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BMW Debuts First Electric Vehicle Made Primarily of Carbon Fiber 164

Elliot Chang writes "BMW debuted its 2014 i3 EV in New York City this morning. The new car is the world's first purpose-built electric vehicle made primarily of lightweight carbon fiber. The new 2014 BMW i3 electric vehicle will be powered by a rear-mounted 170-hp electric motor coupled with a 22-kWh lithium-ion battery. The range of the standard i3 will be 80-100 miles, but drivers wanting to go the extra mile, so to speak, will be able to opt for a two-cylinder range extender engine that will boost the i3s range to about 180 miles. The new i3s DC Fast Charger will be able to go from a fully drained battery to about an 80 percent charge in just 20 minutes when plugged into a public EV fast-charging station."
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BMW Debuts First Electric Vehicle Made Primarily of Carbon Fiber

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  • by Nullifier ( 911937 ) on Monday July 29, 2013 @07:02PM (#44417943)
    The new car is the world's first purpose-built electric vehicle made primarily of dollar bills.
    • by O('_')O_Bush ( 1162487 ) on Monday July 29, 2013 @07:22PM (#44418163)
      I know... it is going to be crazy expensive, not all that practical.... and worst of all... ugly as sin.

      Why couldn't they have converted a 1 or 3 series to full electric+carbon fiber? The bourgeoisie would be kicking down the doors for a chance at something like that,
      • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        Because right now the 1 or 3 series are also ugly as sin.

        Call me when they fire the stupid designers and start making cars that look like they did earlier when BMW made sexy cars.

      • worst of all... ugly as sin.

        I've decided to keep my old car until I can replace it with an electric vehicle.

        This has almost everything I need, range is great - my daily drive is 30km, so it'll be fine for that and a fair bit more. Performance looks excellent for the type of vehicle and while I'm not a BMW fan, I expect it'll be reasonably well constructed. If the price is really 40k, it'll be high, but acceptable given the lower running costs, though I expect by the time it lands in Australia, it'll be double or triple the price in

        • I have to agree... this is one messed up car concept. The hard angle lines are clearly meant to look aggressive and appeal to men, but this tiny featherweight car would more naturally appeal to women. The Chevy Volt made the same mistake, just not quite as badly. Put those lines an a Camaro with a gas guzzling V8, and maybe it would sell.

          While I'm also a fan of electric cars, I'm having trouble offering kudos to BMW. This car has some unique advances, and that's a good thing, but how did it ever get int

          • by Cyberax ( 705495 )
            WTF? Chevy Volt has a nice no-nonsense design, it's simple and plain. And in my experience the "for men" cars mean mostly "for idiot jerks". And they are not the target demographics for electric cars.

            But yeah, the design of this BMW definitely looks kinda weird. I wish they could make it simpler.
          • by Hobadee ( 787558 )

            It's too bad Google can't force the car companies to design an innovative car they way Google forces cell phone companies to innovate.

            Google *IS* innovating the car - it just isn't out yet as it's still in their internal testing, but I've seen several cars driving around the area with funny sensors mounted on them []. Maybe it's not *electric* innovation, but it is innovation.

        • by dj245 ( 732906 )

          worst of all... ugly as sin.

          I've decided to keep my old car until I can replace it with an electric vehicle.

          This has almost everything I need, range is great - my daily drive is 30km, so it'll be fine for that and a fair bit more. Performance looks excellent for the type of vehicle and while I'm not a BMW fan, I expect it'll be reasonably well constructed. If the price is really 40k, it'll be high, but acceptable given the lower running costs, though I expect by the time it lands in Australia, it'll be double or triple the price in rest of the world...

          But then as you say, its looks are ...special.

          From the side, you'd think the designer had his/her elbow jolted while they were sketching the doorline, and the corresponding rear roofline dip is likewise utterly horrible. It has that kitschy little wedge just behind the front wheels to make sure it looks dated and busy instead of clean and efficient. And that wedge-shaped black fillet from the underbody to make it look like it's braking hard while standing still. Why?

