Image credits: © BMW.

2012 BMW i3 Concept

BMW i3 Concept – dynamic, compact, emission-free.

The BMW i3 Concept is an uncompromisingly sustainable vehicle designed for urban areas. Driven purely by electric power and purpose-built to meet the demands of sustainable and emission-free mobility, it embodies an intelligent form of urban transportation and commuting.

'This automotive concept uses a new architecture which showcases all of its new possibilities and potential. It is the world's first premium electric vehicle.' - Andreas Feist, Head of vehicle project BMW i3.

The BMW i3 is a well-resolved all-round concept, wîth every detail conceived and optimised to fulfil its eventual purpose. Central to its design is the innovative LifeDrive architecture, the key to the BMW i3 Concept's appeal as a light, safe and spacious car. Innovative use of materials and intelligent lightweight design not only enable the i3 Concept to travel long distances on a single charge and provide superb safety in the event of a collision, they also help give the car its excellent driving dynamics. The secure arrangement of the battery in the Drive module gives the vehicle a very low centre of gravity and optimum weight distribution. The electric motor over the rear axle - which generates output of 125 kW/170 hp and impressive torque of 250 Nm (184 lb-ft) from a standstill - and a small turning circle combine to deliver pleasingly crisp driving characteristics and give the driver a very immediate experience of the BMW i3 Concept's lightweight design. The BMW i3 Concept accelerates from 0 to 60 km/h (37 mph) in under four seconds and from rest to 100 km/h (62 mph) in less than eight seconds. The extremely direct sensation at the wheel is expressed in outstanding agility at low speeds and during turning manoeuvres, and makes parking in tricky situations that much easier.

The Life module conjures up a feeling of space inside the car more generous than even the latest conversion vehicles can offer. Select materials lend the open and airy cabin a lounge-like character. The use of renewable raw materials is another defining characteristic of the interior, offering passengers a further means of 'experiencing' the sustainability of the vehicle. Elements of the instrument panel and door panelling are visibly made from natural fibres, while the naturally tanned leather of the seats creates a lounge-style ambience. Together, these materials provide an appealing contrast to the clear, 'floating' forms of the instrument panel and door elements, and lend the interior a strikingly modern feel. With the drive components located in the Drive module, there is no centre tunnel running through the passenger compartment. This allows the two front and two rear seats to be connected wîth each other by a continuous seat surface, which allows for ease of entry and exit via the front passenger side of the car and means you can park up close to walls, for example. With four seats, wide-opening opposing 'coach' doors, boot capacity of around 200 litres and an additional functional compartment in the front, the BMW i3 Concept is neatly equipped for the demands of everyday use.

However, the electric motor developed by BMW and the optimised lightweight design of the LifeDrive architecture cannot take all the credit for imbuing the car wîth such efficiency and enabling it to travel such long distances on each charge. Indeed, the ability of the car to recoup energy while on the move and special range-extending functions, such as ECO PRO mode, also add miles to the clock. With ECO PRO mode activated, all the vehicle functions operate wîth maximum efficiency. For example, the accelerator mapping is tweaked to limit the output summoned when the driver flexes his right foot, and the climate control functions also use as little energy as possible. Added to which, sophisticated aerodynamics and slim, low rolling resistance wheels minimise resistance to the car's forward progress and maximise its range.

Vital Stats
Engine :
Power: 168 hp
Torque: 184 ft-lbs

Innovative connectivity functions create a seamless connection between the BMW i3 Concept and its customers' lives outside the car. Remote functions accessible via a smartphone enable owners to find their vehicles, flag up nearby charging stations, allow battery charging and preconditioning at the touch of a button and supply information on the current status of the vehicle. Meanwhile, intelligent assistance systems ease the stress on drivers in monotonous city driving situations and allow them to arrive at their destination more safely and in a more relaxed state of mind.

BMW i thinks beyond the vehicle.
An additional range of mobility services – which can also be used independently of the cars – will be an integral component of BMW i alongside the vehicles themselves. This should allow the creation of a new, profitable area of business over the long term and attract new customers to the company's brands. A totally new development in this area will be vehicle-independent mobility services. These will allow BMW i to offer bespoke mobility solutions representing a perfect combination of premium vehicles and premium services. The focus is on solutions which will improve usage of existing parking spaces, as well as intelligent navigation systems wîth local information, intermodal route planning and premium car-sharing. In addition to service packages developed in-house, the BMW Group is pursuing cooperations wîth partner companies as well as strategic capital investments wîth providers of mobility services. BMW i Ventures was established wîth this purpose in mind. The company aims to expand the product portfolio of BMW i over the long term wîth stakes in highly innovative service providers, such as MyCityWay and ParkatmyHouse.

Purpose-built design – the LifeDrive concept.
The construction of electric vehicles has, up to now, been based on the 'conversion' approach. This involves integrating electric components into vehicles originally designed to be powered by a combustion engine, as in the case of the MINI E and BMW ActiveE test cars. However, this form of automotive electrification involves making complex modifications throughout the vehicle and therefore increasing its weight considerably. That is because the electric drive components place totally different demands on a vehicle when it comes to installation space and cannot be integrated into that vehicle without adding weight and compromising interior and boot space. Conversion cars thus do not represent the best long-term response to the challenge of e-mobility. The BMW Group engineers took a different approach, focusing squarely on the eventual usage of the BMW i vehicles in developing the LifeDrive concept. This new vehicle architecture meets the full range of technical requirements of an electric drive system (including a large battery), while keeping weight low, maximising range, creating generous levels of space, enabling supreme driving characteristics, and ensuring impressive safety for the battery and passengers alike.

