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Published Date: 18/02/2015

The BMW i3 may be German manufactures first attempt at a mass produced all-electric car but it certainly isn’t its first attempt.

BMWBLOG has unearthed the history of BMW’s electric car past and discovered that although they haven’t always been great – they proved a valuable learning experience.

Way back in 1972, BMW decided to develop an electric, Frankenstein version of the 1600 - powered by a 32 kilowatt electric motor (the equivalent of 41bhp) – the Electric 1602 could get to 30mph in 8 seconds.

It required 350kg of lead-acid batteries to power the weak motor and had no means of charging therefore the batteries had to be changed to keep on the move.

Hot on the heels of the 1602 in 1975 was the BMW LS Electric which included a plug-in charge function – although it did take 14 hours to charge and could only manage 18 miles per charge!

Next, in 1987, things got a little more serious when BMW took an AWD 325x and removed the rear axles, making it FWD.

An electric motor was added with new batteries from Asea Brown Boveri – the new batteries were both lighter and smaller and offered three times the power of the older lead-acid types.

Used by the German Postal Service – the electric 325xi could travel 93 miles on one charge.

However, the very first electric car engineered from the ground up was the BMW E1 – made in 1991, the E1 was built on an aluminium shell with plastic body panels – the true forefather of the i3.

Utilising a new sodium-nickel chloride battery – the E1 was able to cover 100 miles on a single charge – despite these impressive figures, the E1 project was eventually scrapped due to cost issues.

Things have come a long way since the E1 as BMW with the ultra-modern i3 city car and i8 supercar.

The i3 - BMW’s all-electric supermini was designed to be the ultimate city car, at home anywhere from the edge of town to the city centre.

On a full charge, the i3 will manage up to 100 miles – economy which has been boosted due to BMW’s carbon fibre reinforced plastic cell and aluminium chassis keeping the weight down.

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