TodayApril 16, 2022

BMW i3 – born electric, made with carbon fiber


The LifeDrive architecture concept was purpose-built specifically for the BMW i3. It is comprised of two modules; the Life Module, and the Drive Module. Think of the Life Module as the passenger cabin, or greenhouse. It is the first-ever mass-produced Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) passenger cell in the automotive business and is a big factor in the efficiency of the car. Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic is equally as strong as steel, while being 50% lighter, and 30% lighter than aluminum. The result is an electric car that weighs about 2,700 lbs (preliminary US figures).

Due to the lightweight, a high tensile strength of CFRP, the passenger cell has added protection, and the battery has less work to do, which allows for the use of a smaller, lighter battery that saves even more weight, reduces charging time and increases range. The lightweight design of the Life Module also lowers the BMW i3s center of gravity, making it a more engaging and dynamic car to drive.

The Drive Module, which is constructed out of 100% aluminum, consists of the 22-kWh, 450 lb. lithium-ion battery, electric drive train, MacPherson strut and 5-link rear suspension system and structural and crash components. The battery mounted in the rear, close to the drive wheels, gives impressive performance characteristics while also providing better traction.

Another benefit of the LifeDrive architecture concept is that there is no space-consuming transmission tunnel running through the center of the car, like in most internal combustion-powered cars, because of the separate Drive Module. This gives the BMW i3 the interior space of the BMW 3 Series, while only having the footprint of the much smaller BMW 1 Series.

The Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP), which is produced near Moses Lake, Washington, is made primarily with the use of hydroelectric power, harvested nearby. This is done to minimize the effect that BMW i3 production has on the environment. Since more than 10% of the carbon fiber needed to manufacture the BMW i3 is made from recycled materials, it is another way the BMW i3 is completely sustainable. The roof is made of CFRP scraps to help recycle leftover material from other parts.

Look at this picture you can see it is not just a circle telling you the difference between comfort and eco pro, the map takes into account the topography and traffic.

The Range Assistant is engaged both for route planning and during journeys already underway. Topographical mapping technology helps find the most efficient route to your destination by calculating distance, elevation, and other factors, in order to get the best range from your BMW i3. If the destination is beyond the car’s range, it can suggest switching to ECO PRO or ECO PRO+ to get more from the battery’s charge.

Pricing (before federal or local incentives) starts at $41,350; $45,200 for Range Extender model. Destination & Handling Fee not included.
On Sale: Q2 of 2014 in the USA.

I think there is a case to be made for every car dealership in the country to have solar panels and charging units.

1. It would alleviate some range anxiety – the BMW i car dealers will have charging units at their dealerships. All Chevy dealers that sell Volt and Spark should have at least one 240V charger installed. Most will have two. Eventually, all 2,135 Volt dealers across the U.S. will have charging units.

2. Car dealers would benefit from the panels when no one was charging.

3. Other EV cars would come to the dealerships and get to see different EV cars

And it would put Tesla in an interesting spot since they seem to want to produce cars and sell their cars without dealerships and create stand-alone superchargers – the well-to-wheel/carbon footprint on that strategy has to be huge!

All 535 Cadillac ELR certified dealers are required to have two 240V chargers installed on the lot. General Motors has partnered with Envision Solar in San Diego to provide solar trees if a dealer so chooses (this is optional.)

It certainly makes sense for showrooms to have infrastructure installed – both from a practical standpoint, but also to demonstrate to customers how the systems operate. Car dealers report several instances of EV drivers pulling onto a lot just for a charge – and (generally) everybody is welcome.

Now if they had a Cafe and free Wifi.

Lou Ann Hammond

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a founding member of the Women's World Car of the Year #WWCOTY, and board member of the Women in Automotive.