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Going Electric

7 min read
Singapore is upping the ante when it comes to ramping up the infrastructure for electric automobiles. Here are three models to consider if you’re thinking of plugging in.

BMW i3s

The Bavarian marque was a trailblazer when it introduced the i3 several years ago, one of the first commercial electric cars to hit Singapore roads. With vast improvements in battery technology, BMW continues to set the standard on electric mobility, with this model shoring up the economically viable end.

The latest version of the i3 boasts an increase in cell capacity to 120Ah and a gross energy content of 42.2kWh. In layman terms, the new car has an enhanced range of 260km, an increase of almost 30% compared to the older version. On top of that, the new generation of batteries enables the BMW i3 to use up 13.1kWh/100km without emitting any carbon dioxide. For a little bit more oomph, the i3s (120Ah) — the main model in the local market — consumes 14.6–14.0kWh/100km.

The battery unit of an electric car still remains one of the key components to consider when considering to switch over. Lithium-ion cells in BMW cars are produced exclusively on brand-defined specifications, so power output, range, safety and durability are ultimately optimised. Installed deep in the floor of the vehicle, the high-voltage battery is produced at the BMW plant in Dingolfing, and consists of eight modules, each with 12 storage cells: the latest advancements have resulted in a capacity of 120Ah along with a gross energy content of 42.2kWh — the size remains unchanged.

BMW never compromises on driving performance, and the i3s is no exception. It has a 135kW/184hp electric motor that can take it from zero to 100km/h in 6.9 seconds, thus setting the benchmark for sporty performance within its vehicle segment. In addition, the sports package will offer a new option of sports suspension that includes specific dampers, springs and stabilisers, a widened track, and 20-inch light alloy wheels in Jet Black or Bicolour finish.

Improvements have been made to the façade of the i3s. The choice of body finish for the two models has been extended to include the new variant Jucaro Beige metallic with accents in Frozen Grey. Meanwhile the exterior paint finishes Mineral Grey metallic, Imperial Blue metallic, Melbourne Red metallic, Capparis White and Fluid Black are still available. To match the new body finish, the optional interior design Loft now includes upholstery in the fabric/Sensatec combination ‘Electronic’ — in Carum Grey with accents in brown and interior surfaces in Electronic Brown.

The new i3s is also safer to drive. Matrix technology for the high beam increases visibility while avoiding any dazzle effect to other road users. Furthermore, when the camera registers an oncoming vehicle or one travelling ahead in the same direction, the space in which this space is located is illuminated using the low beam only.

Inside, the iDrive operating system has been refreshed and is now available in conjunction with the navigation system Professional (standard in the i3s). Other options include telephony with wireless charging, boosting the viability proposition of the i3s to a level commensurate with the BMW name.

PRICE  $215,888 with COE*
ENGINE  BMW eDrive hybrid synchronous electric motor with integrated power electronics, charging unit and generator function for energy recuperation
TRANSMISSION  Automatic, single-speed with fixed ratio
POWER  135kW/184hp
0–100KM/H  6.9 seconds for the i3s
DISTRIBUTOR  Performance Motors Ltd (Tel: 6319 0100)

*Information accurate as at time of publishing.

Kia Niro EV

If there’s one electric car that you should get if range is a key concern, it has to be the Kia Niro EV. It professes to be able to travel beyond 450km between charges, which pretty much means you can drive it all the way to Ipoh without stopping — that’s pretty impressive!

This incredible range comes from Kia’s next-generation EV powertrain and battery. The high-capacity 64kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack affords a range of up to 455km on a single charge. Plugged into a 100kW fast charger, it takes only 54 minutes to get the Niro EV’s power plant to 80%.

The Niro EV also comes with awesome torque, all 395Nm from a standstill. All this comes from the powerful 150kW (204ps) electric motor that can zip this car from 0 to 100km/h in just 7.8 seconds. Practicality has also been considered. The battery pack is positioned low in the body — below the trunk floor, in fact — so that passenger space is maximised. This also creates a lower centre of gravity for enhanced stability.

