Where I currently work there is a parking garage that everyone must park in. There is always quite a variety of cars there, from Chevy pick-up trucks to BMW sedans, there is a little of everything parked there. However, about two weeks ago I started seeing an electric car being parked near me everyday. Specifically, it was the BMW i3. It always parks in the spot closest to a concrete column that houses a standard 120v outlet. The owner of the car plugs it in while he or she is a work. Some days when the spot closest to the column is taken by a regular gasoline car, I can see the black box that is the charger suspended in mid-air as the cord strains to reach the charging port of the i3 that is parked at the next closest parking spot. There are no dedicated electric car charging stations in the parking garage. The few 120v outlets scattered throughout the parking garage are an EV owner’s only hope of a during-the-workday recharge. After seeing it sitting there I was curious about its specs and performance, so I did a little research. Here is what I found:
First, most of the body structure of the i3 is made of carbon-fiber reinforced plastic. The body panels such as the doors and roof are made of hemp mixed with plastic which helps reduce the weight of each panel by 10%. Weight reduction is very important for electric cars if one wants to maximize the range and performance. Eliminating as much steel and aluminum as possible helps a lot. The i3 has four doors and seating for four people and the over-all size of the vehicle is a little larger than a Mini Cooper. It is powered by a 170 horsepower electric motor running on lithium-ion batteries and is rear-wheel drive. It can accelerate from 0-60 mph is about eight seconds and has a top speed of 93 mph. The maximum driving range is around 80 miles. BMW hopes to increase the range to 114 miles for the 2017 model year by increasing the battery capacity by 50%. All in all, performance is about the same as the offerings from BMW’s Japanese competitors, however; if one bought an i3, one could say that one not only drives an electric car, but also a BMW.