The BMW i3, a plug-in hybrid made of carbon fiber, is the 2015 Green Car of the year.
The winner was announced Thursday morning at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
The i3, with its range-extending engine, beat out the other finalists, including the Chevrolet Impala 3Bi-Fuel with a 3.6-liter engine that runs on gasoline or compressed natural gas; the Audi A3 TDI, which has a high-efficiency diesel capable of 73 mpg; the Honda Fit, which has a gasoline engine that gets at least 40 mpg; and the VW Golf, which is available in some states with a choice of a 2.0-liter diesel, a gasoline engine and all-electric drive.
The winner was chosen by a committee selected by the Green Car Journal.
Green Car Journal Editor Ron Cogan said hybrids used to dominate the awards, but over the years the field has become varied as new car buyers have decided environmental vehicles must meet a wide range of needs.
The i3 won because it is an electric vehicle and has a range-extending engine, critical to avoiding range anxiety, Cogan said. “It is also built of carbon fiber, which is not done much outside the race industry, has the latest in connectivity and is fun to drive, too.”
The i3 was an idea back in 2007, said BMW spokesman Tom Plucinsky.
To make the i3 and larger i8 requires four plants. Carbon fiber is made in Washington state and at a facility in Germany. A second German plant weaves the carbon fiber into fabric, a third plant does the injection molding of the pieces and a fourth plant assembles the vehicle.
Plucinsky said the i3, which went on sale in the U.S. in May, has been exceeding expectations with sales of about 1,000 a month. It has a starting cost of $41,350.
The i8 has a two-year waiting list.
Last year’s winner was the Honda Accord hybrid and plug-in hybrid. This is the 10th year of the award.