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If the i3 Coupe can enamor a jaded EV observer, imagine how the throngs of hybrid vehicle drivers will react

Past coupes, SUVs, and other larger vehicles from Bayerische Motoren Werke (BMW) AG (ETR:BMW) never really resonated with me.  But BMW does make terrific sport-luxury sedans, so I was willing to approach its electric coupe with an open mind.  The skeptic in me kept poking out and expecting to poke some holes in the hype surrounding the i3 Coupe.
As a somewhat jaded observer, I've found myself disliking many electric vehicles ("EVs").  I never expected EVs to be perfect.  I only expected a compelling overall value.  The problem is that typically the flaws outnumber the strengths, at least for me.  So I find my expectations for EVs consistently disappointed, even if there are some pluses to the overall experience.
But the i3 Coupe isn’t hollow hype.  It has the power to surprise even an EV skeptic.  It manages that feat by striking such a beautiful balance of overall strengths, that you find yourself liking it in spite of some small flaws.  Quite unexpectedly, I wouldn’t one of these sporty all-electric coupes sitting in my garage back home.
Let me explain why.
I. Bold on the Outside
BMW made a bold move, bringing a fleet of at least a dozen 2014 BMW i3 Coupes to CES.  This large fleet meant that not only the journalists, but also general attendees got to jump into one and take it for a spin.  That's a pretty unusual display of confidence that I don't recall seeing with any other EV.

i3 Coupe fleet

So why is BMW so confident?
i3 Coupe grill

The hype surrounding the i3 Coupe surely begins with the visual first contact. The first thing that struck me about it was its vivid exterior.  Even in the tan-grey/black styling the look was bold. 
i3 Coupe fleet

Gray and Black i3

In orange it was downright daring.

i3 Coupe front

i3 Coupe's front

i3 Coupe low wide
Composed of dent-resistant thermoplastic, the car's swooping curves contrast with sharp lines of accents on the front and sides. 

i3 Coupe three-quarters front

It treads the line between style and aggression about as well as you can one can expect from a Coupe/Crossover.  If anything, the styling got better on the production model versus the July 2011 concept.

BMW i3 exterior side
Its current form looks pretty much identical to the revised mid-2012 design

Back glare fixed

Some vehicles look better up close and personal than in press shots and this is one of them.  The Coupe has a very urban feel about it.

i3 Coupe back

i3 exterior
The vehicle comes standard with attractive alloy wheels, which also cut the curb weight, improving the range on a charge.

i3 Coupe Exterior

Aside from the body's dent resistance, the vehicle comes standard with adaptive LED headlamps and taillights.  BMW uses a black high-strength glass to accent the LED taillights.  Given the company's fondness of comparing the car to a smartphone -- an analogy that made me cringe a bit, but didn't detract from my appreciation for the design -- I naturally wondered if the accent glass was Corning Inc. (GLW) Gorilla Glass.
LED lamps

Company representatives informed me that the glass wasn't Gorilla Glass, but was actually an even stronger glass product from Corning.  Give the Coupe a point for that.
II. Beautiful on the Inside, Too
Peek inside you're greeted with an array of "sustainable" textiles and accents, paired with well-positioned high tech displays and an array of controls.
i3 Coupe interior

Some of the interior fabrics are made of hemp, marijuana's THC free cousin (sorry, Colorado). 

i3 Coupe door

The dash features panels made of kenaf, a naturally-insulating fibrous quick-growing fibrous woody foliage from Asia that's a relative of the hibiscus.  Some of the trim options feature door coverings feature a mixture of climate-active wool (Pikea?) and "olive-leaf dyed leather".

i3 Coupe seat
I know all this social consciousness will likely rub some readers the wrong way, but it makes for a great-looking interior.
My personal favorite part was the "limed" Eucalyptus wood.  As the product reps noted, this wood will naturally age over the life of the car and gain unique color, but it looks great even out of the start. 
Interior i3 Coupe

Interiors have not traditionally been a focus of BMW, but I really feel it's produced one of the best-looking dash trims I have ever seen in any mass-market vehicle.  And its door/ceiling accents are top class as well.  So say what you will about the merits of sustainability, but this is a darn good looking trim design.
Even with the looks I wasn't ready to warm up to the i3 Coupe quite so fast.  I wanted to see how it drove.
III. Joystick, Aggressive Braking Grow on You
Turning it on was a bit of an experience in itself. 

BMW i3 Coupe Shifter

i3 Coupe shifter
There's a unique joystick-like shifter towards the right of the car.  The side facing you features a start/stop button, while the top features a park button.  You can turn the knob up to enter drive or down to go into reverse.
i3 Coupe zoom

It takes a minute to wrap your mind around, but after I got the hang of it, I became fascinated with the shifter.  It has a downright video-game joystick feel to it, and I mean that in the best way. 

i3 Coupe shifter

The BMW staff warned me that I wouldn't need to use the brakes much as the aggressively tuned regenerative breaking would almost automatically stop the vehicle.  Boy, they weren't kidding.  Even moving along at roughly 45 miles per hour, you can in most cases get away with almost no braking, depending on traffic.  Ultimately this becomes very welcome after a while, but it does take some getting used to, as you must be aware that if you take your foot off the gas accelerator pedal, the vehicle will start to stop much quicker than a standard vehicle without regenerative braking.

i3 Coupe hands on the wheel
My test started in the busy streets of Las Vegas a place that allowed me to test the maneuverability of the vehicle and acceleration.  Overall, the vehicle handles beautifully.  It can take curves very fast, and it has ample torque to rocket you from a stop, should you need to.

