Not satisfied to let Tesla dominate the luxury electric car market, BMW has introduced the 2014 i3, a hybrid vehicle which can travel 100 miles without a recharge. For longer trips, the i3 relies on a two-cylinder, 34-horsepower gasoline engine that increases the total distance it can travel without refueling to 200 miles.
With a listed starting price of $41,350 (higher if you want to include the reserve gasoline engine), the i3 is also much more affordable for American consumers than many people had expected from a BMW electric vehicle. The cost makes it competitive with electric vehicles from Chevrolet, Tesla and Fiat, and promises to make it popular with a wider group of drivers, although it's still much more money than the average buyer is willing to pay for any vehicle, gas or electric.
One of the key features of the i3 is the frame, which is made from carbon fiber. It's an expensive material, but it ways half as much as steel and a third less than aluminum. This allows the car to travel farther on less energy than if it had been constructed using more conventional materials.
Another major improvement over other electric cars is the fast recharging time. According to Time Magazine, the i3 will be able to fully recharge in 30 minutes, making it more for consumers who make many shorter but frequent trips around town.
While the driving range of the i3 is still limited compared to the Tesla Model S, it seems likely that the lower price and BMW brand will attract many buyers. In the long run, this will be good for consumers, who can expect car companies to continue competing to put out lower priced models.