Why the BMW i3 is the best electric car on the planet

BMW i3

Operating range is built into the BMW i3's nav system

On a related note, part of BMW's mobility solution for i3 owners is a sort of subsidised rental fleet of combustion-powered BMWs that i3 owners can access. Basically, you'll pay for points which in turn can be redeemed for a loan of a conventional BMW.

The idea is that for those few days per year when you need a long-range vehicle, you'll have one. What happens if everyone wants one over Christmas, for instance, remains to be seen.

The drive

But what's the i3 like to drive? Very nice is the answer, but possibly not exciting or different enough. Thanks to that carbon-fibre construction, BMW has kept the weight down very effectively indeed.

BMW i3

The BMW Remote app is integral to the i3 experience

The standard electric i3 is just 1,195kg, the range-extender version 1,325kg. The electric motor is good for 170hp, so that means nippy acceleration to 62mph of 7.2 seconds and 7.9 seconds respectively. Top speed is limited to 93mph.

The i3 is at its best around town. It's quick, it's super responsive and it's super refined. Even the best combustion cars make noises, shift gears and take critical moments to respond to throttle inputs.

But the i3 is electric and gearless, so it's instant to respond, makes almost no noise doing so and just keeps on responding. There are no gear shifts to worry about.

Out of town, it's a slightly different matter. At speed, wind and tyre roar contribute plenty of noise in any car, so the i3 doesn't feel quite as magical.

Nor does it feel quite as dynamic as you might hope. It's rear-wheel drive, but doesn't feel it most of the time. In the end, it's not a hugely exciting car to drive. More a very polished, calming mode of transport. For most, that's probably exactly as is should be.

BMW i3: First verdict

What to make of the i3 overall? As a technological achievement, it's second to none. Whether it will actually sell is another matter. It's interesting that BMW went to great lengths to reduce weight but did not use that advantage to fit a bigger battery and thus achieve longer range than the competition.

Research shows that the 100-odd mile range is more than enough for the vast majority of people who might buy an electric car the vast majority of the time. But we think a longer range would still help acceptance of what is an emerging technology.

BMW i3

iDrive Touch is standard on all BMW i3's

Then again, maybe the cost argument will win over. BMW reckons you can fully charge an i3 for less than £2. Try driving a petrol or diesel car 100 miles for £2.

Looks wise, the i3 is also a huge departure for BMW. That's a good thing in the sense that it underlines you're buying something new and technologically advanced. But, again, car buyers are a conservative bunch.

Ultimately, we think the i3 will be a lovely car to live with. It feels futuristic but upscale inside (if you tick enough of the options boxes, at least), it drives very nicely, it'll cost you virtually nothing in energy or fuel and nothing has better in-car tech.

Whether that's enough to win over electric car sceptics, time will tell. BMW could sell three or four times more i3s than any other electric car on the market and it would still be selling in tiny numbers.

In other words, BMW needs an order of magnitude more success with the i3 than any other electric car has achieved in the UK to make an impact. That's a big ask. But the i3 might just be the EV to take electric cars into the mainstream.


Technology and cars. Increasingly the twain shall meet. Which is handy, because Jeremy (Twitter) is addicted to both. Long-time tech journalist, former editor of iCar magazine and incumbent car guru for T3 magazine, Jeremy reckons in-car technology is about to go thermonuclear. No, not exploding cars. That would be silly. And dangerous. But rather an explosive period of unprecedented innovation. Enjoy the ride.