i3 Coupe seats

The seats are very comfortable: soft, but firm enough to feel supportive -- definitely a strong point of the interior.
IV. Maximum Speed Considerations and Sound
I ditched the boring rectangular suggested test route and took to the highway.  Unbeknownst to me I had the car in "Eco" driving mode, rather than "Comfort" (oh well).  In the energy saving mode, acceleration trails off somewhere around 70 mph.  Still, I was able to maintain 65-70 mph comfortably.
I was later told that the "Comfort" mode boosts the speed enveloped by about 12 percent, depleting the battery’s charge more quickly.  Highway driving performance in ECO mode wasn't a hindrance, but for those with shorter commutes I'd definitely recommend driving it in the sportier "Comfort" mode to have more power on demand.

driving modes on the i3
The ride both on the highway and surfaces streets was perfectly dampened and whisper quiet with the stereo off.  It was almost eerily quiet, a characteristic of well-designed EVs.

i3 Coupe driving in traffic
Returning to the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) I was stuck in returning rush hour afternoon stop-and-go traffic.  Normally I might have spent several dollars in gas on this ordeal.  Instead I just spent my time (which is of course a currency of sorts).  But the stops gave me an opportunity to snap some on-road pictures and play with the stereo equipment.

A minor gripe in terms of city driving -- the turn signal may feel a bit unnatural if you're used to the kind of turn signal found in many coupes/sedans that clicks into place.  By contrast the i3 Coupe's turn signal should be released after click it in the target direction.  If you click it again, it may actually turn off.  Personally, I like turn signals that snap into place better, as it gives you a tactile indicator that the signal is active.

Turn signal
Past versions of iDrive had their flaws, but with the latest "The Next Big Thing" (NBT) release from 2012, the system offers some nice features, even if it struck me as a bit cluttered UI-wise at time. 

i3 Coupe iDrive

The 3D maps are a welcome touch.  The LCD screen is great looking and is well positioned near the dash to minimize the distance your eyes have to travel off the road.
V. Goldilocks: Finding the "Just Right" View and Range
Speaking of which, the cabin features a great cockpit view.  I find many fuel efficient vehicles like the Chevy Volt and Toyota Motor Comp.'s (TYO:7203) tend to obstruct the view of with large side pillars, sacrificing visibility to achieve the ubiquitous teardrop shape.

The vehicle also has much more leg room than many hybrids or electrics -- which I appreciated as a taller driver.
By contrast the i3 Coupe has a much higher cabin roof and a much less encumbered view, which really lets you take in the surroundings.  I imagine it sacrifices some small measure of aerodynamic efficiency to do this, design-wise, but it does help out in situational awareness.
I found the LCD range indicator mounted above the dash to give relatively conservative estimates in terms of remaining miles. 

Dashboard range indicator

The vehicle has an 80-100 mile range on a full charge, depending on temperature, traffic speed, and other conditions.  I definitely feel like the LCD estimates towards the lower side of this, which is probably a good thing as if you trust it, at worst you make it to your destination with a bit of extra juice versus the alternative if it was too liberal in its estimates -- getting stranded.
Honestly, I think 80 miles (as a minimum) is a good choice on BMW's part.  With the gasoline range extender (providing an additional 80-100 miles worth of charge) the vehicle can become roadtrip worthy like the Chevrolet Volt.  The range extender retails for $3,950 USD.

i3 Coupe driving inside
Granted, it will never have the range that a Prius or small diesel has.  But then again, it doesn't really need to most of the time.  The i3 Coupe strikes me as a great car for urban or suburban families, given the extra seats and the decent range will cover the commutes of most, if not all urbanites.

i3 Coupe charging on DC

i3 Coupe DC closeup

The car features a standard six-prong charger, the industry standard.  But it also supports the extra two-peg extension for fast DC charging.  Hooked up to a DC charger it can achieve 80 percent charge in as little as 20 minutes.

i3 Coupe charging

i3 Coupe chargin

The car comes with a 110 volt wall box charge, which has about a two and a half hour charge time.

Level II charger

For a faster charge, BMW offers a $1,000 USD "Level II" charger, which will charge the vehicle in around an hour to an hour and a half.

VI. A Coupe That Grows on You, in a Healthy Way

The car really grows on you -- even features that I initially didn't care for, like the split sunroof, I eventually warmed to.  The sunroof, for example, is split for a good reason -- it allows the driver and passenger to individually use shade covers.

i3 Coupe

Anyone who is married or in a committed relationship can appreciate surrendering a bit of real estate sunshine wise is probably worth it to preserve domestic tranquility.
sun roof on the i3 coupe

I've driven various electrics and hybrids, and I honestly can't recall an electrified driving experience outside of Tesla Motors Inc.'s (TSLA) vehicles that felt as fulfilling as the i3 Coupe.  That's not to say the car accelerates or handles like the Tesla Model S or Roadster -- it doesn't.  But it also sacrfices much less than the growing crowing of less-than-sporty electrified coupes, sedans, subcompacts, and compacts.  In other words, you could argue that the i3 Coupe is more Tesla than Volt, performance wise.

I came to realize that's what BMW's Jacob Harb meant when he told me:

Maximizing the benefits of an electric powertrain, I don't think anyone is close to us [even Tesla].

