With a carbon fiber core, a small battery, and a radical design, the BMW i3 is an electric car that really deserves more discussion. It’s light, it’s rear-wheel drive, and its been designed as both a practical production car, and a testbed for technologies that will underpin future Bimmers.
Munro & Associates got their hands onto a BMW i3 a few months back, tearing it down and delving deep into the technology of this carbon fiber electric car. The analyst company has put out a trio of videos that explore the technical wonder of the BMW i3, which you can watch and enjoy down below. The conclusion Munro & Associates come to is that not only is the BMW i3 built around being as energy efficient as possible, but its also economically efficient as well.
Take for example the 22 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, which is a core feature of the i3’s structural integrity, but can be easily removed for maintenance. Tooling costs are estimated to be around just $120 million, compared to the industry standard of $450 million, and the carbon fiber-reinforced plastic body panels can be built fast enough for an entire i3 to roll off the assembly line every five minutes for buyers like former Top Gear presenter James May.
“BMW has a ten-mile lead over everyone else,” says Sandy Munro, CEO of Munro and Associates. “Nobody can catch up.” That’s a bold statement to make, but making individual battery cells easily removable from the battery pack is one of the little improvements BMW did to make the i3 more than just a compliance car. Industrial-grade adhesives keep the wiring clean and together in a way unlike any other battery pack, and even the connectors are said to be unique to the i3.
Yet it is the simplicity of the i3 that makes it so remarkable. By integrating many of the EV’s functions into the center touchscreen, BMW eliminated a lot of extra wiring, buttons, and switches. Engineers even managed to largely avoid using screws to attach interior parts, preferring snap-fits instead, which speeds up production while lowering weight and costs.
The biggest revelation of all comes from the BMW i3’s carbon fiber “Life Module” structure, which forms the basis for the rest of the EV. It is formed using a molding process, and all of the holes are cut using high-pressure water jets, rather than drills, which means no removing and replacing of old drill bits. This is one of the major reasons why Munro & Associates believes the i3 will be a profitable venture after just 20,000 sales…and it’s already more than halfway there.
The BMW i3 may not have the range of the Tesla Model S, but it could be argued that its the more technologically-advanced vehicle of the two. What say you though?