Following last week's BMW i3 review, we can say with some authority that it is A Good Car. To be honest, who expected anything less? But now it should be considered as something to own, again, with further detail. BMW peppered the launch with programmes, arcane terminology and incentives which just couldn't be given sufficient coverage in the drive story. Here we'll attempt to detail them as far as possible, and evaluate the prospects of the i3 as a day-to-day car.
With the Government's OLEV grant, the BMW i3 costs £25,680. To lease, it is £369 a month over three years and 24,000 miles with a £2,995 deposit. The range-extender model will cost £28,830 or £480 a month. Just a quick clarification point on the range-extender too; the 34hp, 650cc bike engine drives only a generator, and kicks in when the batteries have reached 18 per cent charge level. It is used to maintain the charge at that level and extends the range to around 185 miles.
The i3 wouldn't be a BMW without a 'comprehensive' options list. Standard 'Atelier' trim can be enhanced though the 'Loft', 'Lodge' and 'Suite' spec, bringing even more exotic cabin materials and pushing BMW's 'next premium' ethos. They cost £1,000, £1,500 and £2,000 respectively.
The seven-page extras catalogue also includes fairly conventional items such as a Professional Media upgrade (Professional Nav is a free upgrade on all i3s ordered before February), wheels, paints, park assist and voice activation. Be prepared to spend a while with it when speccing an i3 though, it's fairly detailed...
"The 360-degree Electric packages of services turn zero emissions urban mobility into a compelling everyday driving experience". BMW believes 360-degree Electric gives i3 customers the benefits of EV motoring without the drawbacks, so has it?
The charging solutions appear rather clever, both at home or in public. So, when your i3 needs a charge after 80-120 miles, there are a few options. An 80 per cent charge at home through a conventional socket will take around eight hours. With a BMW I Wallbox (£315 to you sir, installation included), this drops to three hours. Moreover, with the BMW i Remote app (more on which soon), charging can be timed to take advantage of low-cost electricity. It can also pre-heat the car to save energy on the move. If you so desire, BMW will assist in the installation of a car port with solar panels.
In Germany, customers can also sign up to an agreement to provide carbon-neutral electricity. BMW claims this gives the i3 an overall carbon footprint half that of a 2008 118d, taking into account the renewable energy used at the Leipzig and Moses Lake factories too.
With a rapid charge public station (145 currently in Britain), the i3 can be 80 per cent replenished in half an hour. Customers will be issued with a ChargeNow card, which facilitates cashless charging at around 70 per cent of the country's stations. These are in BMW's i network, where the card authorises the user, who subsequently receives a statement at the end of the month with usage costs.
Furthermore, BMW has teamed up with ParkAtMyHouse in Britain to offer users further parking and charging facilities. What you're meant to do at a stranger's house for eight hours whilst your i3 is charging though is anybody's guess...
ParkNow long term (still with us?) can reserve users a parking space for their i3 near home or work with one of the I network partners to allow for charging if they don't have a private parking area. Availability information goes back to the nav and app.
Driving abroad for a family holiday? Worry not, the 360-degree Electric programme provides an annual quota of time in a conventional BMW for when those situations arise. You won't be able to show off your futuristic EV, but it seems like a sensible solution.
Finally, if you do actually run out of electricity, phone BMW Mobile Service. They will arrive with a 'sort of spare fuel can' (that's a direct BMW quote) to charge the battery and get you underway again.
The BMW i Remote app is a very clever thing. And yes, it's available on Android. It's also part of the 360-degree Electric package and BMW's ConnectedDrive services, working with a sim card built into the i3 to provide access to the BMW server.
The app provides charging information, informing the user when the battery is fully replenished. It also rates the efficiency of your driving and offers tips to improve it. But perhaps its biggest asset is how the app works with the 'intermodal routing' sat-nav option. This provides real time public transport information though the server plus mapping to complete your journey via other means if necessary. The images below should give you some idea of how it works. Unfortunately we weren't given chance to in Amsterdam, BMW (wisely) deciding hacks shouldn't be wandering around an unknown city with an iPhone.
With the i sub-brand, BMW does appear to have mitigated against many of the perennial EV concerns. However, it is far from flawless. The charging cable remains a bulky thing, one that you can imagine becoming filthy over winter as it's dragged across tarmac. And whilst public charging makes sense in big cities like Amsterdam and London, Britain's EV infrastructure isn't as advanced elsewhere in the country. Perhaps that's why around 80 per cent of BMW's initial interest on the i3 has been towards the range-extender version.
And whilst the car worked unsurprisingly well on a prescribed launch route, how well it fare out in said real world? We want to see the i3 succeed as it's an original and innovative take on long-standing problem. With a couple of owners already popping up on PH, we should be able to find out!