Chinese car makers should learn something from the BMW i3

Published August 15, 2011

In 2018 China Car Times was acquired by Autowise. This article originally appeared on

The BMW i3 Concept, a small pure electric car for megacities, will be unveiled at Frankfurt Auto Show next month and the production model may hit the market in 2013. Although BMW i3 is just a high-end small car of the luxury brand, many car makers should learn something from it, including the sanguine Chinese makers.

BMW i3 is not only an electric-driven car, but also a milestone of EV body design. Thanks to the rear mounted electric motor, rather than a front mounted inner combustion engine, i3 features a very short hood. In addition, enormous area of glass is used on doors, which distinguish i3 from any other conventional cars.

An electric car must own a unique design. If an EV is built on a chassis of conventional car without a particular body design, buyers will compare it with the corresponding conventional car unconsciously, and the defects of EV will be exposed directly. Considering the short range, high acquisition price and high cost of battery replacement, who will buy a RAV4 electric instead of a conventional RAV4?

However, the unique design of i3 makes some buyers forget it is a small car like Polo or Mini cooper. Think about the iPhone. Although the expensive cell phone has a stupidly unchangeable battery, many people are captivated by it. Because iPhone has too many characteristics, including the design, few people bother about its price and battery by the standard of normal cell phone. Similarly, the design and user experience are very important features for an imperfect electric car.

In this way, the sanguine Chinese makers have to face more difficulties, because few of them can independently develop chassis and instead often turn to copying or straight out plagiarize existing designs, but they have no choice. So far, only BYD e6 features a uniquely designed body out of all the Chinese car manufacturers.

Since nobody can make an EV with up to 500 km range and 15-year-life battery in the coming few years, we have to discover its potential in some non-technical area to mask the technical defects, just like the BMW i3.

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