Worsening air pollution in many urban areas, growing environmental awareness and rising energy prices over the last two decades have prompted many car manufacturers to search more intensively for new models of future mobility. Investment in the development and production of electric cars in particular has risen substantially. However, the results have not yet been entirely convincing – internal combustion engines have simply been swapped for electric motors without fundamentally rethinking the car itself.
BMW followed a different approach when creating their electric concept car: The development of the BMW i3 started in 2007 from a blank sheet of paper; the idea was to completely rethink the electric car by optimising every detail for maximum performance. Since increased weight translates directly into a shorter range, one of the prime objectives was to reduce the car’s weight to an absolute minimum. This development effort resulted in an electric car with an innovative architecture – without transmission line, gearbox, fuel tank or exhaust system, and with a battery that is integrated into the underfloor. The passenger compartment is constructed entirely from carbon, a material that is as strong and impact-resistant as steel but with just half the weight. The car thus manages to make up fully for the extra weight of the battery, resulting in a total weight of slightly over one ton. Fully charged, the battery gives the car a range of up to 160 kilometres and can be recharged at quick-charging stations to 80 per cent capacity in as little as 30 minutes.
The familiar car interior has also been radically rethought in the design process. The BMW i3 dispenses with both a centre console and the classic look of a cockpit. Instead, it features two displays that show all navigation information, enhancing the futuristic feel of the BMW i3’s near-silent driving experience. The design of the exterior, with its smooth surfaces and precise edges, conveys reliability, safety and lightness – an exterior architecture that both underscores the use of innovative technology and lends the BMW i3 a self-contained identity.
With the design objective of entirely rethinking the electric car, BMW i3 has emerged as a vehicle that successfully gives electric propulsion technology a pioneering form. The result is a next-generation car that is to earlier electric cars as flat-screen monitors are to the earliest vacuum-tube televisions – a vehicle that can surely contribute to accelerating the long overdue trend towards replacing internal combustion engines with electric motors.
Source: Every Product Tells a Story (Red Dot Edition 2014)
Posted on 30.03.2017