Tuesday, April 22, 2014

More Range Extender Details Uncovered At BMW i Dealer Training


BMW has been hosting i3 training events to get their client advisers up to speed and ready to sell the car. I'm very happy to hear they are doing this because I was really beginning to get concerned that they wouldn't properly prepare their sales staff for this unique vehicle. I even dedicated a post a few months ago to this very topic. I've now talked to a few client advisers that have done the training and they reported that they did indeed get a lot of useful information which will help them service their clients.
The i3's tiny fuel tank is seen here at right in front of the battery pack in the center of the car.  This is where the heat pump is located and why you cannot get the heat pump if you have an i3 REx

This week the latest round of training sessions are being held up at BMW headquarters in Woodcliff Lake, NJ and details of what is being taught are starting to leak out from some of the client advisers that are there. A couple things of interest shared were details about the range extender the i3 will offer as an option.

First, it was learned that the range extender is automatically activated once the state of charge drops below 6.5%. At that moment, it turns on and it's function is to bring the state of charge back up to 6.5% and to maintain that level of charge. It will not charge the car much above 6.5%, and it will not run if the car is stopped, unless the state of charge is critically low. Therefore you can't it in a stationary i3 and wait for the state of charge to increase. I knew the automatic turn on point was around 5% to 6%, but now we have an exact level when it engages.
US i3 REx customers wish they had the European "hold" feature available

You cannot manually turn the range extender off. This is contrary to what I was told by an i3 product manager at the i3 debut in New York City last July. I remember asking this specific question by saying "What if I knew I'd make it home on electric, say I only had a mile or two to go and the REx was about to turn on, could I just turn it off so it's doesn't fire up?" I was told yes, there will be a setting that will allow you to turn it off before it engages, but that setting will reset once you turn the car off. The reason for that is so that the next time you get in the car you won't forget that you had turned off the REx and you may end up needing it. I would have definitely preferred to be able to turn it off manually, and honestly can't see why that isn't going to be allowed.

The range extender exhaust is tucked away under the car so you can't see the tailpipe unless you crawl underneath to look
We also found out that the client advisers have been told that while the range extender is in operation the speed of the car will be electronically limited to 70mph. I'm not buying that; I think they were misinformed. I really think there was a miscommunication on this one because I have had conversations with people at BMW that know a lot about this and even very recently they assured me that there isn't an electronically governed speed limit while the range extender is in operation. I believe the confusion about 70mph is based on the fact that 70mph is basically the top speed that the range extender can comfortably maintain the 6.5% state of charge at while driving on relatively flat ground. The people I've talked to in Europe that have i3's with the range extender say they can drive on the highway at just about 120 km/hr (75mph) and maintain the SOC, but anything higher and the SOC will gradually diminish. It's my contention that the people running the training sessions either aren't 100% clear on this, or they really meant for the client advisers to warn the customers that 70mph is really the fastest they should drive at if they need to drive for a long distance. In any event, I believe they got this one wrong and there isn't an electronic limit, we'll find out pretty soon since the US i3 launch should be in about two weeks.
The BMW i3 range extender is located next to the electric motor and power electronics, over the rear axle.
I saved the biggest news for last. It was learned that the US version of the i3 REx will have not have a 2.4 gallon gas tank as the European version does. Instead it will have only a 1.9 gallon gas tank. I'm going to pause for a moment to let everybody scream bloody murder now...... I know it's only half a gallon, but in the case of the i3, that just reduced the gas tank by 21%! For me this is a non-issue, but I know there are a lot of people that will not like this at all. 99% of the time I use the added range of the REx it will likely be for less than 40 miles. Yes, this does reduce the utility of long range trips even more, as you will now probably have to stop for gas every 40 or 50 miles. There was no reasons given for the smaller gas tank but as far as I can imagine, this comes down to one of two things. Since BMW wants needs the i3 REx to qualify as a BEVx and one of the qualifications of the BEVx is that the car has a smaller gasoline range than it does electric range, my thinking is that one of these two things led to the smaller gas tank:

1) The EPA rating for all electric range on the REx came out lower than they believed it would. If they used the 2.4 gallon gas tank, the gas range would be slightly longer than the all electric range, therefore causing it to be disqualified for the BEVx designation. The only simple way to make the gas range less than the electric range was to reduce the gas range by using a smaller gas tank.

