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Back to the future?

1 year ago

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Andrew Frankel | Ti co-founder


11 April 2023

Ten years ago BMW launched a brand new car. It looked, well, fans would say quirky, critics might say odd, but this is a BMW so there’s nothing new in that. What was new was that this BMW was made with an aluminium chassis and a body made from carbon fibre reinforced plastic.

The result was the lightest BMW on sale, a car weighing just 1195kg, or just 20kg more than a Lotus Exige of the same era. It had suicide rear doors, just like a Rolls-Royce Phantom or Ferrari Purosangue. Unlike them, those doors were made partly from hemp.

So light was this car that despite only offering 168bhp, it accelerated faster than a couple of versions of BMW’s Z4 sports car. With a belly-crawling centre of gravity and a rearward weight bias, it handled better than the soggy Z4 too. But this was no sports car, it was a family hatchback. An electric family hatchback, except that if you ticked the right options box, it came with a little scooter engine that would fire up when the battery level got low and propel you for another 80 miles where, if you still weren’t home and didn’t fancy waiting for hours, you could just drop a bit more petrol in it and be on your way in minutes. It was the BMW i3, and the further back into history it sinks, the more the work of genius it appears to be.

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