BMW officially unveils i3 electric car

BMW's new i3 EV will go on sale in select markets this year. But will it be profitable? Does it matter?
Written by Tyler Falk, Contributor

In a simultaneous announcement today in New York, London, and Beijing, BMW officially unveiled its i3 compact electric car, two years after it first announced the concept.

The new car will hit German and other European markets in November. Other markets -- including the United States, China, and Japan -- will have to wait at bit longer, sometime in the first half of 2014, before the car reaches showrooms.

Some noteworthy specs:

  • Range: 80-100 miles per charge
  • Speed: 100 km/h in 7.2 seconds
  • Weight: 2,634 pounds with a carbon fiber passenger cell and aluminum chassis
  • Price: 34,950 euros (about $46,000) for models sold in Germany

Over three years, BMW also estimates that the costs to run and maintain the car will be 40 percent less than the BMW 320dA.

Its range does seem a bit low compared to cheaper EVs. The Fiat 500e, for example, costs $32,600 and has a range of 87 miles per charge. With the i3, BMW is offering a range extender (basically a two-cylinder gas engine) that adds about 100 miles of range to the car and about 5,000 euros to the price tag.

There is some debate about whether the car will be profitable. According to one analyst, Wall Street Journal reports, the car could lose about 197 million euros a year, while BMW says it will be profitable on the car from day one, with the company boasting that 90,000 people have already requested a test drive. Whether it can keep interest high without slashing the price remains to be seen.

Even if it does lose money from the car, there are current and future emissions regulations to be mindful of around the world. Instead of racking up fines because your fleet's emissions are too high, it makes sense to invest that money in an EV and see if it can catch on in this young, but growing, market.

Of course, all this is beside the point. Watch the new videos:

And one with the car's designer:

Read more: Wall Street Journal

Images: BMW

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