NEW DELHI: Are electric cars ready for India? Is India ready for them? BMW wants to find out. The company is testing the BMW i3s in India right now—a fast, zippy but expensive electric vehicle.
While the company hasn’t yet launched this car in India, expectations are that it will be priced anywhere above ₹50 lakh, if and when it comes to the country.
The car runs completely on electricity, meaning the 200km claimed mileage on each full charge is all you will have. There are four driving modes—Sport, Comfort, Eco and Eco Pro+—and what they do are self-explanatory. The car gives you the best mileage when on Eco Pro+. However, looking at the battery bar drop quickly while driving is somewhat unnerving.
BMW also uses regenerative braking technology, which uses the vehicle’s kinetic energy to recharge the 33kWh lithium-ion battery whenever you hit the brakes. The car shows you this through the instrument cluster. And though it helps in topping up the battery charge from time to time, it really won’t keep you afloat too long.
A full charge—from zero to 100—takes about 12 hours, if you’re using the power points at your home. Electric charging stations, which are far and few in India right now, will take slightly lesser time. Superchargers though will charge the car in an hour, but there are none in India. Needless to say, BMW won’t look at launching this here till the infrastructure is ready.
On the flip side, electric motors allow maximum torque instantly, letting the car go from zero to 100kmph in seconds. BMW claims this will take 6.9 seconds and we tend to concur. It’s really zippy on the road.
Inside, you get a very minimalistic setting, quite in contrast to BMW’s high-end vehicles. That said, the company’s iDrive technology still resides next to the driver, while there’s a single screen standing upright.
You don’t get Android Auto or Apple CarPlay though, which is a let down. While BMW’s system does have in-built navigation maps, Bluetooth support, etc., it can’t give the seamlessness of those systems. Also, you will certainly miss Google Maps support.
Is it worth buying? We can’t really answer that question right now, since this car isn’t officially available in India. However, it’s a far cry from the affordable electric cars you may have seen in India so far. It’s extremely fast, looks unique and 200km on each charge should allow most to go to work, drive somewhere else, and still have enough left for another day.
You will, however, have to charge the vehicle at least once every two days, depending on your usage. The BMW i3S may represent the future of automobiles but its exact feasibility will be determined by how quickly the electric vehicle ecosystem develops in India. Needless to say this is not your cross-country driving vehicle.
That said, it might be that when the electric vehicle ecosystem here is sufficiently developed. BMW tells us there’s a charger that can charge this car in just about an hour as well, meaning easier solutions are available.
When such facilities are actually available in India, the BMW i3s will certainly be worth driving.