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fashion ¥ lifestyle
or years, sci- writers have been
promising us a future where we
glide around ultra-modern cities in
sleek electric cars. Finally a carmaker
has delivered on the second half
of the equation, and the BMW i3
looks like it's come straight
from a lm set.
It's very, very clever -
like the Alfa 4C (opposite),
it uses carbon for its
bodyshell and panels to
save weight. The basic i3
has a battery pack that's
recharged from the mains.
There's also an 'extended'
version that uses a 0.6-litre
petrol engine to recharge
the batteries on the move
and increase the range from the 80-odd
miles of the pure electric version.
It couldn't be easier to drive. If you've ever
piloted a golf buggy, you'll get the idea
within about 10 seconds, with no gears and
just two pedals. Most of the time you'll only
need to use one pedal - the i3 slows down
rapidly when you lift o the throttle and its
motor switches to recharging the batteries,
to the extent you rarely need to use the
brakes. It's more than fast enough for the
urban environment where it will spend
most of its time. Indeed, the lack of gears
gives it a turn of speed that should ensure
victory in most tra£ c-light Grand Prix.
However at higher speeds the
acceleration really tails o , and the
remaining range starts to tumble.
The i3 feels like
a quality item,
with a beautifully
nished interior that
interior space (given the super-mini-sized
dimensions). Even with the Government
chipping in a generous £5,000 electric
vehicle grant, the i3 still costs £25,680 in
its most basic form. But - to look at it
another way - that means it's also the
cheapest carbon-bodied car on sale.
Best bit: driving the future
Worst bit: paying to be an early adopter
For all of their worthy intentions, electric cars
have tended to be very, very dull - until now
Price: £30,680 (before grant)
Engine: electric motor
Power: 125kW (167bhp)
Top speed: 93mph (limited)
The i3 feels like a quality item,
with a beautifully fi nished interior
How to get there from civilisation
Starting in Seaford, take the A23 to
Brighton, then follow the A27 east along
the coast before cutting down through
Newhaven. From Seaford, take the A259 to
East Dean, then south on the Beachy Head
road, rejoining the A259 near Eastbourne.
What's so great about it?
It's an achievable adventure - without
having to go to the Celtic fringe. The road
is great, the views superb and, if you miss
the weekend, it's usually pretty quiet.
You can see for miles and the corners are,
for the most part, extremely well sighted.
Any reasons to stop en route?
Most likely to take pictures or walk a bit of
the South Downs Way. The oft-seen-on-TV
Belle Tout lighthouse is now a B&B. Divert
to Brighton for upmarket grub.
Best car to do it in?
The views and bracing sea air mean the
Jaguar F-Type Roadster would be perfect
- with the roof down, of course.
BEACHY HEAD, EAST SUSSEX
Total length: 12 miles
Great British Drives
Mike Du� is motoring editor of evo magazine
fashion ¥ lifestyle