General Motors Company (GM), Ford Motor Company (F): The Worldwide Reveal of BMW’s i3 Could Equal Trouble for Competitors

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BMW is known for a number of things when it comes to cars: fast, sporty, renowned German engineering, and cutting-edge technology. However, on July 29, BMW added something completely new to its list of accomplishments: all-electric-car manufacturer. The company has pulled back the curtain on its highly anticipated i3 electric vehicle, marking its first venture into the all-electric-car market. Here’s what you need to know.

BMW i3. Image source: BMW.

A look at the i3
At first glimpse, it’s easy to see that the rumors surrounding the appearance of the i3 are true — it looks like the concept model. That’s either good or bad, depending on your view of the i3 concept. I like it. But what I like even more are the specs.

The price of the i3 starts at $41,350 — that’s without federal or state credits. Standard on the i3 is a 170-horsepower, 184 pound-foot hybrid-synchronous electric motor with maximum revs of 11,400 rpm. BMW also says the i3 can go from 0 to 60 in 7.2 seconds and is capable of going 80 to 100 “real world” miles in comfort mode — however, according to European Union test procedures, the i3 can go 118 miles per charge in comfort mode. Further, thanks to BMW’s e-drive technology, the driver has the option of driving the i3 in an “EcoPro” mode that extends the initial range to 124 miles per charge. Plus, BMW’s navigation system, Intelligent Emergency Call, anti-theft alarm, and Rear Parking Distance Control are all standard on the i3.

For those who want to roughly double the range, the i3 with Range Extender starts at $45,200. For that you’ll get a rear-mounted, 34-hp, two-cylinder, 650cc gasoline-powered engine that works by maintaining the battery’s charge, but never directly powering the wheels.

General Motors Company (NYSE:GM)Finally, the i3 is the world’s first mass-produced electric vehicle constructed of carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer, has a 50-50 weight distribution, and uses a 22kWh lithium-ion battery capable of recharging in three hours with the use of a 220-volt 32-amp charger. However, the SAE DC Combo Fast Charging option charges the i3 up to 80% in 20 minutes, and 100% in 30. As for driving performance, reviewers such as Edmunds and BBC’s Top Gear test-drove the i3, and gave it rave reviews.

Coming Q2 2014
The i3 won’t go on sale in the U.S. until Q2 of 2014. But once it does hit showrooms, the EV, which seats four, could definitely have an impact on General Motors Company (NYSE:GM)‘ 2014 Chevy Volt, which in 2012 was the best-selling EV with a starting price of $39,145 and is expected to undergo a price reduction this month, and Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F)‘s 2014 Focus EV, which, after a recently announced price reduction of its own, will start at $35,200.

At the beginning of 2012, there were really only three comparable EVs available — the Volt, Nissan‘s Leaf, and Toyota Motor Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:TM)‘s Prius Plug-In Hybrid (the first sales were reported in February 2012). Overall, the Prius Plug-In sold relatively well against comparable EVs — in fact, it was the second best-selling plug-in.

Source: Inside EVs’ Monthly Plug-in Sales Scorecard

But in May, Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) saw its first sales of the Focus Electric. That was followed by more releases of EVs, and by 2013, there were a number of additional EVs available.

Source: Inside EVs’ Monthly Plug-in Sales Scorecard

Since the market gained more options for EVs, starting last November, Toyota Motor Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:TM) has seen a steady decline in Prius Plug-In sales — the opposite for sales of the Volt, Focus Electric, and Leaf.

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