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BMW unveils first electric car

  • New electric i3 will arrive in November
  • 80-100 mile battery range available
  • Expensive to buy but with tax and fuel savings

The new i3, BMW’s first electric car, has been unveiled in London and is due to arrive in showrooms in November.

By 2020, the Government expects up to 20 percent of new car sales to be electric vehicles (EVs), but for these targets to be possible, fleets will need to play an integral part in driving sales.

It’s still early days for EVs and there is still uncertainty in the market over re-sale values, servicing, maintenance and overall costs. However, technology is constantly evolving and BMW is the latest in a long line of manufacturers to develop an electric car.

Ian Robertson, member of the board of management for sales and marketing BMW, said: "The BMW i3 heralds the dawn of a new era for individual mobility and for the BMW Group.

"Working together with governments, city mayors and other key partners, we are confident that this exciting new solution for urban mobility will provide customers with an attractive offer for electromobility and successfully address the environmental challenges facing a growing number of megacities around the world."

The i3 has a range of around 80-100 miles which has the possibility to improve if the car's efficiency-boosting Eco Pro driving modes are used, however, like other electric cars, the range is likely to be affected by colder weather, the amount of weight in the car and the use of equipment such as air conditioning.

The car can be fully charged in approximately eight to 10 hours by using a household socket or four hours if you have the car's BMW i Wallbox charger unit (available at extra cost) installed at home. Available as an option is a DC Rapid Charger which will charge 80 percent of the battery in half an hour.

There will also be a range extender version of the i3 available with an additional 650cc two-cylinder petrol engine to maintain the battery charge and extend the range to approximately 180 miles.

What will it cost?

To buy outright, the i3 will cost from £25,680 after the £5000 Government plug-in car grant, so it certainly isn’t cheap. The range extender version will cost around £3000 more.

Leasing rates will start at £369 a month. Customers can sign up to a 36-month contract for an initial fee of £2,995, followed by the monthly payments and contract mileage of 24,000 miles.

There is the added cost benefit of tax exemption until 2015, free London congestion zone access and no fuel costs which help make the i3 more affordable.

Who will it suit the most?

If you are considering choosing an EV as your next company car, there are a couple of things you should bear in mind.

An electric car isn’t for everyone, especially people that have a long commute to work or are on the road for a significant part of the day, especially on motorways.

EVs are likely to suit city dwellers, especially in London, as the availability of charging points and the cost savings from the congestion zone and free parking zones will be attractive.

How and where you will charge the vehicle needs to be thought out before selecting the i3, as some people, for example those who live in a flat, may not be able to physically charge the car at home.

To find out what we think of the BMW i3, read our preview here