          The front isn't totally despicable, though the twee fake blanked off radiator intakes should have been binned and the person suggesting them slapped on the head with a (steel) tyre iron. It's ELECTRIC, you idiots. Not keen on the contrast colour sideburn headlight droopy bits either, but I could live with them.

          The back looks bulky, saggy and committee-designed, not nice, but not appalling either, while the interior is generic enough to be ok, provided you can option out the baby-poo mustard yellow and soviet-bloc concrete grey contrast trim.

          I mean, I want an electric car that does what this one does. But I sure as hell don't want this one. Mercedes? Volkswagen? Opel? Ford? Are you listening?

          It seems to me that visibility out the back of this car will be terrible as well.

      • You didnt see the Active-E then?

        The reason is that the 250Kg of batteries has to be made up for somehow. That is through the lighter CFRP module on top

      • Why couldn't they have converted a 1 or 3 series to full electric .. ?

        Because, as someone once posted here before, there are three rules about electric cars :-

        1) They must be tiny

        2) They must be ugly

        3) They must be quirky

        Admittedly, these rules are not always followed, but seem to have been in this case.

    • by quenda ( 644621 )

      ... the First Electric Vehicle made primarily of plastic.
      Carbon fibres are just the re-inforcing, so this car is no more "primarily carbon fiber" than a concrete building is "primarily steel".

      • Depending on the process used, the carbon fiber to epoxy ratio can be rather high. For a DIY-style wet layup, 50/50 carbon/epoxy is reasonably good. For a compression molded or pultruded element (this particular case is probably compression molded), 70/30 carbon/epoxy ratios are more likely. Also, since the Young's modulus of CF is way, way higher than for the filler, essentially all of the load is carried in the carbon.
  • What a POS (Score:4, Insightful)

    by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Monday July 29, 2013 @07:04PM (#44417953)

    Butt ugly, $40,000+ and a mere 100 mile range. They will sell about 4 of these.

    • Re:What a POS (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Capt.DrumkenBum ( 1173011 ) on Monday July 29, 2013 @07:18PM (#44418107)
      Why is it they keep making UGLY electric cars. I love the idea of an electric car. If they put something on the market that is:
      Not ugly
      Not horribly slow.
      At a reasonable price.

      I will buy one. So will a lot of other people. In my opinion the 100 mile range is (just) good enough. The range extender engine is a good idea.
      • What happens when you ding one of these thing? Are body shops going to be able to fix the composite panels?

        • Are body shops going to be able to fix the composite panels?
          Corvette body shops have been doing fixes for fiberglass panels for years. I would expect carbon fiber repairs to be very very similar. Possibly even using fiberglass cloth in non-visible areas to repair the carbon fiber. Sure fiberglass might be a little heavier, but no one's going to care about the extra 3 ounces when it's an extra pound of epoxy on that crack/hole. And if it's $50 cheaper, probably the body shop will take the cheaper metho

          • Yeah, I looked it up and it looks like bike shops have figured out how to do carbon fiber frames, so this might not be too bad.

          • I have to wonder why they'd even consider carbon fiber for body panels on a production vehicle (which this not)

            CF is lighter and stronger (but far less flexible!) than fiberglass, but it's certainly not lighter than plastic. Plastic body panels are not OMG new technology, we've had them in a number of production vehicles since the 1980's.
            • Plastic body panels are not OMG new technology, we've had them in a number of production vehicles since the 1980's.

              Make that 1956 (at least) in the UK :- Reliant Regal Mk3 [] Apart from the Regal, and its successor the Reliant Robin, there were quite a few GRP small-run production cars in the UK in the 1970's, mostly sports cars. I always fancied a Reliant Scimitar [] (you would not believe it was made by the same company as the Robin). The type was generally discontinued when crash standards were introduced because the bodies split rather than crumpled when crashed.

