Electric cars have been around for years. And yet finding a model that is both stylish and environmentally friendly might have previously been a challenge. Will the BMW i3 up the ante?
Electric cars are nothing new – the fully electric Nissan Leaf has been on UK streets for several years. But I can’t shake off the impression that most people are buying electric cars purely for their eco credentials rather than because the car around the batteries appeals more than conventional rivals.
I’d wager that the BMW i3 will change that though. BMW is famed for creating fun to drive cars and the electric i3 is no different. Yes the i3 is powered by lithium rather than fossil fuels, but the basics underneath are pure BMW.
Is an electric drive enjoyable?
The car is enjoyable to drive and in spite of the skinny eco tyres, it handles corners well and the electric motor provides big instant chunks of power as soon as you touch the accelerator.
Despite the capable handling, the driving experience is supremely relaxing too as you can essentially drive using only one pedal – lift off the throttle and regenerative braking (which maintains the charge in the batteries) means that the car slows quickly. Approaching roundabouts and slowing for corners you really don’t need to go anywhere near the brake pedal as a consequence. Even in town you don’t have to brake much if you anticipate traffic lights and keep an eye out for pedestrians.
Electric car government grant
You might think that price is still a huge stumbling point for electric cars and yes, electric cars do still cost a premium. However, if you were to buy the most similar conventional BMW rival with the same equipment as the i3 – the 118i five-door, the petrol powered model would actually cost £600 more than the electric car (admittedly once you’ve taken into account the government’s £5,000 electric car grant).
This might all sound like an advert for the i3, but the reality is that electric cars offer a very different proposition to fossil fuel powered models. Battery power offers smooth and quiet motoring and compact batteries allow for more cabin space.
As for the concern of running out of battery charge on the road, the i3 should manage a real world 80-100 miles per charge and its standard-fit satnav shows you where the nearest charging points are and displays how far you can travel on the satnav map. You also have the option of a ‘range extender’ version with up to 186 miles real world range if 100 miles isn’t enough for you.
So would the BMW i3 convince you to trade in your petrol or diesel car for electric power? Does its striking styling appeal to you or would you rather the more conventional design of the Nissan Leaf?