He wasn't knocking Tesla's performance.  Rather, he was arguing that BMW's disciplined design has delivered a vehicle that balances many variables that are difficult to balance and deftly manages to offer an electric vehicle that's fun to drive, has a decent range, looks great, is well appointed, and best of all is surprisingly affordable.

i3 in the lot
How affordable?  The all-electric coupe starts at $41,350 USD before any tax credits or subsidies.  BMW trumps Tesla in some regards in terms of safety (more on that to come), but I think where it truly wins is price.  At that price, given the design, standard features (LED lamps, navigation, etc.) I think the car could see strong sales in the entry-level luxury segment – BMW seems to think so as well.  The fact that the vehicle qualifies for a $7,500 tax credit will also entice buyers looking for a “green” vehicle with a BMW badge.
i3 back three-quarters view

At $33,850 USD (after tax credit), your biggest problem might actually be finding one (compact, entry-level vehicles are becoming a big business as Mercedes has recently found out with the sub-$30,000 CLA).  Because if BMW can make me to stop worrying learn to love driving the EV, imagine what it could do for the throngs of Americans more comfortable with the hybrid experience.

i3 Coupe luxury
I never expected BMW to port forth such a vehicle, but I certainly give them a hearty “congratulations” for doing so.  Other EV makers should carefully study the i3 Coupe carefully, as the blueprint of a compelling, balanced electric commuter car.

Comments     Threshold

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No Thanks
By ebakke on 1/9/2014 5:35:44 PM , Rating: 2
It's a Mini with an electric motor. No thanks. It's all yours Jason.

RE: No Thanks
By ebakke on 1/9/2014 5:44:42 PM , Rating: 1
And is that one cup holder for the front two seats to share? And ton of wasted space on the floor between the center console and the center stack. Stupid.

RE: No Thanks
By Mint on 1/10/2014 10:29:51 AM , Rating: 3
Only you would see empty space for you to put whatever you want there as "wasted". Most people remark how open it feels inside, and how the passenger's legs are free to move around. I suppose you also feel cramped apartments are superior to houses?

RE: No Thanks
By ebakke on 1/11/2014 10:37:10 AM , Rating: 2
If you want to store things on the front floor where they could slide into the driver's feet, go nuts. If not wanting to makes me some kind of dolt or contrarian in your eyes... [shrug]. No skin off my back.

RE: No Thanks
By Reclaimer77 on 1/11/2014 11:25:29 AM , Rating: 2
Good observation.

The first thing that came to my mind was safety. Without a center divider between passenger and driver, what's to stop your legs from flying all over the place in a serious accident?

RE: No Thanks
By Mint on 1/11/2014 12:15:43 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, it would be a good observation if you two actually observed it instead of making false assumptions like you always do.

It's not hard to google the i3's interior. There's three cupholders, not one. The divider isn't gone, but just smaller, and still separates the feet. The center is raised a bit to prevent stuff from sliding from the passenger side. There will be aftermarket offerings for storage bins that velcro to the floor. And finally space isn't always about putting stuff in, but rather simply having space around you, hence my house analogy.

For people that claim to be pro-freedom, you two sure are suddenly nanny-like in not wanting people to have room in cars for fear of what they'll do with it.

RE: No Thanks
By Reclaimer77 on 1/11/2014 2:13:36 PM , Rating: 2
There's three cupholders, not one.

When did I address cupholders?

For people that claim to be pro-freedom, you two sure are suddenly nanny-like in not wanting people to have room in cars for fear of what they'll do with it.

Even for you, this is a Red Herring among minnows lol. Nice try.

I don't care what people "do" with the space. Personally I think that interior looks like crap. It harkens back to the days when passengers and driver shared a big bench seat lol.

My observations were about safety. Since you are the king of research (in your own mind) you're probably aware this got a poor crash test score. And that's with the laxer Euro test standards. Just wait until the NHTSA gets a hold of this.

The divider isn't gone, but just smaller, and still separates the feet.

There's nothing to bolster your legs or knee. That was my point.

RE: No Thanks
By ebakke on 1/11/2014 2:38:54 PM , Rating: 2
There's three cupholders, not one.
I stand corrected. I failed to see the two underneath the center armrest.
The divider isn't gone, but just smaller, and still separates the feet. Ok. Throw your purse right in front of that net and take sharp corner.
And finally space isn't always about putting stuff in
The space you described as "empty space for you to put whatever you want there"? Gotcha. I'm really not sure why you care so much that I think that area is an inefficient waste of space.
For people that claim to be pro-freedom, you two sure are suddenly nanny-like in not wanting people to have room in cars for fear of what they'll do with it.
To recap, my comment was "No thanks. It's all yours Jason." As in, I don't want to buy it. I think it's stupid. If you or anyone else wants to buy it, have a ball. There is absolutely nothing pro/anti freedom or pro/anti nanny in this discussion.

RE: No Thanks
By ebakke on 1/11/2014 2:50:37 PM , Rating: 2
Oooh, baby. Might even be up to 5 cupholders! This clearly shows the central 1, plus 2 pop-outs in addition to the plethora of space so you can enjoy it just being around you.

And Jason's photo here
seems to show another one under the armrest with perhaps another behind it which is currently filled with a coin holder / ash tray like GM used to do ( )

RE: No Thanks
By Jeffk464 on 1/10/2014 6:22:10 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, but when you think about it, its a big advantage to not have obese soda suckers reducing the range of an electric car. :)

RE: No Thanks
By troysavary on 1/9/2014 6:33:02 PM , Rating: 2
I'd be more likely to take it if it was simply an electric Mini. The Mini looks nice, this has that blob shape common to small electrics.