              There is/was a guy in Horfield (suburb of Bristol,

        • by sshir ( 623215 )
          BMW says that panels designed for quick replacement. Like snap on/ snap off. And considering that those are not carbon fiber but cf reinforced plastic, they shouldn't be that expensive (relative to labor costs of traditional body work.)
      • Your commend reminds me of a signature line a project manager I worked with recently had:

        "you can have it fast, cheap, or good, pick any two."

        It is currently impossible to satisfy all the things you'd like, pick any two.
        • Pick two is one of my favorite expressions.

          However this project seems to have ended up with none of the 3 objectives.

          Fast: No
          Cheap: No
          Good: No

          • Yup...after BMW makes this car they'll have to change their motto, "the ultimate driving machine" to something lesser.
        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

          Which one doesn't the Model S satisfy? From your or the GP's list.

          • The Model S isn't cheap.
            And while I personally think it looks good, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I think aesthetics should not be on that list either way.

            • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

              And while I personally think it looks good, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I think aesthetics should not be on that list either way.

              Except cars are ALL ABOUT AESTHETICS!

              Which is one reason why when I saw the Tesla, I liked it - it looked like a normal car. The Leaf and other cars all look distinct, and to an extent, a bit ugly since they tend to resemble well, an econobox. At not so econobox prices. The Volt looks nicer, but it still looks... different.

              And yes, while looks are determined somewhat by

        • My meme is "You can have it green, safe, or handy. Pick one."
      • by Anonymous Coward

        And time machines! When will corporate america wake up and build us our damn time machines! I'd totally buy one, and I bet everyone I know would too! As long as they were under $100 and made doughnuts. Those guys are idiots!!!!

      • Not horribly slow.

        BMW is claiming 0-60 in under seven seconds.
        That's fast for a compact car, but slow for a compact car that costs $40k~$45k.

        Then again, no one is buying this car for its acceleration.
        /And the range extender adds 12% to the car's weight.

      • by jon3k ( 691256 )
        I don't see how this is horribly slow? 170hp in a very light (carbon fiber) and very small car makes for totally reasonable performance for the average human.
    • by spage ( 73271 ) <spage&skierpage,com> on Monday July 29, 2013 @09:40PM (#44419085)

      Unlike Slashdot commenters, most Americans live in multiple-car households. If your regular driving is less than the range you're set, because you use the family gas hog for those occasional journeys, or Zipcar.

      From the surprisingly favorable Top Gear review [], "BMW reckons nearly all i3 buyers will use it as a second car so won't be doing long journeys, and it's optimised to make them efficient and fun."

    • Butt ugly, $40,000+ and a mere 100 mile range. They will sell about 4 of these.

      Hah! People have said that about every massively-overpriced, butt-ugly car that ever came out of Munich. It never stopped any of them from selling to people who have more money than car knowledge. People buy cars based on the badge stuck to it (just like clothes, shoes, and every other overpriced "luxury" item you can think of).

  • Ok, probably just being pedantic, but what do they mean by two-cylinder on an electric motor? I thought cylinders were reserved for motors with explosions inside.

    • Electric drive with optional two-cilinder gasoline engine for extra range.

    • Re:Two-cylinder (Score:5, Informative)

      by bananaquackmoo ( 1204116 ) on Monday July 29, 2013 @07:13PM (#44418047)
      The engine is optional for people with range anxiety. You use it to generate electricity, not to drive the wheels directly.
      • by Andy_R ( 114137 )

        It won't cure range anxiety totally though, it only has a 2.4 gallon fuel tank.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          You can at least hitch a hike to the gas station on a pinch instead of hoping your 30 feet extension cord would reach.

        • by julesh ( 229690 )

          It won't cure range anxiety totally though, it only has a 2.4 gallon fuel tank.

          That should cure range anxiety completely: it is more than enough to get you home, however far you've driven on the batteries.

