It's been a long time coming but I finally got to drive an i3. I've actually been getting tired of having journalists contact me and ask me for my opinion of it on the road compared to the MINI-E and ActiveE and having to tell them I haven't had the opportunity to drive one yet! So did it live up to my (high) expectations? Yes, it did. It's certainly not "the perfect EV," but in my opinion, it does do more things better than any other electric vehicle that costs less than $70,000. And yes, the $70,000 is the threshold mentioned because slightly above that, (actually $72,240) is the starting point before incentives, for the least expensive Model S you can buy in the US.
|Lined up for test drives|
|The back up camera video is extremely clear|
|Tera World interior is all leather|
What about the range extender?
|Harb addresses the ActiveE drivers|
Driving in LA:
|I stopped for quick photo op|
|The optional wide nav screen looks great|
|Lift the armrest & you can slide across|
What was learned:
As I mentioned above I've had a lot of people ask me i3 questions recently and I promised I'd do my best to get answers once I drove the car and had the opportunity to speak to the program managers again. Without listing the specific questions here the answers to most of what I've been asked:
-The range extender engine is liquid cooled, but it's a different system and coolant than what is used for the battery management system. In fact, the i3 REx has three separate cooling systems. One for the BMS, one for the passenger cabin and one for the REx engine. The battery pack uses air conditioning refrigerant and the REx engine uses conventional liquid coolant.
-Waste heat from the REx is not used to heat the cabin.
-In the US the heat pump is standard on all BEV i3s, but it's not available on the i3 REx. BMW doesn't believe it's a necessary option if you have the range extender.
-Yes, you can certainly precondition the cabin (heat or cool) and the battery even if you have the REx. (Two people from the UK asked me this so evidently there is inaccurate info somewhere there)
-European delivery will not be offered on the i3.
-There are no optional interior color choices. Each interior level only comes in the color shown. So you can't for instance get the Terra World with gray interior, it only is available in the brown leather like the pictures shown above.
-The REx does not turn on until the state of charge is under 5%. It is robust enough to maintain the charge under all but the most strenuous conditions. You can manually shut it off so it doesn't turn on at all for instances when you know you'll make your destination on battery alone. If you do so it resets once you turn the car off and on again. This way you can't forget you shut the REx off.
-The REx has start/stop technology and shuts off when you are driving under 10mph unless the SOC is so low that it needs to stay on to get the car to 5% SOC. This is so that the car remains quiet at low speeds and while parked. This means you can't park the car with the REx on and let it charge up for a while.
-There is no speed limiter when the REx is running, but there is when you choose Eco Pro+ mode. In Eco Pro+ mode you are limited to 56 mph. Jose Guererro showed the ActiveE group a picture of the speedometer he took while driving an i3 with the REx running and he was going about 70-75mph (I don't remember exactly) he also said the car was maintaining the charge without a problem at that speed.
*UPDATE: The US i3's will not be speed limited in Eco Pro+ mode like I wrote above. The European i3's are though, and the car I drove was a European spec i3, so when I put it in Eco Pro+ mode the speed restriction display showed, which is why I reported it as such.
-Heated seats are optional, and this was a bit of a head scratcher: You can't precondition the passenger cabin with heat unless you get the seat heater option. I don't get that at all, but that's the way it is. Anyone who lives in an area that has cold temperatures during the year simply must get the heated seats option in my opinion or they will regret it later.
-The rear seats fold down completely flat and split 50/50.
-Comfort Access is standard with Giga and Terra World trim packages, as is the sunroof.
-The battery pack is comprised of 8 modules which each have 12 individual cells. The cells are supplied by Samsung but BMW assembles the modules in house.
-You have to get the Parking Assistant package to get the rear view camera, it's not a standalone option.
-US orders will begin in January, not in November as previously reported on InsideEVs.com
-i3s bound for the US will begin production in March, likely arrive in the US for delivery sometime in April.
I was also asked to take some specific pictures, here they are:
|Taken by my friend Andre|
|There were 6 CCS quick chargers there|
|The display while DC fast charging|
|One battery module contains 12 cells|
There is one more thing that I learned. For some reason, BMW has decided to omit a state of charge gauge. My head nearly exploded when I found this out. Both the MINI-E and ActiveE had state of charge meters and quite honestly it's all I use when I drive. I never use the predicted remaining miles, or the bar graph. I love the simplicity of a simply number, from 0 to 100% to tell me how much energy I have to work with. I am not alone either, when the other ActiveE drivers found out they were as shocked as I was. In fact we brought it up and protested so much the i3 management team promised they would revisit this. I'm going to dedicate my next blog post on this topic, because I don't want this post to be all about the SOC. Other than this topic, most everything else was extremely positive. The car drives as great as I had hoped it would and BMW announced to the ActiveE group that as a thank you for our participation, they would be making a special edition i3 that will only be available for us, and our cars will be some of the first i3s delivered to the US. I hope I got to everyone's questions and requests. Please leave any other questions in the comment area and I'll answer them if I can.