BMW i3, the silent experience

A strong believer in electro mobility I can consider myself one of the local pioneers who ventured around our island driving an all electric car, I was excited about the thought but a bit cautious if I could effectively travel with the somewhat limited electric propulsion range. This was soon overpowered and I can proudly say that I have covered over 5000 kilometres driving on our roads with zero emissions.

During a recent visit to Salzburg courtesy of BMW, I was invited to test drive 3 particular cars around  the magnificent country side that Austria yet I had a dilemma, my cars on test were the latest M3 and M4, cars developing 425 bhp, with nearly a 3 litre engine, twin turbo and some excellent roads. This was enough to make anyone smile, however a third vehicle was included. The BMW i3. I had the choice of selecting the order of how to go about and test the cars. I left the i3 for last.



Here on this website it would not be appropriate of discussing fossil burning machines so I will skip the mind blowing M experience for another time and describe what happened with the BMW i3. Having let off steam or should I say, spooled the turbos, it was time to relax and appreciate the tranquillity of what Salzburg can offer courtesy of the BMW i3. Everything was expected to go as planned regarding tranquillity.  The i3 is has an attractive and innovative design, purely electric power, it has a rather futuristic vision yet remains quite pleasing to look at. Getting in the car is easy and all round visibility gives a sense of openness, the dash configuration only needs a second glance. I usually take the time to acclimatize myself with all the controls before heading  the road especially when I'm driving on the wrong side of the road! (No offence to our neighbouring countries). 

I adjusted my driving position and steering, made sure that the clear dash display was visible, not to control my speed but to make sure that power regeneration was visible. The i3 is quite comprehensive in its instrumentation. Being automatic, gear shifting was no issue, but my intentions was to drive as far away as possible. I set the car to ECO PRO+, this function increase brake energy regeneration. Using an innovative solution the drive module is situated behind the steering wheel towards the top. I found that a little strange but in hindsight it was situated in a way that one can shift without letting off the steering wheel and most important not having to look down, missing what is on the road.

I was ready to move off, incredible but true, the i3 really adapts well to the driver and I was soon on the road negotiating the afternoon Salzburg traffic and heading for the countryside. The i3 instantly gives a sense of belonging; the sheer silence gives the driver and occupants total enjoyment. The BMW i3 is incredibly easy to negotiate the traffic and has a brisk response coming off from a standstill. Bear in mind that I had been exerting power for quite a few hours from the i3 older and brutal brothers earlier that day, but, I was enjoying it just as much. Having the experience of a seasoned electric power cars I was soon grasping the opportunity for power regeneration, on the i3 free standing dash, this is clearly illustrated and indicates with clarity and accuracy what is is being consumed and generated.

Soon out of traffic zone, I decided to head  towards the various villages looking out for that occasional uphill to add up to the thrill of energy generation. The car felt like any other car, as you would expect from BMW. The Germany brand took its time to reveal its electrical secret, the project was kept under wraps until the very end and the company never mentioned that it was planning such an innovative and a total electric ground top electric propulsion vehicle. The wait was a total success. 

I did push hard on the i3 especially negotiating tight and winding corners, definitely these type of test drives do shed a totally different opinion to the ones we do locally. On these roads one finds the opportunity to really come to terms with the vehicle in question appraising its innovative qualities especially when driving a new generation of road vehicles. It would be superfluous to try and justify the comparison with the M series but this car was great fun, I tackled the corners aggressively and the i3 held its line, if this is the present future well I like what I see. It was time to stop to admire the view. Austria offers some excellent scenery. I stopped next to a wonderful lake and I was the surprised to see the people around me looking in the wrong direction. Not at the lake, but my new found joy, the i3. The car is an adequate four seater with no b pillars, a four door variant with the rear doors in what is known as a suicide version hinge on the lower and upper support beam resulting in a pleasant and spacious way to enter and exit from the rear seats. Here one has to be aware that you have to make sure that the rear doors are closed well because if the dash indicator shows that the door is not fully closed, you will need to open the front door to release the rear door. This is just a technicality but it reinforced the car as both doors act as a supportive b pillar.



Ironically, when I parked I found a power pillar, to top up my i3, but I wanted to challenge myself on the car’s performance and distance travelled so I let it be.

It was soon time to head back and I decided that it was time to forget the winding roads, where I experienced BMW engineering at its best, and to focus on speed.  It is a fact that electric cars have instant torque from standstill and can be fun off when launching from traffic lights but here I wanted to test out the stability of the i3. From standing, full marks, the car kept its path and immediately picked up speed. Top speed is electronically locked at 150kms, well with no speed camera around I was very close to that figure, the car was still pleasantly generating electric propulsion, still quiet, extremely stable and solid on the road. I made sure that I had a clear rear view when I braked and instantly the car went into energy generation plus mode, the stability in braking was incredible, back on the power pedal I was back on track happily keeping pace with cars next to me.

Definitely the future is here, but I feel that more is to come, the project has clearly demonstrated  a solid projection however things will only improve and get even better in the sense of economy.

The combustion engine has remained the same for over 200 years but electro mobility will evolve and become a challenge for car manufacturers, definitely BMW has already taken the challenge.  


Author:© Pierre P. Vella
Images © Pierre P. Vella

 

BMW eDrive technology including electric motor and high-performance lithium-ion battery developed and manufactured independently by the BMW Group; hybrid synchronous electric motor developed specifically for the i3, maximum output: 125 kW/170 hp, peak torque: 250 Nm (184 lb-ft); power sent to the rear wheels via an integrated differential gear; lithium-ion high-voltage battery with usable energy capacity of 18.8 kWh; intelligent drivetrain and charge management using power electronics developed by the BMW Group; battery can be recharged from a domestic power socket, BMW i Wallbox or public charging station.

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