RE: No Thanks
By Reclaimer77 on 1/9/2014 6:53:14 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe this is just me "getting old", but pretty much every car today looks like a Jelly Bean.

RE: No Thanks
By Spuke on 1/9/2014 9:50:52 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe this is just me "getting old", but pretty much every car today looks like a Jelly Bean.
You need some glasses dude. LOL! NONE of my cars look anything like this. Blech!

RE: No Thanks
By Reclaimer77 on 1/10/2014 9:38:35 AM , Rating: 2
Well none of my cars do either. But you and I have exceptional taste :)

I'm speaking about the generic design of most vehicles. They all have that, you know, Jelly Bean shape. LOL I don't know what else to call it.

RE: No Thanks
By Spuke on 1/10/2014 12:38:57 PM , Rating: 2
Well none of my cars do either. But you and I have exceptional taste :)
Can't argue with you there! LOL! As far the jellybean look, IDK, maybe SUV's are getting that way but cars are still pretty angular. Well, now that I think about it, small cars do look like blobs but most everything else, IMO, still has lines.

RE: No Thanks
By troysavary on 1/10/2014 7:46:56 PM , Rating: 2
The worst offenders seems to be the Japanese brands, but BMW seems to be falling prey to the jellybean curse too. It used to be easy to spot a Beemer due to distinctive styling. Now they seem to be as bland as Toyotas.

RE: No Thanks
By BZDTemp on 1/10/2014 9:26:04 AM , Rating: 2
Wrong the Mini doesn't look "nice" it looks like what it is and that's a marketing exercise where a car maker is milking the brand of an icon.

The BMW Mini shares nothing with the original - for starters it's like twice the size and a long way from being the cheap fun little car the original was.

RE: No Thanks
By troysavary on 1/10/2014 7:51:12 PM , Rating: 2
Of course it doesn't share the platform of the original. They aren't even the same maker. But BMW did a good job at capturing the styling cues of the old Mini.

It has to be bigger. There is no way a car the size of the original Mini would sell in the US. Plus, it has to meet modern crash standards. That adds size and weight. None of that changes my opinion that the Mini looks way better than the electric Beemer in the article.

RE: No Thanks
By Alexvrb on 1/9/2014 11:32:47 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah. You're off to a bad start when you base it around a Mini platform. Not to mention the exterior is not attrative, especially that front end... and the materials? "Dent resistant thermoplastics"? Gee where have I heard that before? Shockingly the BMW is actually not all that far ahead of the MUCH cheaper Spark EV, except for the fancy interior. That and the optional range extender are it's biggest advantages. Is that worth doubling the price tag?

Range: Slightly better than the Spark EV, due to less weight.
Performance: Similar to the Spark EV.
Weight: Nearly 300 pounds lighter than the Spark EV, unless you add the 300 lb range extender.
Weight distribution: Both vehicles use the battery pack to achieve 50/50 weight split. Unfortunately, if you add the hastily tacked-on range extender (motorcycle engine) to the BMW, you add ~300 lbs to the BACK which ruins weight distribution.

I was really expecting more from BMW. If their biggest claim to fame is "assembled by magic fairies using supposedly responsible materials" then that makes me a very sad panda.

RE: No Thanks
By Flunk on 1/10/2014 12:40:18 AM , Rating: 1
The spark EV is a size category smaller and the interior is terrible. It's also less powerful. I would even dare to say that the Spark EV is darn near unbuyable because you're more that double paying for the electric version of a $12,000 car that will never be cost effective because the gas version is so gas efficient gas would have to cost at least 10x what it costs now to make up the difference.

I also can't imagine that this will drive as poorly as a Spark (which I have driven). The Spark feels like a very cheap car and handles likewise. It's not a good comparison.

Heck if you think of it as a electric Mini then the premium vs the gas version isn't that bad. I'm not saying this is the most desirable car of the year but the value proposition makes a lot more sense than the Spark EV (pay lots to drive a car that's almost exactly like the cheapest gas car you can buy!).

RE: No Thanks
By Mint on 1/10/2014 11:01:15 AM , Rating: 3
The gas spark is a dog to drive. 0-60 in 12+ seconds while the EV is well under 8. That's a bigger difference than a $18k Lancer ES and a $35k Evo.

For comparable trim levels (1LT auto), the gas spark is $16k, while the EV is $19k after credit. If you lease both cars, you'll be saving money from day one with today's gas prices. The gas model's 32 MPG combined is more efficient than an average car, but will still cost you $1400/yr in gas.

There is only one reason to buy the gas Spark: range. Otherwise, the EV has vastly superior performance and will pay you back within 3 years (and save $10k+ over the next decade).

RE: No Thanks
By Alexvrb on 1/11/2014 8:25:59 PM , Rating: 2
The Spark EV is quite different from the gas one. You can't compare experiences between the two. Even handling is night and day. 400 ft lbs of torque, boy the Spark EV sure is underpowered. I wouldn't buy either, but the Spark EV is half the price and NOT half the performance.

RE: No Thanks
By Jeffk464 on 1/10/2014 6:26:29 PM , Rating: 2
You can't compare two cars solely on specs, the fact is you have to get in them and do a driving comparison.

RE: No Thanks
By dani31 on 1/10/2014 2:43:55 AM , Rating: 2
It's not based on a Mini!!!

It's designed ground-up as an EV, and has a full carbon fiber tub to achieve this weight. It's serious stuff!

