The world’s biggest motoring extravaganza, the Frankfurt International Motor Show, recently previewed squadrons of exciting new electric cars.
There’s undoubtedly an affordable electric car in the future for most of us, but meanwhile those prepared to spend a little extra can already enjoy “pollution-free” driving.
Some people say electric cars merely consume their power from a different pollution source – for example, a coal-burning power station instead of fossil fuels – but to me they are like climate-change deniers.
Automotive alternative-energy technology is developing at a dazzling rate and today’s problems will be history tomorrow.
Pure-electric cars have been slower to emerge than hybrids but everything has to start somewhere and I salute those who can afford to be pioneers with cars like the BMW i3.
The i3 runs solely on a battery-powered electric motor. The list price is $63,900 for a four-seat hatchback. The claimed normal range is 160 kms, but you’ll see the charge-meter fall faster than the Chinese stock exchange index if you use much of its lively acceleration and then be marooned without a very long extension lead.
An optional version with a motorbike-engine generator is $69,900 and keeps going until you can plug in again.
You’d be lucky if fuel savings made up the price difference from a Corolla in a lifetime, so why buy it? Well, there’s still plenty to like in the i3.
Taking advantage of the freedoms the small electric motor, one-speed transmission and lithium-ion batteries allow, the i3 is a uniquely purpose-built city car that works brilliantly in its environment.
It’s short and tall, with minimal overhangs and doors that both open from the centre pillar for easy access. It has self-parking assistance, navigation and communications features such as internet access, concierge services, real-time traffic information and BMW on-line support and the ability to carry out functions including remotely opening or locking the doors or pre-conditioning the climate control through a smartphone app.
No special controls or techniques are needed to drive the i3, but its characteristics take a little getting used-to – it leaps from rest like a greyhound and powerful engine braking when you lift off will stop without use of the brakes.
It’s not a perfect all-round car, but outstanding as an advanced-technology commuter if you’re willing to pay the price.