BMW i3 rear-engine RWD electric hatchback detailed, not fully revealed

BMW has released the first definitive details about its upcoming i3 electric hatchback, but has left some camouflage on prior to its big reveal at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show.

The i3 will be offered as either a pure electric car or a range-extended electric car, similar to the Chevy/Holden Volt.

Both versions feature an electric motor across the rear axle powering the rear wheels, of course. The compact 50kg electric motor can generate 125kW (170hp) of power and 250Nm (184lb-ft) of torque, and is enough to propel the i3 to a 0-100km/h time of 7.2 seconds and a top speed of 150km/h (93mph).

In normal driving BMW estimates that the 22kWh lithium-ion battery pack should give the i3 a range of between 130 and 160km (81 to 99mi). In Eco Pro mode, which will likely dull accelerator response and tune down energy sapping devices, such as the air conditioner, the i3 should gain another 20km (12mi) of range, while the even more aggressive Eco Pro+ mode should yield another 20km (12mi) again.

BMW will offer an 8-year or 100,000km (60,000mi) warranty for the lithium-ion battery pack. The battery can be charged either via a standard wall socket (charging times vary depending on your country’s voltage and current standards) or the supplied BMW i Wallbox, which can fully recharge the i3 in about 6 hours. A 50kW fast charging station can replenish 80 percent of the battery’s capacity in around 30 minutes.

Should a maximum driving range of 200km scare you away, BMW will try to tempt you with a petrol engine range extender in the i3. The range-extended i3 features a 640cc 2-cylinder petrol engine alongside the electric motor along the rear axle. Like the much larger engine fitted to Holden Volt, this small 25kW (34hp) motor charges the lithium-ion battery pack when it’s running low, but the electric motor is solely responsible for driving the wheels. With the petrol range extender on board total range is boosted to around 300km (180mi).

Thanks to a passenger cell built with carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) overall weight (probably for the electric-only i3) is kept to an impressive 1,195kg. BMW says the company’s trademark handling prowess is present in the i3. This is thanks to the car’s 50/50 weight distribution, but despite the skinny and tall 155/70 tyres wrapped around 19-inch alloy wheels.


Length: 3,999mm
Wheelbase: 2,570mm
Weight: 1,195kg
Turning circle: 9.86m

Derek Fung

Derek Fung

Derek has a lifelong love for all things automotive, from the dullest Camry to record shattering Bugattis. Prior to starting up Between the Axles he was a reviewer for CNET Australia and the founding editor of its Car Technology channel. [Read more]