RE: No Thanks
By Spuke on 1/10/2014 11:03:55 AM , Rating: 2
Where did this based on the Mini stuff come from? This is on its own, wholly new platform. Like the previous poster said, it has a carbon fiber tub! Name one $40k car that has a carbon fiber tub. Like I said, this is cheap for an EV BMW. And like I mentioned elsewhere, what dimwit expected B M W to make a cheap car let alone a cheap EV? This isn't GM or Ford. BMW makes premium cars at premium prices, EVERYONE'S EV's are MORE expensive than their gasoline cars, why the f&*k would BMW be LESS expensive?

Some of you guys are friggin idiots I swear.

RE: No Thanks
By MrBlastman on 1/10/2014 10:29:08 AM , Rating: 3
It's a damn pretentious BMW. No thanks.

RE: No Thanks
By Spuke on 1/10/2014 11:05:49 AM , Rating: 2
It's a damn pretentious BMW. No thanks.
I own a BMW so that makes me pretentious? Do I need to include you in the dimwit category too?

RE: No Thanks
By MrBlastman on 1/10/2014 3:37:55 PM , Rating: 2
Q: What's the difference between a porcupine and a BMW?

A: The prick is on the inside!


RE: No Thanks
By Monkey's Uncle on 1/10/2014 6:27:51 PM , Rating: 2
Still uglier than a buffalo's butt.

I'll pass in favor of a Tesla S thankyouverymuch.

Nice :)
By Qapa on 1/9/2014 6:11:21 PM , Rating: 3
Thanks for the post.

I have not tried it yet, but plan to soon.
Currently I'm a Leaf driver, happy with it but very aware of the limitations and compromises I need to make (specially without private garage), but I really wanted to go electric. The main problem is actually the public charging grid here...

One detail that I had understood in a different way. When you say this:
"With the gasoline range extender (providing an additional 80-100 miles worth of charge) the vehicle can become roadtrip worthy like the Chevrolet Volt."

On the Volt, as long as you have gas you could keep on driving (like an usual gas car).
But, as far as I understood, that is not true on the BMW. Something with the range extender not charging as much as you spend on driving (well, driving practically). So you'd need to stop and charge. Possibly it can even be the range extender charging without needing to plug in. But in any case, with low/no battery it doesn't matter if you have full gas, you can't simply drive away and expect to go far without stopping for charging.

That said, it still seems like a great car. Specially as you said, a great middle term between a great pure electric (Tesla) which costs a whole lot (too much for most people) and the other electric cars which have some limitations (though they are useful for lots of people if they can deal it the "shortcomings").

Final comment: Just like the Volt is only a hybrid (EREV is just misleading marketing term). This i3 brings the complexity to another level. There are 2 versions: electric and hybrid (with the range extender). Some places have benefits only for 100% electrics, so the Volt wouldn't apply. Will the hybrid i3 apply?

RE: Nice :)
By Spuke on 1/9/2014 6:21:31 PM , Rating: 2
Currently I'm a Leaf driver, happy with it but very aware of the limitations and compromises I need to make (specially without private garage), but I really wanted to go electric.
LOL! You don't own a Leaf, do you?

RE: Nice :)
By troysavary on 1/9/2014 6:39:05 PM , Rating: 2
Unless I can drive non-stop it isn't really roadtrip worthy. It sounds like a great urban commuter car, but 80+80 does not a roadtrip make.

RE: Nice :)
By Alexvrb on 1/9/2014 11:11:46 PM , Rating: 2
Bingo. The Volt can be driven as long as you have gas (although it can operate in essentially zero-gas mode at sub-70 MPH speeds). I'm stunned Jason would compare the two and declare that the baby BMW with range extender was road trip worthy. After reading this I'm about half convinced this article is BMW funded. It's still got ALL the compromises of an electric, and the range extender just does that... boost the range (at additional cost).

Also, I wouldn't even whisper "Tesla" in the same breath as this thing. They're not even close. Plus it would make any nearby Tesla owners burst out in tear-inducing laughter.

RE: Nice :)
By Mint on 1/10/2014 11:18:31 AM , Rating: 2
Alexvrb, the range extender does put out enough power to keep driving continuously. It's not enough power to drive at 80MPH, though, so you'll have to keep it under 70, but you can do 80+80+80+80+... as long as you want.

Yeah, frequent 2.4 gallon fillups are annoying, but gas stations are a lot easier to find than DC quick charge stations at this point. So you're wrong in saying it has all the compromises of an electric.

RE: Nice :)
By foxalopex on 1/10/2014 3:46:20 PM , Rating: 2
Actually if you follow the reviews the i3's extender is NOT meant for long distance use. Even BMW says so themselves. The extender is for emergency use where you ran out of power. Considering how much it costs and how much it ruins performance (slower than a spark EV). I would pass on that option. In actual reviews, during testing they found that it doesn't have enough power to get up hills if the batteries are drained. In comparison the Volt does electric all the way up to 100 mph. It's gas engine will go anywhere non-stop as long as you remember to fuel up.

RE: Nice :)
By Mint on 1/10/2014 6:52:20 PM , Rating: 2
“It’s not a limp-home mode as such,” a BMW spokesman later told me, “but once the charge runs down to five or six per cent and the range extender cuts in, if you keep driving at 75-80mph it can’t maintain the charge.”
I can say I have spoken with program managers that have driven the i3 REx extensively, and they have assured me that on flat ground, you really have to purposely try to defeat it in order to use more energy than it produces and that it can easily drive along at 70 mph for as long as you need to and still have enough energy for short bursts of power to climb hills along the way. BMW i3 product manager Oliver Walter in particular has assured me the range extender is robust and will be able to power the car in just about any circumstance without the driver even noticing any difference than when it's in pure EV mode.

