BMW i3, the small electric car is about to be retired

BMW i3, the small electric car is about to be retired

BMW i3

There is no official status but it seems certain that by next year BMW's i3 line is set to launch on the avenue of sunset. This was announced by a large part of the specialized press and the main news about this car arriving from the United States. Just in the USA, from this month, the deliveries of the latest models have ended.

Appearing in 2013 together with the more futuristic i8, the i3 represented (like the i8 itself) the first great experiment of the German house in the EV world. Dedicated factories in Leipzig began to combine cutting-edge production techniques and materials, creating two cars that have marked the progress of the automotive world in recent years. And the public, considering the niche range and the not exactly popular price, responded. Production has in fact exceeded 250,000 units in recent months.

How can we forget the many presentations dedicated to the BMW i3 and the many promotional initiatives of the parent company, which used it as a real trailblazer in the EV world . In 2015, some special versions dedicated to law enforcement were made, such as the police car you see in the photo (delivered in Milan during the Expo). In fact, BMW was very proud of its creation, at a time when people looked at the electric car with simple curiosity. Coming to the present day, the world of the electric has changed radically: if before it represented a simple futuristic vision, now it is destined to completely supplant traditional cars.

Appreciated for some technological solutions designed to reduce their weight, such as the almost total elimination of welds in the body, the i3 showed the clear limits of an electric dated 2013. The maximum battery life, for example, did not reach 200 km if not choosing the range extender model.

At the moment no successors seem to have been announced either for the i3 or for the sister i8, which has also reached the end of the series. But the achievements on the side of design and mass production will naturally apply to the next BMW models.

Last Call For BMW’s Pioneering i3 Electric Car As Production Ends

BMW topped off the i3 EV line with the stronger, faster i3S, but the i3 was never planned as a part ... [+] of the full BMW family. Photo: Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty Images

Getty Images/Sjoerd van der Wal

The small i3 hatchback, the car that set Germany’s BMW on the road to electric vehicles (EVs), is about to end production.

The quirky, pioneering and award-winning, the BMW i3 first came to life as both an EV and a range-extender hybrid (REX), with an expensive design and a ground-breaking interior.

From its debut in 2013 to its planned production demise from July this year, the i3 has increased its sales every year, peaking at almost 40,000 last year, and it was the world’s third most popular EV (behind the Nissan Leaf and the Tesla Model S) from 2014 to 2016.

Everything about the i3 was expensive and challenging for BMW, which built new carbon-fiber plants in the US and a new factory in the German city of Leipzig for it.

The similarly ground-breaking BMW i8 hybrid sports car was killed off by BMW last year. Photo: ... [+] Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images For BMW


Along with its (also terminated) i8 hybrid sportscar stablemate, the i3 drew BMW into researching technologies they’d never used before in a market segment they were never certain even existed.

'The success of the BMW i3 and the experience gained in developing and manufacturing it have laid the groundwork for the next generation of BMW electric vehicles — the fully electric BMW iX and the BMW i4 Gran Coupe, both of which arrive in the US early next year,' a BMW statement read.

It was seen internally as a toe-in-the-water car, and a technical flagship for aluminum and carbon-fiber production as well as electric motors, power electronics and batteries.

Unusually, the BMW i3 used an aluminum frame and draped a carbon-fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) body on top of it to keep its weight down to 1195kg.

The i3 also launched the “i” electrified brand for BMW, and it is now used for two mass production EVs.

The i3 drew praise for its interior design, in particular, which made use of recycled materials and carbon-fiber offcuts, winning the World Car Design of the Year and the World Green Car of the Year awards in 2014.

It was criticized in some quarters for its tiny lithium-ion batteries and short fuel ranges. Though it was offered with the initial choices of 18.2kWh, 27.2kWh and 37.9kWh battery packs, that still only topped the i3’s EPA range out at 153 miles.

The REX addition (with a 7.2-liter fuel tank initially in the US, then a 9-liter tank from 2017) stretched the range out to 200 miles.

A standout design since its launch in 2013, the BMW i3 was built in a purpose-made factory in ... [+] Leipzig, Germany. Photo: Jens Schlueter/Getty Images

Getty Images

Its design and engineering were said to have cost BMW upwards of €3 billion by 2013, with demands for a new carbon-fiber factory in Moses Lake, Washington, using material shipped from Japan, then processed in the US and shipped again to Landshut, in Bavaria.

It also saw BMW build a dedicated production plant in Leipzig, which was inaugurated in 2010, but production rarely climbed above 150 cars a day and remained at fewer than 70 cars a day until 2015.

The 200,000th BMW i3 rolled out of Leipzig in October last year, so its total production run will top out somewhere around 250,000.

Sadly, there is no direct successor for the much-loved hatch.