BMW: 100,000 people want to test drive the i3 electric city car

BMW i3 concept profile suburbanConsidering how long BMW has made customers wait for the i3 electric city car, it’s not surprising that a few people are eager for a test drive. However, it’s hard to imagine that list having 100,000 names.

That’s what BMW says, though. The company’s sales head, Ian Roberston, told Automotive News (subscription required) that 100,000 people around the world want to get behind the wheel of an i3, and that BMW has already taken a “significant number” of deposits for the electric hatchback.

BMW says the i3 will be a game changer because unlike many other EVs, it’s not based on a production car. In fact, it will have little in common with any production car, electric or otherwise.

The chassis is an innovative mix of aluminum and carbon fiber that BMW calls “LifeDrive.” The aluminum “Drive Module” holds the motor, batteries, and suspension, while the carbon fiber “Life Module” forms a crash-resistant cockpit.

The i3 is powered by a rear-mounted electric motor, which produces 170 horsepower. Range is expected to be around 100 miles, although BMW will also offer a range-extending gasoline engine as an option.

When it goes on sale, the i3 is expected to mirror the pricing of the 3 Series, putting the price of entry into the low $40,000 range.

So there’s a lot here to spark (no pun intended) curiosity, although it is easier to be excited about a car without actually driving it, or having to live with it. If the i3 is to be the success BMW hopes it will be, some of those promised test drives will have to turn into purchases.

The i3 will also lay the groundwork for the i8, a plug-in hybrid supercar that debuted as a concept alongside the i3 in 2011, which will start production following the small EV’s debut.

The production i3 is expected to debut at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show in September. Check back here for more details as the date approaches.

Are you lining up to test drive the BMW i3? Tell us in the comments.