It's a 25 kW range extender. A Prius can do 60 mph with only 13kW at the wheels.

RE: Nice :)
By Alexvrb on 1/11/2014 9:13:29 PM , Rating: 2
Prius can apply it's gas engine's output directly to the wheels as well as electric power. The Volt can too, when it's necessary or more efficient to do so. Also, I don't know where you're getting your numbers:

It's a lower-RPM version of a scooter engine, and it puts out 35HP.

If you'd read what they wrote in that link you posted, as well as mine, it still basically is nearly a limp mode. Can't maintain the charge = not enough output. Drop from highway speeds to 44MPH? Have fun. It would fail the tests Chevy subjected the Volt to. Hilly terrain and high speed drives on 35HP range extender? Good luck, as it is unable to function normally. Other vehicles such as the Volt can drive up an endless hill as long as they have gasoline (which is quite a bit longer than the tiny tank in the range-extended option for the i3).

If Chevy, Ford, Honda, Toyota et al released such a half-baked gasoline range extender option they'd be hammered for it. But apparentely BMW gets a pass if their vehicle suddenly loses power and really does start limping - this thing is better as a (overpriced) city car. If I'm traveling more than 80 miles, chances are there's some serious highway driving involved, and you don't want to be puttering along on the highway when everyone else is doing 80+.

Oh also at highway or otherwise demanding conditions, you'll probably only get ~50-60 miles or so out of that range extender, and once it's empty you're well and truly screwed. So you'll be stopping for gas... a lot. It's garbage to call this long trip capable. If I was forced to use one, I'd get the non-extended version and drive it like the EV it was designed to be.

RE: Nice :)
By Alexvrb on 1/11/2014 9:17:54 PM , Rating: 2
To elaborate on the numbers, I mean to say that while a Prius might be able to coast on a small amount of power (although I question that 13kw figure, as it's probably applying power from the ICE and electric motors too, for a higher combined output) it has access to a lot more power than 25kw on demand, especially useful when accelerating, high speeds, or going up hills. The i3 caps at 25kw in extended mode when you really push it. Which is 35HP as I said (MUCH MUCH lower than even a Prius) and is garbage especially since the range extended models are ~3000 lbs.

RE: Nice :)
By Mint on 1/10/2014 11:16:34 AM , Rating: 2
It's not just 80+80. It's as long as you want, but you'll have to stop for gas every 80 miles, and keep your speed below 70.

RE: Nice :)
By Reclaimer77 on 1/10/2014 11:28:57 AM , Rating: 2
It's as long as you want, but you'll have to stop for gas every 80 miles, and keep your speed below 70.

Well that's inconvenient as hell, obviously.

This car is a non starter. BMW trimmings are no, it's already a dud.

RE: Nice :)
By Mint on 1/10/2014 12:11:44 PM , Rating: 2
If you only go on road trips a few times a year, then it really isn't that inconvenient.

I'd say 10 seconds a day to plug in/out is more convenient than going to the gas station every week and oil changes every six months, so it balances out.

RE: Nice :)
By Spuke on 1/10/2014 12:49:22 PM , Rating: 2
If you only go on road trips a few times a year, then it really isn't that inconvenient.
What road trip is 80 or 160 miles? A road trip for me is 300 plus miles of driving. Anything less is local. There's no way in hell I'm stopping 3 times or more when currently I don't stop AT ALL until I get to my destination. It would take me forever to get anywhere. Hell, I only stop ONCE in a 500 mile trip and if I take my truck (diesel with big fuel tank), I usually don't stop at all.

RE: Nice :)
By Reclaimer77 on 1/10/2014 4:19:03 PM , Rating: 2
What road trip is 80 or 160 miles?

Well you have to remember in the EV proponents warped minds, nobody but nobody drives more than around 10 miles a day. They love quoting some average "commute" distance that someone pulled out of their ass. It's gospel!

RE: Nice :)
By Mint on 1/10/2014 7:44:19 PM , Rating: 2
You're allergic to data, aren't you.

Pulled out of someone's ass? This is a massive 150,000 person survey.

RE: Nice :)
By Reclaimer77 on 1/10/2014 9:04:38 PM , Rating: 2
This is a massive 150,000 person survey.

That proves absolutely nothing.

Even if EV's are good enough for 9 out of 10 possible trips, not being able to complete that one trip makes it impracticable and useless to the average person.

It would be so refreshing if you could have common sense and critical thinking.

These things aren't ready for prime time, just admit it and stfu already.

RE: Nice :)
By Mint on 1/11/2014 12:27:34 AM , Rating: 2
It proves you full of crap.

If you actually read the paper (LOL at me for expecting that you would), it would tell you 80+80 is good for 98/100 days, not 9/10, and those 2% of days just need a couple extra short fillups to be doable. If you think that's impracticable, then that word does not mean what you think it does.

You suck with critical thinking and have proven it time and time again.

RE: Nice :)
By Reclaimer77 on 1/12/2014 12:59:04 AM , Rating: 1
You know what, you're an idiot.

After 15+ years of being in production, hybrids only account for about 3% of all vehicle sales.

Yet day in and day out, you sit here and cook up bullshit about how EV's are the way to go, how everyone can be just fine using one, etc etc etc.


RE: Nice :)
By Mint on 1/12/2014 5:29:41 AM , Rating: 2
Hey look, more Reclaimer strawmen.