2) The EPA rating for the MPG while in range extender mode came out higher than expected, creating the same problem cited above; a longer range in REx mode than in all electric mode. I've heard it gets anywhere from 36mpg to 46mpg from people driving REx's in Europe so this is a possibility. If the range extender got rated at 40mpg, and was using a 2.4 gallon gas tank, then the electric range would need to be 96 miles per charge, which is highly unlikely. If they cut the tank down to 1.9 gallons, then the electric range would only need to be greater than 79 miles per charge, which I believe is attainable, even considering that the REx version will have 6.5% less battery to use than the BEV i3 does, as this is held in reserve as a buffer.

So what do you think? Has any of these new revelations changed you mind about the REx?


33 comments:

  1. Wow! So it's really just a 1.9 gallon tank in the US? Gulp.

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  2. They should allow the operator to turn off the range extender as you mentioned above. I'd hate to have it turn on when I'm just pulling into my driveway at night!

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  3. The 1.9 is a bit of a disappointment but I can live with it. What disappoints me more is that BMW advertised the i3 Rex as having a 2.4 gallon tank, causing me to wonder,what else have they said that isn't true in their sales pitch. Its just not a good way for a company of the stature of BMW to communicate with its public and demonstrates how little thought was given to the ultimate success of the vehicle. There is no question about the integrity of the i3 as a physical product--just outstanding. But companies like governments need trust, and transparency and candor are essential in building that trust. BMW has flopped and flopped badly in this vital area. Word of mouth will discourage potential i3 buyers and leave their dealers with egg on their faces given what they told us about the capacity of the Rex. Discouraging and disheartening. I should add that the roll out, slow as a tortoise, will also discourage potential buyers. I was told by my dealer that the production of my vehicle would begin in April. After a conversation with BMW Concierge today, I learned that it will begin on or about May 21. Given that it will take close to six weeks to ship it to the West coast, I am looking at the more expensive Launch Edition to arrive at the end of June or more likely the beginning of July. I bought the Launch Edition for several reasons, one being that BMW was telling us these would be among the first cars to be delivered in the states and that we were looking at a late April date for delivery. Too many missteps and too much misinformation. BMW needs to grab hold of the roll out and fast, speaking with a unified voice about what the product is that we have purchased and realistic dates for delivery. One last point: if the sales force is just beginning to learn about the Rex, one dreads to think when the mechanics will be educated in the various likely repairs.

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  4. The smaller gas tank isn't of any consequence to me. But like Dr.B I am really surprised that a company like BMW appears to always be off balance with the i3. It is as if they never launched a new product before. First the moonroof is included and then it isn't available. Then you need to order a launch edition with every option they offer but a few weeks later they say there are shortages for the used n the launch edition so now you can order as you wish. Now the gas tank is 20% smaller than advertised. What's next? I would have expected a launch like this from an upstart like Tesla, not from BMW. Can we get some kind of statement from management? This is the kind of stuff that makes people say that BMW isn't serious about electric cars

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  5. I find a 1.9 gallon tank to be almost unmanageable. When do you decide to go to the gasoline station? When you have consumed 0.7 gallon? When you have consumed 1.2 gallon? 1.9 to begin with, is below the reserve level of a regular car. I think the minimum should be 4 gallon, and 5-6 is probably optimal. Wasn't the whole purpose of the tiny tank to get the white sticker in California? Now that that's not happening, apparently, why stick to this absurdly small tank size?

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    1. No the restrictions on the REX were not an attempt to get a white HOV access sticker, they were to get BEVx certification, that is two different things. If in fact it was indeed a white sticker issue, then I agree they would have definitely reversed course and released the restrictions.

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    2. My modest proposal for how to best deal with this issue is this: BMW should make two versions of the range-extender available: One with the 1.9 gallon tank, and then another version with a 4-6 gallon tank. Let's see where consumer demand resides. I bet that 99% of people will go for the 4-6 gallon version over the 1.9 gallon version. This may upset the utopian fantasies of some ivory tower red tape bureaucrat, but it would be a strong positive for consumer choice.

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  6. It just gets better and better. Lack of communication from the dealer about a delivery date, reduced tank size and no moon roof is not selling me to go through with a purchase. I was promised by the dealer (Niello BMW) that they would not jack up sale price. I am buying the rex to be able to drive 150 miles that I need to do twice a week. Going through Sacramento Valley when it is 105 degree may prove that I need to stop to to charge or fuel, tbd. I think there is only DC level 2 two charger along i80 another concern of mine. Also talk about a future improved battery make me think I should wait fir the next year model.