        • And if you're really worried, you can double it's capacity with one of these. []

          That's another 200 miles of range!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm sure the BMW is intended to be more of a mass-market vehicle, but it's hardly the first electric car body that makes heavy use of carbon fiber for weight reduction.

    • by spage ( 73271 )

      The Tesla Roadster was the first and for a while the cheapest car to use all CFRP body panels, but Tesla's site talks of its "monocoque chassis, constructed of resin-bonded and riveted extruded aluminum."

      From TFA the i3 is "the first mass-produced auto with a carbon fiber-reinforced plastic passenger cell mounted onto an aluminum chassis"

      So you're both correct.

    • by Amouth ( 879122 )

      makes heavy use of carbon fiber for weight reduction.

      Yet somehow it's still 2700 lbs.

      I think car manufacturers have lost any sense of what light weight means.

      I've got a midget made of steel with a heavy ass cast iron block at ~1500 lbs and a modern much safer miata at 2,100 lbs.. sure neither are electric or have the heavy batteries, BUT there are lithium-ion batteries at around 125wh/kg meaning that 22kwh would be ~400 lbs.

      Sorry but i really don't know what the hell they are doing to make modern cars so damn heavy, and the reality is that weight is a huge f

      • Cars, like people, seem to be getting morbidly obese. My first car, a Mini (original) weighed 650kg. My second car, a roomy 5 door hatchback (Ford Sierra) weighed just over 1000kg. The modern BMW Mini is not only heavier than the original Mini, but it's a 2 door small car that weighs more than my 5 door Ford Sierra did. It's around 1150kg!

        • To be fair the volume of vehicles have been increasing over time as well (lets ignore the American land yachts from the 60s). One of the biggest complaints about the BMW Mini it is huge size, they are absolutely gargantuan next to an Austin Mini. My wife has a 2000 VW Golf (not a large car by most people's standards) and when I got my project car in the garage next to it my wife's comment was how tiny it was because the Golf dwarfs the 68 Midget. Even look at the evolution of the Toyota Corolla [] to see how c
  • Yet another electric / hybrid car that looks like crap IMHO. Why not make it look more in line with your other models?

    One thing I wish Ford or one of the companies that built muscle cars, was take that body style, almost copy it exactly, and convert it into a hybrid or electric vehicle. Obviously, they'd have to change alot of stuff for structural integrity, make it carbon fiber, etc, but keep the body shape and curves.

    Imagine a car that looked like a 70's Mach 1 that was hybrid or electric... Of cou
    • The problem is that you need to make a car aerodynamic to make it either fuel efficient or to have a good electric range. The muscle cars were not particularly built with aerodynamics in mind - consume enough gas and you can overcome almost all air resistance.

      What I find interesting is that there must be one, or at best a few, optimum aerodyamic designs. Eventually all efficient cars will have to adopt these shapes with, possibly, minor variations. That said, Tesla's and Prius's have two of the lowes
    • All about aerodynamics, and walking the razor's edge ... how low can you dial the engine power, and still get reasonable performance.

      The Chargers, Challengers, GTOs, Camaros, Barracudas, etc of old contained so much raw power that they could push around big flat-faced grills, hood scoops, and a few extra tons of pig iron without missing a beat (well, your heart might skip a beat when you consider the single-digit mpg those behemoths pulled) This little 100 hp engine couldn't get a chassis like that out

      • by adolf ( 21054 )


        My first car was an early Chevy Beretta with a bit less than 100 HP.

        Highway speed? Easy. Maintaining it? Total non-issue.

        Faster than that? It's been long enough that I do not remember how what speed that car would maintain, but it was way faster than should be considered safe on most American highways.

        Now: That car was fairly light. It had two doors, was FWD, had no side-impact beams and no airbags, no ABS, etc. In terms of fuel-injected vehicles, it was pretty barren of safety features, and thus

        • Eh?

