ELECTRIC BMW PROVES A REAL HEAD-TURNER FOR COMMUTERS
The moment it was revealed to the Kiwi public it caused a stir and now that BMW New Zealand’s i3 electric vehicle has officially gone on sale it’s charging ahead of the competition.
While it was first on show to the public at BMW’s Auckland showroom in November last year, it officially went on sale on May 1.
In the six months that it has been silently driving around our roads, 20 i3 electric vehicles have been sold — with 80 per cent to Aucklanders and the remainder in Christchurch and Wellington.
With a driveaway price of $83,500, it sits at the top end of new electric vehicles now on sale in New Zealand but it’s already made an impact on our market.
According to BMW NZ’s communications manager, Edward Finn, for the first quarter of this year, the i3 is New Zealand’s best selling electric vehicle.
“We expect to sell another 20 through the balance of the year,” said Finn.
He said although the i3 was produced as a ‘‘mega city’’ vehicle, Kiwi buyers were finding that it was the “perfect car for city applications”.
The i3 is famously known as being “designed from the ground up” and is made of a carbon-fibre passenger cell and recycled thermal plastic panels, keeping weight down to to 1320kg to offset the weight of the batteries.
There is a 120kg, 96-cell, 360V, 22kWh battery pack in the floor to power a 230kg, 125kW/250Nm electric motor near the rear axle.
In New Zealand the i3 comes with the range extender power unit of a 28kW, 650cc two-cylinder petrol unit that extends the trip around 200km/h so technically you could drive from Auckland to Taupo without having to charge up or fill up.
To help conserve battery power, you can switch driving style from ECO PRO to ECO PRO+ which reduces your speed and eliminates such power guzzlers as the air con.
I’ve driven the i3 in Munich (minus the range extender, which caused range anxiety), plus a few days in it when it first landed in New Zealand and this week.
In the months since I first drove the i3 here, I’ve found that a few things have stayed the same — the galvanising of opinions on the shape of the hatchback and the headturning of commuters — but a few vital changes have happened.
The main change has been the increased free charging stations around Auckland, meaning you don’t have to rely on your home electric supply to keep the vehicle’s battery topped up.
I tested the two-charger station at Sylvia Park shopping centre during a weekday lunch break. Backing into the spot, I just needed to attach the built-in plug to the i3, turn on the charger — and find a restaurant.
Returning an hour later, the i3 had been topped up nearly 50 per cent — with my lunch guest suggesting that if I had added a shopping spree the i3 would have completed charged.
“And as you’re not paying for petrol or the electricity, then you actually have money spare to shop,” my guest laughed.
For more Kiwis, owning an EV is proving a cost-saving choice by charging it at home at night when electricity charges are low.