    It is easy to be excited, but then quickly be let down about the car from blogs and lack of real information out there.

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  7. worst product launch ever. interesting car but a miserable failure with communication and inconsistent information coming from bmw

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  8. These additional details made me even more comfortable and happy that I ordered BEV, not Rex.

    The charging infrastructure is plentiful in California (granted, I would like to see some SAE DCFC soon, but I will take the abundant J1772 for now). Given i3's efficiency, a 30 minute charge at any nearby grocery store's common J1772 will likely give me all the power I might need in an emergency. Plus, AAA in California dispatches mobile fast charging trucks to stranded EV drivers as a part of AAA membership (limited to 15 minutes of charging and no more than 3 calls per year).

    Why even bother with REx? Just buy electric!!! Additional benefit - no smelly gas and no oil changes to deal with. Ever.

    I am extremely happy that I decided to pass on the REx option and to go full electric.

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    1. I'm with you! I was going to order a REx to gain utility at the sacrifice of performance and because I will have to rely on public chargers. But I rethought my situation and concluded BEV is the way to go. So now i can save money on car options and reclaim the lightweight benefits. Didn't know that about AAA in CA. May have to join.

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  9. If this info is true, then regardless what the EPA numbers say, the US car will have a smaller range (when in US one needs a longer range, in general) and will be in a semi-limp mode for about 50 miles of that range (i.e., no mountain climbing, no passing on hwy, etc.). To pay $4000 extra under those conditions seems expensive to say the least...

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    1. The car will indeed have a smaller gas range then electric range, that it definite and something that has been known for a long time. It has to so it can be designated a BEVx vehicle. I don't know how anyone can call it anything like a limp mode though because you can't really notice any difference in the driving characteristics so it's not limping.
      No you can't drive up Pikes Peak once the battery is exhausted and the REx is on, but anybody that understands how it works will have no trouble driving nearly anywhere they need to go without any issues.
      I don't know if you've been driving a pure electric car or not, but I have been for five years now and this set up is perfect for what I want it to do. I'm not looking for this car to do 200 -300 mile trips up mountains. But for daily driving when I need to go 100-130 miles it's perfect. Most days I drive much less than that, but with the REx I no longer have to monitor my mileage and plan the day to make sure I can be near a charge point so I can get home. It completely takes the concern about running out before I make it home away. It isn't, however the right car for frequent long trips.

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    2. Tom, would you take a minute to explain what a BEVx is as opposed to a BEV and a REx, its importance to BMW in terms of the American market and regulatory process, and what it means to the ordinary buyer such as myself. Thank you. Tom, please keep up the good work as an unofficial spokesman for this great new vehicle, helping us to understand and unravel much of what is new (and for me, a first time buyer or an electric vehicle) mysterious about the i3. As I have said before, I have learned much more from your balanced columns than from BMW dealers, from those demonstrating the i3, and from other blogs.

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    3. I reffered to semi-limp mode due to the potentially 70mph limitation. If Rex was a bit larger, as well as the gas tank, then the "double the range" promised by BMW would have been true in US as well. I hope your hope is true and the car can do short bursts above 70mph in Rex mode. As for range, my worst case scenario is a 10F winter day when a Rex car with 80 miles of range will loose 10 miles to temperature, 15 miles to keep passengers warm at 72F, and 20 miles if you have 3 adults in the car. Now your range is 35miles and the Rex with 50 miles in ideal conditions will not be able to supply all of the above for more than 30 miles so cannot drive very far and if stuck in traffic due to snow, it can get dicey... But it is just a scenario. :)

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  10. looks like there will be a brisk business in replacing the 1.9 gallon tank for the 2.5 gallon tank (at a minimum) and I expect someone will design a bigger tank (4-5 gallons) that will still fit in the same location

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    1. It could well be a combo tank and filler tube with a bulge :) as the amounts are small... But effect on range large.

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  11. Replacing the tank will be the easy part but how will one (i) keep the warranty, (ii) change the software so the display is giving the correct range, and (iii) remove the speed limiter under REX? All this after the $4000 spent on it...

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    1. I don't really care about ii or iii, but the answer to i is easy. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975 states that a dealer must prove that aftermarket equipment caused the need for repairs before it can deny warranty coverage.

