It is fair to say that BMW have more of a reputation for producing some of the most eye-poppingly exhilarating saloons in the business than they have for embracing Mother Nature. In fact, most of the stallions in the M-Sport stable are bred on a daily diet of pandas and dolphins. However, two years ago at the Frankfurt Motor Show, the German manufacturer announced a significant change of tack, with the introduction of a whole new range, codenamed ‘i’. This heralded the arrival of BMW’s first ever fully electric zero emissions vehicle, the prototype i3. Fast-forward to the 2013 Geneva Motor Show and the i3 Concept Coupe gets its official European premiere.
For the connoisseurs of fine styling and beautiful craftsmanship among you, the i3 offers precious little. The chunky and clunky exterior has changed very little, if at all, from the original 2011 preview meaning it won’t be winning too many admirers in the fashion stakes. However, the less than attractive looks disguise this car’s supreme intelligence. Based around BMW’s eDrive powertrain, the lithium-ion battery unit supplies the i3 with a standard range of 80-100 miles – freeing it from the traditional confines of the small electric city run-around. For those looking to squeeze the maximum amount of juice out of the i3, three different driving modes are available; COMFORT, ECO PRO or ECO PRO+. Providing you are prepared to do without air-conditioning and be restricted to a 56 mph motorway trundle, the i3’s range can be extended by a whole 25 per cent.
The real brains come in the form of BMW’s i ConnectedDrive navigation system, debuted on this car, which busily beavers away calculating everything from driving style to air-conditioning setting as well as taking in to account energy-sapping gradients and stop-go traffic jams to provide precise range predictions. Even if, somehow, you still find yourself regularly beached on the hard-shoulder with a flat battery, the i3 can be fitted with an optional range extender, achieving a mammoth 186 miles! Needless to say, if this is you, an electric car may not have been the wisest choice in the first place.
With the fully electric i8 concept due to join its baby brother in Geneva later this week, this could be remembered as the moment when BMW quite literally turned over a new leaf.