BusinessCar Awards 2014 - Green Model of the Year: BMW i3
28 January 2014
BMW's electric i sub-brand has been a long time coming.
The German firm first revealed its alternative-fuel game plan when it pulled the wraps off the i3 and the i8 on home turf in Munich in 2011, after which it continued to drip-feed images, teasers and speculation about the finished articles until late 2013, when the first model to bear the name went on sale.
We're still waiting on the i8, an eco supercar with a battery in the front and a turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine at the back, but you're not likely to find something that extravagant on many choice lists.
The i3 supermini, however, is much more up corporate operators' streets. It comes in two guises: full electric with a 125kW battery and good for 80-100 miles or as a range-extender with an additional 650cc two-cylinder petrol engine that sits above the electric motor (itself in between the rear wheels), which ups the range to between 150 and 186 miles.
With zero tailpipe emissions in full EV guise and a mere 13g/km as a range-extender, it's well and truly clean enough to qualify for this awards category, which dictates that any entrant must emit no more than 75g/km of CO2.
It's far from the first electric car on the block, nor do those figures shatter any records for electric vehicle or plug-in car range, but what sets the BMW apart is its status as the first premium electric car.
Until now, nothing with wheels and a plug has worn such a badge, and all of the company's familiar qualities such as top build quality and great handling are present as ever - something that can't be said of fellow EVs.
A starting P11D of £25,675 after the Government's £5000 electric vehicle grant is a stumbling block, but the resultant running costs and tax benefits - for drivers and employers - are good enough to see 54.7ppm.
Hot on the BMW's heels is last year's winner, the Vauxhall Ampera, a plug-in hybrid that has proved itself to be one of the most viable and practical bridges between internal combustion engines and full-electric vehicles.
A fully charged battery will deliver an official 50 miles on electric power alone (BusinessCar's recent long-term test model was returning a comfortable 40 electric miles with regular use), while the 1.4-litre petrol engine and fuel tank are there as realistic back up as and when you need them.
Upper medium proportions and a sub-£30,000 P11D for the entry-level model make it a realistic alternative for many businesses, too.