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Electro-cute: BMW mulls selling first electric car in PH

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Singapore—In a small, heavily urbanized island city state in Southeast Asia, motioncars-Inquirer Motoring witnessed the unveiling of a compact five-door hatchback, with a general architecture deviating from any conventional passenger car.

Plenty of notes must be scribbled about this landmark vehicle, the most important ones being: a) This hatchback is all electric; b) It is made by BMW; c) Apart from the high-strength, lightweight carbon fiber reinforced plastic, lightweight aluminium and thermoplastics, this vehicle is partly made of recyclable materials; and d) The manufacturing plants where this car and its raw materials are being made use wind (at the Leipzig plant) and hydroelectric power (at Moses Lake in the United States)—their carbon footprint is virtually zero.

At the Aug. 21 exclusive media session at the BMW i Space open area at the ION Orchard, the premium luxury carmaker displayed its first production-ready all-electric car i3, and the 2-door concept car i8 (the sports car featured in the 2011 Tom Cruise starrer “Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol”).

First impressions of the i3 have placed many motoring journalists here at a quandary. Its architecture is completely unique, but in terms of physical dimensions, the i3 is comparable to the 1 series for the exterior, but the interior space looks even bigger than that of the 3 series.

Overall, this author found the i3 “electro-cute,” a compact package of eco-friendly production efficiency.

The i3 was also recently unveiled in Beijing, London and New York. It will enter the Singapore market in the middle of 2014.

Organized by BMW Group Asia, the event also introduced the carmaker’s new sub brand BMW i.

Aside from being tailored to optimize strength in critical areas, CFRP has 50 percent lower density than steel or even aluminium, but possesses a high level of strength and stiffness, and is relatively easy to engineer for specific impact-energy absorption.

BMW experts flown in from Germany explained that with the resulting strength and stiffness, there was no need for B-pillars to achieve structural integrity in a collision, which is why the i3′s doors are hinged at the A- and C-pillars. When opened, the doors provide unobstructed access to the passenger cabin. The i3 can run up to 160 km in a single battery charge, and can run from zero to 100 kph in 7.2 seconds.

Glen Dasig, executive director of Asian Carmakers Corp, the offficial importer and distributor of BMW in the Philippines, said that offering i3 in the Philippines was still being reviewed, explaining that the “i3 requires so much more in infrastructure.”

Dasig told Philippine media that BMW has been trying to set up a whole system where the infrastructure would involve the government, and even the telecoms industry (as the BMW i cars rely heavily on 24/7 connectivity). “At any point in time the system knows what’s happening with the car.”

BMW Group’s Manuel Sattig, project manager of BMW i, said: “Think about connecting the car to the customer to the rest of the grid, intelligent parking and charging system, and all additional services, so BMW i3 is more than just a car.”

By mid-2014, Southeast Asia will be seeing its first BMW i3 and i8 cars on the road. The questions are, when will the Philippines have its own i series? And would Filipinos embrace it? E-mail your thoughts at tsalazar@inquirer.com.ph.

[Editor's note: the i3 uses all electric propulsion with a range-extending 650cc two-cylinder gasoline engine available as an option. The engine charges the batteries and does not drive the car directly. To read more on i3, click here.]

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