Kyle’s Corner (FYI) Light Has a Bright Future

We all know that it takes less energy to move something light than something heavy. Furthermore, it also takes less energy to stop something light than something heavy. It might be equated to the old saying, “The bigger they are the harder they fall!” OK, so much for old sayings! What about the future automotive landscape regarding electric vehicles?

In the past, BMW has been ahead of the automotive curve. Therefore, what the automaker is currently doing is a good indication of where the industry is going. BMW will start its new “I” alternative propulsion division at the end of 2013 (just about two years away). One of the automaker’s cars will be the i3, a four seat electric car that will have about a 100 mile driving range in between recharges.

Unlike other all electric cars that will be made from high strength steel, BMW is starting from the ground up with a ‘light weight’ vehicle construction process. In other words, BMW realizes that light weight is the friend of electric vehicle performance and range.

Of note is that BMW is gathering useful information on its electric vehicles with the 2009 EMini (BMW owns the Mini Cooper) and ActiveE cars, both of which have steel bodies. Thus, BMW looks to make improvements based on EMini and ActiveE driver feedback combined with making its future electric vehicles lighter. The bottom line for BMW is to build an electric car that consumers want. Such an attitude is a good frame of mind for a successful electric car. However, the price of the car will also be highly important!

The i3 will be built on what BMW calls its LifeDrive architecture. The Drive module half of the car will be made of aluminum and will hold a mid-mounted 168 hp electric motor, a single speed transaxle, a 20 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, the steering rack plus the components for a front strut and rear multilink suspension.

Furthermore, the i3 will have 265 lb. carbon-fiber reinforced plastic safety cage wrapped in thermoplastic body panels. The body will be attached to the Drive module by heavy duty adhesive and five bolts.

As the Drive module contains all the major drive and suspension components, it can be used or easily modified to accommodate other bodies. This is an important part to lowering the electric vehicle’s cost.

BMW assured Car and Driver that the i3’s shape has been established, however, some steel might be added so that the car passes rollover and side-impact safety regulations. To see the upcoming BMW electric vehicles, visit my previous article: BMW working on i4 Electric Coupe and i5 Sport Sedan.

By reducing the weight of future electric cars, BMW can achieve its performance goals and obtain an acceptable driving range.

I think that BMW is going about building electric vehicles in an intelligent manner. It includes feedback from drivers about its current electric cars, reducing the vehicles’ weight and using a single common platform to help reduce costs. After all, BWM realizes that drivers should ‘want’ the vehicle, it needs to be ‘affordable,’ and it cannot afford to waste time with only so-so development!

Does this mean that BMW will abandon its high performance ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’ internal combustion engine vehicles? No! However, it will cover both ends of the market.

Is a $20,000 BMW electric car that drivers want to drive in the future? I would say that it looks like it indeed!

Kyle Busch is the author of “Drive the Best for the Price: How to Buy a Used Automobile, Sport-Utility Vehicle, or Minivan and Save Money.” He welcomes your comments or car questions at his auto web site: Follow Kyle on Facebook and Twitter.

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