In contrast to vehicles wîth a self-supporting body, the LifeDrive concept essentially comprises two separate, independent functional units. The Drive module integrates the vehicle's suspension, battery, drive system, and structural and crash functions into a construction made chiefly from aluminium. Its partner, the Life module, consists primarily of a high-strength and extremely lightweight passenger cell made from carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP). The use of this high-tech material across large sections of the car ensures that the Life module is remarkably light and, in so doing, helps to achieve both impressive range and improved performance. Added to which, the car's handling is also much enhanced, and the functional connection between the Drive module and the torsionally rigid Life module lends it a very distinctive dynamic character. The use of CFRP on this scale is unprecedented. Indeed, wîth the creation of its LifeDrive architecture the BMW Group has taken lightweight design, vehicle architecture and crash safety into a whole new dimension. By avoiding the need for modifications to accommodate the electric drive components, the LifeDrive architecture ensures the car is no heavier than a conversion vehicle of similar size. Intelligent lightweight design and the innovative use of materials allows the LifeDrive architecture to cancel out all the extra weight added by giving the car an electric drive train rather than a comparable combustion engine.

Another special feature of the BMW i3 Concept and BMW i8 Concept are their wheels, which are noticeably larger and narrower than those of their class rivals. Slimmer tyres generate far less drag and rolling resistance, reduce unsprung masses and, in so doing, allow the cars to travel further on a single charge and use less energy.

Lightweight and safe.
Equally impressive as the vehicle architecture's benefits in terms of weight and handling is its performance in crash tests. Here again, the combination of the aluminium in the Drive module and the Life module's CFRP passenger cell demonstrates just how well lightweight design and safety can go together. Like the cockpit of a Formula One car, the CFRP passenger cell provides an extremely strong survival area. Pole impacts, side-on collisions and rollover tests highlight the impressive safety-enhancing properties of this extraordinarily robust material. While metal constructions require the addition of large energy absorption zones, special deformation elements in the CFRP structure allow large amounts of energy to be absorbed in an amazingly small area. Despite the heavy and sometimes concentrated forces, the material barely sustains a dent. Together, the high-strength CFRP passenger cell and intelligent distribution of forces through the LifeDrive module lay the foundations for optimum protection for the car's occupants and battery alike.

The LifeDrive architecture of the BMW i3 Concept.
Both the BMW i3 Concept and the BMW i8 Concept have been designed around the innovative LifeDrive architecture. However, the geometric implementation of the concept differs in the two models, having been adapted to suit their different usages. The BMW i3 Concept features a horizontal-split variant of the LifeDrive concept optimised to accommodate the car's electric drive system. Here, the Drive module provides the solid foundations for the Life cell, which is simply mounted on top. The driving element of the Drive module's functional design is the battery, which is made as large as possible to give the car better range. Bearing in mind the size of the BMW i3 Concept's battery, the most space-efficient place to store it was in the car's underfloor section. There, it occupies the whole of the module's central section, giving the car optimum weight distribution and a low centre of gravity and therefore enhancing its dynamics. The battery is penned in by aluminium profiles, which protect it from external impacts. Crash-active structures in front and behind it provide the necessary energy absorption in the event of a front- or rear-end collision. The electric drive system is, as a whole, much more compact than a comparable combustion engine, cleverly accommodating the electric motor, gear assembly and drive electronics – in space-saving fashion – within a small area over the driven rear axle. The BMW i3 Concept therefore features the optimum LifeDrive architecture configuration for a purely electric vehicle.

The chassis of the BMW i3 Concept is also ideal for city driving. Its enviably small turning circle and direct §teering responses are a recipe for outstanding agility, notably at low speeds. Rear-wheel drive allows the front axle to remain free from drive forces and therefore to carry out its §teering function to optimum effect. These elements team up wîth the electric motor – whose impressive torque from a standstill provides exceptional traction – to produce extremely dynamic handling characteristics.

The spacious Life module of the BMW i3 Concept allows the vehicle's interior to boast a totally new design. The integration of all the drive components within the Drive module removes the need for a centre tunnel bisecting the interior, through which power would previously have been transferred to the rear wheels. The BMW i3 Concept therefore offers significantly more interior space than other vehicles wîth the same wheelbase and – through solutions such as a full-width seat bench – also allows the interior to be adapted extremely effectively to the needs of urban mobility. Added to which, a pair of opposing doors and the omission of B-pillars provide a large entry area for passengers – and a generous view into the cutting-edge interior for admiring eyes. The BMW i3 Concept offers comfortable accommodation for four passengers and, wîth around 200 litres of boot space, room for their luggage as well. Úp front, underneath what would normally be the bonnet, the Life module gives the BMW i3 Concept a separate luggage area wîth space for the charging cable and other items passengers would rather not carry in the passenger compartment.

Source - BMW
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