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Urban mobility with a focus on green

BAVARIAN car maker BMW last week unveiled the production version of its much anticipated zero-emission vehicle, the i3. The purpose of the new model, according to BMW, is to revolutionise personal mobility by offering the world’s first car designed from the ground up to be powered by an electric drive system.

The figures are impressive: 125kW and 250Nm driving the rear wheels through a single-speed transmission. The performance figures tread into hot hatch territory: 0-100km/h in a claimed 7.2 seconds.

The power comes from lithium-ion storage cells found in the car’s underfloor which is said to provide even weight distribution and dynamic ability.

The range is the all important factor with the i3. BMW claims 130km-160km in everyday conditions when fully charged from a conventional power socket.

With a kerb weight of 1,195kg the i3 is certainly light thanks to the use of carbon fibre reinforced plastic in its construction. The passenger cell is said to be strong, too, with intelligent distribution and absorption of impact forces.

The dimensions are set to make the i3 a compact proposition. Its body measures 3,999mm in length, 1,775mm in width 1,578mm in height and it has a turning circle of 9.86 metres.

Added to the dimensions are the "coach" doors without B-pillars and lightweight seats with slim backrests which are said to aid in making the i3 a more capacious vehicle in terms of interior dimensions.

Styling wise the i3 is a departure from the current crop of petrol, diesel and hybrid models although you still get an interpretation of the marque’s kidney grille. The headlamps and rear lights both feature U-shaped LED light units.

Then there is the "black belt", a design feature of the new i range. It is a line extending from the bonnet over the roof and into the rear where it spreads around the central section of the rear apron with the aim of segmenting the design while emphasising the i3’s lightweight construction.

The i3 will be available with a choice of two non-metallic and four metallic paint options while the interior can be personalised with the Loft, Lodge and Suite trim levels.

Standard equipment includes iDrive, with Bluetooth and USB connectivity, hands-free telephone with SIM access, air-conditioning, park distance control, climate control as well as a variable luggage compartment.

The i3 is due in SA during the second quarter of 2014 but do not expect it to be cheap, with pricing likely to be well north of R400,000.More information about the program is available on the web site at