      As for the additional $3,850, it is an incredible bargain for any liquid cooled 34 hp gen-set, much less one this compact and light weight (at 264 lbs for the whole system it weighs just a bit more than one average American adult male passenger).

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    2. Alex, I still maintain there will not be a 70mph electronically governed top speed while in the range extender mode. I believe the BMW trainers got this wrong. As soon as I get confirmation either way I'll post it here.

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  12. Is there a good place that has a faq's about the i3? I test drove one here in Tucson this week and really liked the car. Unfortunately, the dealer couldn't answer many of the questions I had about the car. Thanks for your help Tom!

    Tabot

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  13. Reducing the size of the tank, losing the sunroof, losing traffic jam assist, losing the ability to manually turn on the range extender...the punches keep rolling in for those of us in the US. Honestly, this is classic bait and switch. It's extremely depressing, considering how excited I was to buy an i3. I'll probably just wait for Mercedes or Audi to reveal their C-Class and A4 PHEVs and get one of those.

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    1. Well, if there is any consolation, at least this car made it to US while a long list of really nice European cars never did...

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    2. Why do you say you lose the Traffic Jam assist? You do not - it's included if you want it… Where did you read it doesn't have it?

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    3. Matt: Here in the US, BMW has to disable the Traffic Jam Assistant due to regulation. It's evidently "too autonomous" for us to enjoy. I have this directly from the North American i3 chief product manager. The adoptive braking and Brake Assist will still be functional though.

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    4. That being the case, is the tech package still worth $2700? Waze on a phone can do real time traffic better, and the phone can also do all the internet stuff. Screen size can make a difference but at that price...

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  14. Everyone is saying about the tank and all, but I will say sometimes changes are good. If changes are not made things will look same and we get irritated by them. So hopefully these changes will make great impact to the divine of luxury..

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  15. So the i3 rex is rated by California Air Resources Board as a TZEV and qualifies for a Green HOV sticker. The criteria for this is that these four criteria must be met for BEVx status:

    The APU range is equal to or less than the all-electric range
    Engine operation cannot occur until the battery charge has been depleted to the charge-sustaining lower limit
    A minimum 75 miles electric range
    Super ultra low emission vehicle (SULEV) and zero evaporative emissions compliant and TZEV warranty requirements on the battery system.

    How does a Chevy Volt that will go 38 miles on battery and has a 9.3 gallon gas tank gets the same BEVx status and TZEV designation? Chevrolet/GM lobbyists?

    As I have noted on other forums I would buy the i3 rex if the USA got the same car as the Euro market version. Not a chance with this set up, and I agree with others above about dissatisfaction with many aspects of the product introduction.

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  16. Not sure how the Volt got that in CA but it did not in NJ. Remain to be seen if the REX makes the tax free list in NJ...

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  17. Have you considered that the US and ROW versions of the i3 Rex both have a 9 Liter tank?

    http://s27.postimg.org/nj4e5wav7/tank.jpg

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    1. Yes. I'm fine with that. As long as it could hold 1 gallon that's all it needs for me. After driving electric for 5 years now I'm learned that a ~80 to 100 mile EV will work for me. There are some days I just wish I had 10 or 20 miles more range and the REx will provide that perfectly. It's just about getting home or to the next charge point. I'm not using it for long distance travel, it simply isn't meant for that. What it will mean is I'll never be pushing it to the side of the road because I came up just short of my destination any more!

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  18. Drove a loaded i3 today. I liked everything about it. Handles well. Power is plenty. Interior is futuristic with familiar iDrive (I have a 550i). I was expecting to hear more rattles and squeaks given that there is no noise to drown things out but it was rock solid. Tires held turns well. I took it up to the 94MPH MAX and it was rock solid. Overall very impressive. Now the bad part. I have a 41mile drive to the airport. BMW people (not dealer people) where not sure if I could make it there and back with the REX. They commented that you might need to not use the heater in winter and be gentle on the peddle. This REX thing seems ridiculous given the smallish 1.9gal. In places like Denver this could kill the deal since you need to drive longer distances.
    I am going to have to wait and see what the TRUE range is with heater & AC use and also with the REX. So far just a lot of guessing. BUT very very nice car IMO.

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  19. So is the tank on US models 9L or not?!
    I recall reading that it IS the same size; that what some reported as 1.9 gallons was just US vs imperial (or the other way around), and in fact the tank is 9L in all markets.

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