When it comes to exclusivity, London's Park Lane is hard to beat, and it's for this reason that BMW have chosen to launch their first BMW i Store in central London.
Exhibiting a new, lightweight version of the i3 Concept as well as the much vaunted plug-in hybrid i8 Concept, visitors can also get up close and personal with the naked carbon fibre monocoque that will form the cabin of the i3 and also BMW's electric bike – the i Pedelec. Finally, there's a very swanky BMW-made wall charger, the daringly named i wallbox. Put simply, BMW are willing to provide everything you need to experience “electromobility”. Except cash, that is.
BMW may have arrived a little late to electric circus, but now they've arrived, they're not messing around.
In just 18 months time you'll be able to buy the i8 (you'll even be able to order it online), and if that doesn't excite you, then nothing will. Powered by a front-mounted electric motor combined with a three-cylinder, 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine sitting the it's midriff, the i8 will develop 349bhp and 550Nm of torque – enough to out-gun it's combustion-engined equivalent, the Porsche Cayman R. On the combined cycle, the i8 will manage 94mpg (perhaps a slightly misleading figure) and will emit less that 100g/km CO2.
If you can't wait that long, the all-electric i3 will be available to customers from late in 2013. Altogether more practical, this new i3 has a revamped interior featuring natural, renewable materials such as wood, leather and wool. The eucalyptus wood used for the instruments, for example, is sourced from sustainably managed forests that also ensure that delivery distances are short. BMW have also tried to instill a “louge-style ambience” into the i3 (if your lounge looks anything like the i3's interior, we'd like to see it).
Featuring a new carbon fibre 'Life module', the i3 also maximises its interior space, with full-width seat benches in both the front and back as well as a slightly raised seating position for passengers, which is aimed at improving visibility in city traffic.
With 200 litres of luggage space, the i3 can also accommodate the i Pedelec too (two of them, in fact). BMW's electric two-wheeler uses an electric motor that complements the rider's muscle power up to a speed of 16mph. Range when fully charged is between 16 and 25 miles, depending on the riders weight and the route in question, and charge time is 4 hours from a normal 3-point socket.
So far, the only place to see BMW's i concepts has been at motor shows, where you get a very sanitized impression of the cars. At the Park Lane showroom, you can see the concepts in natural light and in your own time. The showroom is open late most nights and is well worth a visit.
The i8's interior is markedly more sporty that the i3's. The gearlever is a futuristic take on the one found in current BMW cars. On its left is the car's start button.
The i3's carbon fibre-reinforced plastic monocoque.
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