BMW April 2022

Being a motoring journalist can sometimes make you rather blase when it comes to driving all those new vehicles. You try not to be, but it’s somewhat overwhelming with the amount of model derivatives available – and still to come. And then you get to test the BMW i3.

It is wonderfully exciting to finally be behind the wheel and actually see and experience so many of the materials and technologies that we have spoken about in Automotive Refinisher down the years. This vehicle really throws a curve ball when it comes to the regular mindset we have about the design and utilisation of cars.

The look and feel, internally and externally of the i3 is minimalist and ultra modern in colour and concept. There is a “black band” that runs from the front to the rear of the vehicle. It highlights the kidney bean shaped grille that is synonymous with BMW, and these are highlighted in blue in the i3. At the rear the tailgates have been given the same treatment. It has opposing doors that look really funky, but in normal parking lot scenarios make getting in and out of the vehicle almost impossible if you’re a passenger in the rear.

There is a sun roof and a moon roof (a sun roof that doesn’t open) above you as you drive and with the high seating position you certainly have great visibility. This creates a sense of almost being outside as there is so much light being let in.

The inside of the car proudly displays loads of carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP), interspersed with digital displays and a touch screen. The dash and seats are also given a splash of blue to create more interest visually, but generally it is unashamedly uncomplicated inside.

My original question on the CFRP was – is it actually a greener option? It is in the view that it makes the car far lighter and reduces emissions, but not in the face of recycling as it takes more energy to break it down than regular materials used in vehicle manufacturing. There’s also the issue that we are not using clean energy in South Africa to charge the car, as Eskom still insist on digging up coal and polluting the air as they chase their ever archaic mindset to fill their individual pockets.

If you think the BMW i3 lacks in performance because it’s an electric vehicle, then think again. It’s an absolute pocket rocket and capable of 0-100km in 7.2 seconds. The range of the battery is approximately 150 kilometres and it takes about 7-8 hours to charge up fully again. The model we tested had a range extender. This is a small engine, that is fuelled by petrol, which drives a generator to charge the battery and gives you up to another 150 km to your range.

Driving the BMW i3 alters your driving behaviour too. On the heads-up display, you have the analogue speedometer indicating your speed. In the middle of this is a gap, where a blue light moves from the left to the right as you drive. If you manage to keep the light in the middle, this creates maximum efficiency. So you find yourself attempting to save energy all the time.

For around town this vehicle is perfect and it offers ample room for four people and a small boot space. Price wise, it’s a whopping R683 300 to purchase outright, but perhaps the better option would be to lease. As the demand for this technology increases, the price should come down. The good news is, that it’s not the perfect solution at the moment regarding pricing and other considerations, but the BMW i3 is a certainly great step in the right direction. Perhaps this is a real start to a never ending story towards protecting our planet and change our mindset for the better when talking automobiles.