Several driving modes are available with the Niro E: ECO+, ECO, Normal and Sport. Selecting a mode automatically adjusts regenerative braking level, air conditioning settings, and even set speed limits to help manage overall operating efficiency. Smart Regenerative Braking operated via paddle shifters also provides drivers the ability to choose from four regenerating braking levels that slow the car and capture kinetic energy, returning energy to the battery and adding extra range.

Kia’s Advanced Driver Assistance Systems improve safety in the Niro EV, supporting the driver in various environments and scenarios to mitigate the risk of a collision. Blind Spot Collision Warning uses rear sensors to monitor the side and back of the vehicle and warns when there are vehicles approaching in the blind spot. Electronic Stability Control and Hill-Start Assist complement the car’s state-of-the-art disposition, while the seven-airbag system is available as a fail-safe in the event of an actual collision.

The interior of the Niro EV dovetails nicely with the car’s electric features. The new infotainment system lets owners schedule charging as needed, and also monitor the charge and range of the battery. And from a practicality point of view, at 4,375mm in length, and with a cargo space of 451 litres, this plug-in electric car lets you pack everything and the kitchen sink — perfect if you’re heading out for a long drive.

PRICE  $183,999 with COE*
ENGINE  Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor — 356V
TRANSMISSION  One-speed direct drive
POWER  201hp @ 3,800–8,000rpm
TORQUE  395Nm @ 0–3,600rpm
0–100KM/H  7.8 seconds
DISTRIBUTOR  Cycle & Carriage Kia Pte Ltd (Tel: 6664 8111)

*Information accurate as at time of publishing.

Nissan LEAF          

It took Nissan nearly a decade before refining its industry-defining all-electric car and, this year, we see the second-generation LEAF hit the roads. This time, the LEAF has earned the noble reputation of being the bestselling electric vehicle, with more than 400,000 cars sold worldwide to date. The Japanese brand aims to have one million “electrified” vehicles on the road by 2022, and the new LEAF is an integral part of the plan.

The new LEAF offers a smarter, safer and more sustainable driving experience with technologies such as e-Pedal, a Nissan Intelligent Driving technology that allows drivers to manage nearly all of their driving with just one pedal. The new augmented lithium-ion battery pack enables the car to travel more than 300km on a single charge, kicking torque up to 320Nm, and heightened power output. Charging through DC takes just an hour for a full charge; through AC, with the 6.6kW onboard charger, it takes less than eight hours to get it fully charged from low-battery alert.

Nissan’s intelligent suite of features in the LEAF extends beyond range of travel. The Intelligent Emergency Braking improves safety as it monitors speed and distance between you and the car in front, letting you know if you need to slow down. And if you don’t, it can even automatically engage the brakes to avoid a collision or lessen the severity of impact.

Other useful features in the Nissan LEAF include an intelligent Around View Monitor with Moving Object Detection, which gives you a virtual 360-degree bird’s-eye view of your car, with selectable split-screen close-ups of the front, rear and kerbside perspectives. Hill Start Assist helps make driving easier as it prevents the car from rolling back when it’s on an incline. And handling gets a boost with Intelligent Trace Control, which controls brake pressure at individual wheels when taking corners, to help smoothen out vehicle response.

Its slew of safety features include Intelligent Driver Alertness and six SRS airbags, The maximum five-star ratings by both the Euro New Car Assessment Program (Euro NCAP) and Japan New Car Assessment Program (JNCAP) make the LEAF one of the safest cars on the road — electric or not.

PRICE  $154,800 with COE*
ENGINE  Full electric motor
TRANSMISSION  Single speed automatic
POWER  150ps @ 3,283–9,795rpm
TORQUE  320Nm @ 0–3,283rpm
0–100KM/H  8.4 seconds
DISTRIBUTOR  Tan Chong Motor Sales (Tel: 6479 7711 & 6266 7711)

*Information accurate as at time of publishing.