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The history of the electric car is almost as interesting as its future. Way before internal combustion engines clogged up the streets, personal transport was predominantly electric. With the discovery of oil and the large oil businesses that erupted in the early 1920s, the course of motoring changed forever.
Why then, did it take us so long, to come back to electricity as a viable form of motorised transport?
Let me get this out up front, I do love the drama of a petrol engine car. Some of the best experiences of my entire life have been behind the wheel of some exotic and not-so-exotic machines; the kind of moments where speed and noise and power combine to make you feel real emotions. Moments that make the little hairs on your arms stand on end.
Somehow, I don’t think electric cars will ever match that. Unless you have an unfortunate charging accident.
However, in the same breadth, driving around cities just sucks. Our modern lives are stressful and traffic doesn’t help at all. Being in a powerful, exotic car in a city is even worse. All the horsepower and nowhere to go.
In the same way that the horse did not disappear when the car arrived, the car as we know it will not disappear. Just like the horse, it will become a leisure or sporting tool; used on weekends mostly I would imagine and kept in stables – I mean garages.
And this brings me to the BMW i3. It is not the first electric car I have driven, but it is a car that, for the first time, made me genuinely believe that the future scenario I’ve just described is possible, is achievable, and is very close by.
Not only does the i3 run on exactly the same thing which currently powers your toaster, but it does so while making very few compromises to any other “normal” car. It’s a hoot to drive, thanks to its low centre of gravity, it accelerates like a kid’s catapult and its extremely comfortable and – unsurprisingly – quiet.
The boot space is perhaps the biggest issue, being somewhat compromised by the drivetrain and in the case of the Rex (range extender) model, by the generator mounted above the rear left wheel.
Sure, with a starting price of R525 000, its very much a second or third car option for now. But with a realistic range of 150km, and a charging price of R25 to R30 depending on your area, it makes a huge amount of sense.
The i3 spent a week with us at the Cars.co.za office, and we were all properly stunned (see what I did there) by this car. It is a real achievement, and I have done my best to explain why in this, our latest feature film.
BMW i3 Feature Film
|BMW i3 Specs in South Africa|
|Price||From R525 000 to R595 000 (Rex)|
|Full charge price||Varies, but approx. R30 @ R1.60 per kW|
|Range||130 – 160km (electric + 100km Rex)|
|0 – 100kph||7.2 seconds|