BMW i3 Electric Car May be Nearly Self-Driving

5 years ago by Tom Moloughney 17

In about 16 months BMW will launch their first electric vehicle the i3. The i3 will be the first vehicle to come out of BMW’s new i sub-brand. Initially dubbed the ‘Megacity Vehicle’ the i3 will be offered standard as a pure EV however customers that desire more range (or just piece of mind from range anxiety) can order an optional range extender BMW calls REx.

The REx option is rumored to include a 600cc two cylinder engine and a very small gas tank that only holds about 2-3 gallons of gas. The REx will have no physical connection to the powertrain and will only serve to maintain the battery’s charge. It will power the i3 an additional 100 miles once the 80-100 mile electric range is depleted. The i3 has a 170hp motor and 184lb-ft torque and will accelerate from 0-62 mph in 7.9 seconds.

BMW has decided all of their electric vehicles will be purpose built EV’s and not share a platform with one of their existing cars. The i3 will use BMW’s new “Life Drive” architecture where the drive module and passenger cell are made completely separately and mated together near the end of the vehicles production. The two are literally glued together and only four bolts are used to line them up and hold them together while the glue dries. The i3 will be the first series production car to employ such extensive use of carbon fiber reinforced plastics. That along with the all aluminum frame will keep the i3’s weight to only 2,756 lbs.

However it’s the electronics that might be the most interesting features the car has.
Here’s a list of some of the features the i3 is rumored to have:

Adaptive cruise control with stop and go: The car will maintain a consistent distance from the car in front of it, slowing up and accelerating as it does. It will even come to a stop and accelerate once again as the lead car does.

Passive Front Protection: The i3 will detect a possible collision whether it be another vehicle, object or pedestrian and alert the driver. If the driver doesn’t react to avoid the collision the car can apply the brakes itself and stop to avoid the accident.

Traffic Jam Assistant: While driving 25 mph and slower, the i3 will basically drive itself by combining the adoptive cruise control and the ability to stay in and change lanes by itself. The driver will need to keep at least one hand on the steering wheel as a safety feature but it will basically be there just in case because the car will be doing the driving.

Parking Assistant: The i3 will parallel park itself. This isn’t as groundbreaking as Traffic Jam Assistant because it is offered by other automakers, but it’s good to see it there also.

Whether or not the Traffic Jam Assistant makes it to the production i3 remains to be seen. I assume the driver would be able to disable it as some people wouldn’t want to use this out of fear of it malfunctioning. BMW believes it will relieve some of the stress of city driving with congested streets and frequent slowing down and then speeding up. Either way, the i3 is shaping up to be an interesting vehicle. The biggest question now is: How much will it cost? The only word from BMW is that is will definitely cost less than a 5 series which starts at about $47,000.

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17 responses to "BMW i3 Electric Car May be Nearly Self-Driving"

  1. Marc Lee says:

    OK BMW you win. I want it. 🙂

    The weight savings on this thing is incredible. If BMW can figure out how to incorporate carbon fiber cost effectively this may be as important as using an electric motor.

    1. Marc, they believe they have. They recently built a carbon fiber plant in Moses Lake, WA in a partnership with SGL to help control costs and assure they will have a controlled supply. One of the things that makes carbon fiber so expensive is that it is very energy intensive to make. The plant is powered 100% from hydroelectric soures and besides being renewable energy it’s extraordinary cheap, only a few cents per kWh.
      Besides using it for all the i brand cars, you will soon see the BMW using it extensively throughout their ICE vehicles also. I believe this is just the beginning of CFRP in cars.

  2. PhxGuy says:

    I would like to get one of these but not for the gadgetry. No offense to Bimmer the first thing I will do will be to turn off all the invasive new techno babbles. Hope that is something a person can just flip off one time and never have to adjust again.

    I like to be in full control of my driving

    1. I would expect you will be able to shut the features of that you don’t want to use. They couldn’t force you to use traffic jam assistant or parking assistant for example. I suppose they could make it so the passive front protection is automatic and unable to be turned off though. It would even be better if these were optional so you wouldn’t have to pay for the tech that you didn’t want to use.

  3. RIver says:

    Is there a way to actual buy one of these? a deposit or reservation system?

    Even a placeholder setup like the Leaf had? If it is under 47000 like you say I would trade my x3-35 for this

    1. No there isn’t. The i3 will launch in September of 2013 so it’s still over a year away. At some time, BMW may initiate a reservation process, but I haven’t heard anything about it yet and quite frankly I’m not expecting them to do so unless it’s very close to launch. Primarily because right out of the gate they are going to mass produce them, making 30,000 of them the first year. As for the price, yes, it will definitely be under 47k the BMW CEO said so. My guess is between 42k and 45k to start.

