Greg Kable:

The new i3 is also the first road-going BMW model to be based around an all-carbon-fiber body. For development, BMW forged a working relationship with SGL Carbon and established a state-of-the-art carbon-fiber weaving and curing facility at its Landshut factory in Germany, where the new car’s structure is made.

BMW says using carbon fiber has helped achieve a low (for an electric car) 2,635-pound curb weight. This helps the car’s performance potential because BMW could use a smaller-capacity battery than would have been possible with a more conventional steel monocoque construction.

Stylistically, the production i3 differs little from the most-recent concept. It is a modern-looking car boasting proportions like those of the Mercedes-Benz B-class but with a more contemporary look. With no B-pillars, the car uses front-hinged suicide doors, allowing excellent access to the rear seat.

Power comes from an electric motor mounted low in the rear axle — a position allowing BMW to devote the space under the hood to improved crashworthiness. The synchronous motor is produced in-house at BMW’s Munich engine plant; the company says it weighs just 287 pounds and produces 168 hp. As with all electric cars, the torque is what counts, and the motor’s 184 lb-ft is 5 lb-ft more than what the Mini Cooper S’ 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbo produces. The i3 is rear-wheel drive with a single-ratio gearbox offering three driving modes: comfort, ECO-PRO and ECO-PRO+.