          My first car was an early Chevy Beretta with a bit less than 100 HP.

          100 American HP isn't comparable to 100 European HP.

          American engine designers are reknowned for making massive engines with very little HP but lots of torque.

          Mainly because Americans want the power at low revs and it's hard to put HP there. Europeans don't mind revving the engine a bit more when needed so Euro engines tend to put the power higher at the top of the rev. range and get better HP figures (but less torque and better overall mileage because they can use smaller engines).

          Bottom line: Saying "100HP

          • by adolf ( 21054 )

            PS: The USA's style would be far better served by putting diesel engines in their SUVs...just sayin'.

            And Europe's style would be far better served by using gasoline engines in everything...just sayin'.

            (Unless, of course, your generalization is just plain wrong.)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    At this price I expect to get at least an i7.

  • They really don't want to sell many of these do they? It's ugly. Design something that people would actually
    enjoy looking at instead of just letting your designers go ape shit and producing a care only they could love.

  • Wow that is ugly. I assume when this doesn't sell very well their execs will erroneously assume that people dont want EV's; when in fact people dont want butt ugly cars. Their execs should ask the people within their company who is proud of the aesthetic design of this thing... Id be surprised if anyone was. I expect that the group that designed this is suffering for diluted accountability syndrome and noone is accountable for this disaster.
  • by AaronW ( 33736 ) on Monday July 29, 2013 @08:22PM (#44418621) Homepage

    It's yet another butt-ugly electric car designed to meet the California air standards to help offset carbon. With only an 80-100 mile range (180 with a gasoline range extender) and it's butt ugly looks I don't think Tesla has anything to worry about. It'll join all the Nissan Leafs that are constantly charging around here. For $22K more you can get a much nicer Tesla model S (not counting $7500 federal tax rebate) with a 208 mile range (EPA). The Leafs are actually rather annoying.

    For the few times when I actually do need to charge (and there's not yet a Tesla Supercharger) all the spots are clogged up with Leafs because they have so little range. A friend of mine has one and he's always having to look for a place to charge whenever he goes anywhere.

    Cars like this are fine if you're just driving around town or have a short commute, but even driving around the Bay Area these cars aren't all that practical unless you have a second car with decent range. At least it supports rapid charging though BMW is supporting the SAE standard referred to as "frankenplug" rather than Chademo which is far more common (but is only really supported by Nissan around here).

    Note that I'm rather biased since I drive a Tesla Model S. In my case I've only driven my gasoline car a couple of times since I got my model S. Once was to go to a camping trip where there's no charging anywhere along the way out in the middle of nowhere over dirt roads and the other was to haul some garden supplies I didn't want in my Tesla. I've taken it from the Bay Area up to Lake Tahoe (destination at 7200' elevation) with zero problems. I just had to stop in Folsom long enough to eat lunch while my car charged. It was 106F while driving through the Sacramento valley as well so I ran with the AC set to 72. I worked out driving down to LA isn't an issue either since I can get by with a fast charge in Gilroy (only a few minutes since the car still has a lot of charge) then one battery swap (90 seconds) along the way if I don't feel like stopping and waiting again. A good alternative to Gilroy is to just drive south all the way to Harris Ranch and charge there while getting a good steak.

    I think 150-200 miles is the magic number for EVs to really become practical for a lot more people here in the US.

    • Yeah, and extra 22k can get you a much nicer car. You can say that of pretty much every car on the road. For that, you can also trade in my son's bicycle for a new car.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      It's a European car made by a German manufacturer. Solar PV is big in Germany so a lot of the local buyers won't be paying for much of the energy they use. I really doubt they give a shit about California air standards or the Model S at this point, since they are launching in Europe and the Model S isn't anywhere near to being available here.

      I agree though, if the Model S were available here it would be well worth saving up a bit more for.

    • Really? For only $22k more? What a deal!

      $22k more turns a BMW 335 into an M3.