      1. RIver says:

        Thats alot of i3s to start out with. I thoght i remember hearing they were going going to try and sell up to 30000 of them sometime in 2014, they must have alot of confidence

        1. The i3 will launch in Sept as a 2014 model. They have announced they hope to sell 30,000 of them starting 2014, so yes you are correct. Perhaps the first few months will have a ramp up to full production, but that won’t take long. I was just trying to point out that they will not have supply issues like the LEAF initially had(and still does!). If you want one, you’ll be able to get one pretty quickly. They are already retooling the Leipzig manufacturing plant to begin making them. I also think they are being conservative with sales goals. Personally I think there are many within BMW that think they will sell more than 30k annually(worldwide) and they will have the capacity to build them if they do.

  4. Jay Cole says:

    Just as a random/off topic thing, I would at the very least be mildly concerned that SB Limotive would have trouble filling demand out of the gate, should the i3 prove to be a 30,000+ hot seller.

    I know they say they are ramping up to a 50,000 pack equivalent out of the factory, but its pretty hard to go from basically nothing to 30,000, while saying nothing of the risks involved from tolling up a new plant so quickly…hiccups can slow things way down (thinking about A123s ramp up into mass production, and quality issues).

    Not saying that is/will be the case, but I am also guessing that Samsung and Bosch (who really own SB) really don’t want all their production going to BMW. If Fiat/Chrysler ever got off their butt with the 500, or they secured another major player (which I am sure they are aggressively pursuing), I could see supply being strained through 2014.

    As a WAG, I imagine when SB inked this deal, they envisioned building the cells in Europe at a 2nd location shortly after the i3 really got pumping along…leaving the Korean plant for other (and more regional) endeavours.

    1. Yes Jay, that would be a concern. But I think this is one of the advantages BMW has from not being the first to market with an EV. They have had time to look at what the others have done well, and also where they had difficulty. I’m sure they have plenty of discussions with SB-LiMotive over production capacity in relation to their sales goals.

      I wouldn’t worry about Fiat needing many packs. Marchionne has been very clear that the electric 500 will be a compliance car and they will make the absolute minimum. He doesn’t want to make them but has to and said: “With every Fiat 500 electric sold we lose about $10.000. Technical obstacles we have to pass are still a lot: batteries, recharging, distribution network. And the market is currently almost nonexistent. Our technology is one that we can’t develop in normal conditions” and that’s selling them at more than DOUBLE what the gas 500 costs. This is what you’ll hear from companies that aren’t serious about electric vehicles and just want to talk about why they won’t work instead of why they do.

      1. Jay Cole says:

        I agree with you 100% on Fiat. It would take a real about-face for them to be a player. I actually remember breaking the news that Chrysler-Fiat had scrapped the ENVI lineup back in the day…that was one unhappy PR rep, heeh.

        You could just feel that anything electric from Chrysler had died because of this tie-up with Fiat. Of course, on the nice side, if you worked at Chrysler, you still had a job.

        On a personally note, the death of the ENVI/Chrysler lineup of electric vehicles was a real down day for myself as well. I was really looking forward to being able to haul the extended family around in a Town & Country electric van.

        1. Agreed Jay. I wish GM would put the voltec drivetrain in the Equinox. Even if it only got 25-30 AER it would be a great little crossover. I have a 4WD 2011 Equinox LTZ that my wife drives, it’s really a nice vehicle in my opinion. If they made it an EREV, I’d be first on line to buy one.

  5. Delta says:

    I predict this will be ‘European car of the Year’ – after their humiliation this year by the Volt/Ampera…

  6. BlindGuy says:

    My wife is about 4’10” tall and our full-time driver; so I am really hoping the front bench-style seat will be split, so I won’t have to sit in the front totally cramped-up. Any guess on what the RX version will cost. I definitely want that extra range ability especially for her.

    1. I definitely would think the front seats will operate independently. The concept had individual adjustments for both the driver and passenger. Take a look at the picture on this link and you can see small black tabs on the front of both sides of the bench style seat. that allowed either side to me moved independently. http://bmwi3.blogspot.com/2012/04/bmw-i3-its-bigger-on-inside.html

      1. BlindGuy says:

        Hey Tom, thanks a lot for the info. The more I learn about this vehicle, the more I like it. I’m just hoping BMW keeps the price down for the I3RX and puts more luxury in the I8, for people that demand for the Ultimate JMO.

        1. I’m of the belief there will be a lot of high end options -especially electronics that you’ll be able to order with the i3 but not unless you want to so you can keep the price down as low as possible. I like ordering options ala-carte so I hope I’m right about this. There hasn’t been any indication about the price of the REx option, and a lot of people have asked me what I think it will cost. I really don’t have any idea other than a pure guess so why bother. I will keep this readers informed here when I get any new i3 information.