a car as advanced as the BMW i3, it offers a number of standard and optional technologies. In addition to its advanced powertrain, the standard equipment list includes a BMW i Remote app for the owner's smartphone and a navigation system with a Range Assistant that uses topographical and traffic information to plan the most efficient route to a destination.

The new i3 is offered with semi-autonomous driving aids, such as a Parking Assistant and an adaptive cruise control system with Stop & Go capability and Traffic Jam Assist technology.
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