Regular hybrids are not EVs, genius. All their energy still comes from gas, so they don't save you much money for comparable power output. Choosing 45mpg over 35mpg (often the difference is even less) saves you only 2 cents a mile. EVs save you 4 times as much, and would save you even more if not for our broken electricity pricing system.

Gas/diesel never has been and never will be remotely as cheap to produce as electricity.

RE: Nice :)
By Reclaimer77 on 1/12/2014 10:39:58 AM , Rating: 2
Wow you really don't get reality, do you?

If people haven't adopted and chosen Hybrids in any significant numbers, what in the hell makes you think they're going to do so with EV's?

The regular person isn't some gas-hater like you, wake up. They'll choose economy IF the vehicle can also meet all their other criteria. EV's currently do NOT.

So your logic is that because hybrids don't save people "much", that's why they don't buy them?

If people aren't willing to purchase hybrids for some savings, why would they put up with EV's to save a few times more?

Putting aside the fact that the only "savings" is because of Government kickbacks and tax breaks, and that the vehicles themselves are being sold at a loss!

Have you ever bought a car? Seriously question. Because it seems you just don't grasp the realities the common person deals with them choosing a vehicle.

would save you even more if not for our broken electricity pricing system.

Now who's using strawmen? Hey, hybrids would save you even more if not for our broken gasoline pricing system.

RE: Nice :)
By Reclaimer77 on 1/12/2014 10:49:52 AM , Rating: 2
Also I find it pretty damn ironic you're now arguing EV vs Hybrid, when I've seen you attempt to state - several times - that all plug-in hybrids are actually EV's.

So genius, why aren't your plug-in hybrid "EV"'s flying off the shelves, so to speak?

RE: Nice :)
By Mint on 1/12/2014 12:45:06 PM , Rating: 2
You find it ironic because you lack the mental capacity to understand what a plug-in is.

PHEV/EV have plugs, and do most mileage on electricity. Regular hybrids do not, and do all mileage on gasoline. God knows why that difference is so hard for you to understand.

Slow sales are due to it being priced high in order to maximize profits for a new product, just like every new technology. Ford positioned its Fusion Energi as a $40k model, when it's barely any more than the $26k hybrid plus $2k in extra batteries (now they cut the price $4k, but it's still not worth it). Toyota did the same with the Prius Plugin, except that has only $1k in extra batteries. People were doing DIY plugin upgrades for less money and more range.

Dealers don't want to make you aware of the running costs of a gas car, because that's 99% of their business. Almost nobody does the calculation themselves (and even when they do it's for a few years only, not the life of the car)e xcept fleet managers, which you have pointed out yourself have been disporportionately flocking to plugins.

Plugins will take off when automakers move to the smartphone model: Charge $3 per e-Gallon, strike a deal with utilities to avoid double-charging, and subsidize up front.

RE: Nice :)
By Reclaimer77 on 1/12/2014 6:56:44 PM , Rating: 2
Plugins will take off when automakers move to the smartphone model: Charge $3 per e-Gallon, strike a deal with utilities to avoid double-charging, and subsidize up front.

LMAO!! I like how you say "when". What possible incentive would the utility companies have in making such a deal? Especially when such an insignificant number of EV's are on the road, and ever will be on the road.

It's amazing you can't see what a fantasy land you live in when it comes to EV's.

Dealers don't want to make you aware of the running costs of a gas car

Why do you think this matters? The running costs are what they are. We buy a car knowing we'll need to purchase fuel. You think some revelation about total gas costs are going to matter?

Hybrids are priced similarly to ICE's and the public knows they will save on fuel with a hybrid. So I'll ask again, why do they still only have about 3% of vehicle sales?

RE: Nice :)
By Mint on 1/13/2014 7:04:32 PM , Rating: 2
News flash: utility companies already have EV plans.

SoCal Edison has a plan where they install a separate meter for EV charging and overnight you get cheaper electricity. I made that suggestion to save the hassle and just have the car report how much it uses. Utilities love EVs charging at night because electricity is cheapest and sometimes literally free.

You think some revelation about total gas costs are going to matter?
You think people would buy nearly as many iPhones if Verizon made it clear to customers that they're signing a $2500 contract? Of course it matters.

If people did the math themselves, there wouldn't be any need for smartphone subsidies. They don't.

Hybrids are priced similarly to ICE's and the public knows they will save on fuel with a hybrid.
Since when are hybrids priced similarly? On a Camry and Fusion it costs $3.5k extra. For an Accord or Optima it's even more. Once again, people who bother to do the calculation know that regular hybrids don't save much money. They just reduce gas consumption by a modest amount over non-hybrid equivalents.

Plugins can cut out 80% of your gas consumption, tripling the savings of a hybrid or more. Once manufacturers start competing in earnest for plugin buyers, it'll only be the battery cost added to the regular hybrid price (~$3k), because everything else is the same.

RE: Nice :)
By Mint on 1/10/2014 7:20:29 PM , Rating: 2
I never said a road trip is 80 or 160 miles.

If you enjoy going to the gas station 40 times a year, more power to you. But don't ignore that when you laugh at an i3 owner who stops a few times on the occasional road trip and is otherwise gas free.

RE: Nice :)
By Reclaimer77 on 1/10/2014 7:31:23 PM , Rating: 2
If you enjoy going to the gas station 40 times a year

Oh, the horror

RE: Nice :)
By Mint on 1/10/2014 7:46:57 PM , Rating: 1
You're the one bitching about it being hell, not me.

coming to Australia
By shockf1 on 1/9/2014 5:32:12 PM , Rating: 3

does anyone know if this thing is planned to make an appearance on the Australian market?

