BMW i3 concept coupe – zeroing in on an EV

BMW, taking another step toward selling electric cars under its i brand sometime later next year, is showcasing its latest concept vehicles at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Cars highlighted at the major industry show include the BMW i3 Concept Coupe, “a particularly nimble and emotive version of its concept for sustainable premium-class motoring with zero local emissions.”

This tight three-door number is built around what the BMW marketers are packaging as LifeDrive. The Life part of the amalgam is the carbon fiber-reinforced plastic passenger cell; the Drive part is the horizontally split aluminum module that includes the drive system, chassis and battery.

Like the BMW i3 Concept shown earlier, the Coupe features a 125-kilowatt/170 horsepower motor that delivers 184 pound-feet of torque. Still no specs on the energy storage, but BMW says the car is designed to travel “around 100 miles” on a full charge before needing an electron fill-up.

BWM is aiming to deliver interior spaciousness in this 156-inch-long car, so to avoid boxiness it uses what it calls “stream flow” design, with a steeply raked windshield, a roof line “that descends genty into the vehicle’s tail,” and frameless windows.

There are lots of bells and whistle inside, too, of course, this being the future of driving. The i3 Concept Coupe comes with two displays, with the typical instrument cluster contained in a 6.5-inch screen on the steering column, and a second dash screen – bigger, at 8.8 inches diagonal – that carries the navigation info, including BMW I ConnectedDrive services. But these two screens work together, BMW points out, unwinding this urban mobility scenario:

“When the car is started, the instrument cluster springs to life first. It signals that the vehicle is ready to start with a welcome sequence whose animation spreads to the central information display. In the meantime, the system has already connected to the drive’s smartphone and is showing current calendar entries. Shortly afterwards the driver receives a text message with the agreed venue for his meeting. The address data are automatically used to generate a navigation destination, which then appears on the central information display.

“The driver learns that his destination is within the vehicle’s range and he is advised to recharge the car there. Shortly before arrival at the destination, various charging stations in the vicinity are displayed and the driver is offered the option of booking one of them. He confirms and books the nearest one. During the journey the driver can also find out about the restaurant he is heading for as well as listening to personal playlists. On arrival, the driver hooks the vehicle up to the charging station. The illustration of the different functions is rounded off by an animated charging graphic that appears on both displays when recharging the battery.”

The Concept Coupe offers three modes for your highly connected driving pleasure, dubbed Comfort, Eco Pro and Eco Pro+, with the selection made using the “Driving Experience Control” switch.

Each mode offers a trade-off: Comfort yields maximum sporty fun, but gives up some efficiency; Eco Pro increases efficiency, and thus range, but you lose a little power; and Eco Pro+ maximizes range by not only modifying accelerator mapping, but also limiting the max speed (to 56 mph), reducing energy sent to heating and air conditioning functions and turning off creature comforts such as seat heating, mirror heating and daytime running lights.

Pete Danko, EarthTechling