      $22k more turns a pair of Nike shoes into a Hyundai or a Kia.

      $22k more turns an apartment lease agreement into a home mortgage.

  • by hedley ( 8715 ) <> on Monday July 29, 2013 @08:50PM (#44418797) Homepage Journal

    Aztek redux now with battery and the prestige value prop logo.

  • If this thing hits anything bulkier than a shopping cart it's a write-off. That's the problem with composite materials: They don't bend, they break!! Insurance on these will be pretty rich. (but if you have the money for this BMW I guess it's not an issue..). Still, be wary of people who think everything should be made of some super light weight composite. It's a complete mess to work with and will leave you crying even after the slightest accident.
    • On the contrary, it will do better under light impact. Anything strong enough to damage it's integrity would crumble a steel panel, too. You know the cheapest way to fix a crumpled steel panel? Yeah, you replace it. Bondo is or dings this thing won't show.

      Not that it matters - this thing is so fucking ugly a good work over with a baseball bat would be an improvement.

  • can more than half of you seriously not spell car?

    I can see why you keep tying care/cares instead as your typing it in the back of your mind your probably thinking "No one cares about my opinion"

  • by GodfatherofSoul ( 174979 ) on Monday July 29, 2013 @10:38PM (#44419401)

    Everyone is calling it ugly, I don't get that at all. This is nothing close to other hideous electric designs. I think they nailed the ergo for it. Priced right for the target demo, nails that parent's-2nd-commuter-car with the range, and has the space to pick up groceries on the way home or a couple of kids on "your" night. Your other vehicle is a minivan for the long distance stuff; this one for the work week.

  • Wake me when somebody develops a rechargeable battery with an energy density within spitting distance of gasoline and that's cheap, which I think will not include using lithium, for which we would have to strip-mine Bolivia to serve a fraction of the potential demand for EVs. That will have to be a battery that uses the oxygen in air as half of its electrochemistry.

    Basically, we're spoiled by fossil fuels like gasoline, which have the singular advantage that the oxidizer is available everywhere, for free. I

  • These days, BMW sells a hell of a lot of cars on Asian markets, especially to China. China has a growing middle and upper class, and these people want fine German cars (not to mention the know-how of how to build them).

    China, like many other Asian countries, also has a massive pollution problem. You can't leave the house without a breathing mask in Bejing pretty much. That's the kind of market the BMWi i3 is made for. So if you're wondering why it's not designed to your expectations, that's probably why :)

    • It is also the only way BMW will meet the EU emissions regulations due to hit in 2015 and 2020

      The one the other car manufacturers have a LONG way to catch up on.

  • the concept is cool, the car is just not cool. $50k for something that isn't cool, you may as well buy the Nissan Leaf.

    I don't know why car companies are sabotaging any real competitor for a successful EV product. Why do EV vehicles always have to be stupid looking or just obscenely expensive. Its like car companies really don't want you to buy EV cars, they just know there is a certain percentage of asshats out there that will buy any ugly or expensive shit they sell just because it is supposed to save

  • The Mercedes Benz SLS AMG Electric Drive [] seems like a better car. Not only does it look a lot better, it's a proper super sports car with 740 hp. Even Top Gear likes it!

    Little expensive though.

    • And that is a sexy car.

      If people want more electric cars then manufactures should be making cars like this. Make eclectic cars people lust after instead of ones that are strange [] looking [] quirks []. Make some electric halo cars [] and people will become interested. This is what Tesla did with the roadster, what MB is doing with the one you pointed out, and what BMW should be doing [] (ditch the little diesel and fuel tank and replace them with additional batteries) instead of the i3
  • They say it is made primarily of carbon fiber, which I guess is for weight savings, but why not tell me how much it weighs?

    I don't mind the way it looks, even if it looks mostly like a toy (I think because of the size), but agree with others that a plain-jane designed electric car would probably sell.

Some people manage by the book, even though they don't know who wrote the book or even what book.