RE: coming to Australia
By Spuke on 1/9/2014 6:20:33 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, it's going there.

By btc909 on 1/9/2014 7:25:21 PM , Rating: 2
I can get over the quirkiness and modern ugly styling. The motorcycle gas engine is a brilliant idea but that price even after the $7500 is the killer on this. Options jack up the price quickly as well. No carpool lane stickers in CA either.

RE: Price
By Spuke on 1/9/2014 10:01:58 PM , Rating: 2
Did you really expect a BMW to be cheap? Really? Quite frankly I think it's cheap for an EV Bimmer. I expected a LOT more. IMO, there's now zero point to getting a Focus EV or anything EV that's in this price range (unless you hate the look). You could even get away with buying the base car (I wouldn't) since the included items are more than acceptable.

Just as ugly as last year
By charleski on 1/9/2014 11:21:01 PM , Rating: 2
Looks like a Pekinese

RE: Just as ugly as last year
By troysavary on 1/10/2014 7:59:40 PM , Rating: 2
To me, it looks like someone welded the grill and bumper from a BMW on to a Prius.

excessive regenerative braking
By mike8675309 on 1/10/2014 10:55:43 AM , Rating: 2
EV Regenerative braking tends to worry me a bit on the DIY cars. In the case of this BMW, is it turning on the brake lights when it is using the motor to stop the vehicle? I sure hope so.

RE: excessive regenerative braking
By Spuke on 1/10/2014 12:58:35 PM , Rating: 2
Probably not and I'll bet they'll change that "feature" in a year or two.

By Spuke on 1/9/2014 4:46:05 PM , Rating: 2
That's my only problem with it. Well, maybe power to a much lesser extent.

Poor reporting
By weaponzero on 1/10/2014 1:23:40 AM , Rating: 2
BMW trumps Tesla in some regards in terms of safety (more on that to come), but I think where it truly wins is price.

Poor reporting?

The NHTSA gave Tesla Model S 5 stars in all categories.

The BMW i3 got 4 stars ratings in the Euro NCAP. Even a Nissan Leaf got 5 stars in the Euro NCAP (4 stars in NHTSA).

By ilkhan on 1/10/2014 2:06:10 AM , Rating: 2
Wow that thing is ugly.
Seriously I'd be ashamed to be seen in a car that ugly.

5 mo. wait list ... for a TEST DRIVE !!
By WT on 1/10/2014 8:13:43 AM , Rating: 2
I've heard there is a 5 month waiting list .. just for a TEST DRIVE ! Obviously, somebody likes these, or they are only sending one to each dealership ?

I shared the article with co-workers who are car shopping, but I myself am one of those guys who need my SUV to tow a trailer once a month, so no EV in my future.

Uh uh
By StormyKnight on 1/10/2014 9:48:04 AM , Rating: 2
Nope, no way.

UK Sales
By Heidfirst on 1/10/2014 12:04:59 PM , Rating: 2
the i8 is sold out for 2014 production so I wouldn't be at all surprised if this goes that way too ...
It may not work as well in the US with cheaper petrol & longer commutes but it'll sell in Europe.

By BillyBatson on 1/10/2014 6:24:22 PM , Rating: 2
I am sorry but there is no way I would ever consider this vehicle not even if it was the price of a Prius. For some of us it isn't cost of entry that prevents us from making the switch from a normal gasoline vehicle to a hybrid of electric. Style wise the ONLY, and I want to emphasize this, the ONLY all electric cars to have good styling is the Tesla Model S and Ford Fusion Energy, the ONLY Hybrid's that look decent are cars that never started off as a hybrid cars and have normal versions of them selves i.e. Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and so on. This BMW no matter now nifty, and no matter how cool of an enterior, has one of the fugliest exteriors I have ever seen.
The 2nd thing that keeps us from jumping on board is driving range. I will not consider switching until an electric car can drive from Los Anegeles (where I am) to Los Vegas without having to stop for a charge or refill. That is the furthest drive I make regularly (5-6 times a year) and see that as the minimum required so that I do not have to worry about getting stuck some place.
Very interesting interior BMW, and good electric tech, but too fugly.

By CalaverasGrande on 1/10/2014 8:23:53 PM , Rating: 2
BMW has been trending ugly since at least 2004, but ouch.
That looks like a Ford/GM collab gone wrong.
Even BMW's ugliest designs usually are more classy and refined looking.
The "Rims" take the cake.
Who buys an EV or hybrid that gives a damn about rims?
Is this how it is fitted in the EU as well? Somehow I feel like it is pandering to the US market.

By flyingpants1 on 1/11/2014 11:37:42 PM , Rating: 2
Hooooooooooly crap Jason, that is a LOT of drivel!

Why not just say: The BMW i3 is a tiny $45,000 LEAF. Saves so much space..

By Totally on 1/12/2014 1:20:33 AM , Rating: 2
I expected to to see something that made this car stand out and above other EV or ICE-powered vehicle but there isn't. To me it reads like an author detailing the reasons as to why he's fallen in love the author fallen in love with a badge. These creature comforts aren't specific to any vehicle. I mean where are the usage figures, even if they are estimates?

By toyotabedzrock on 1/28/2014 4:09:42 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe this is a generational taste difference but that is an ugly car. But at least you found an EV you like.

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997

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