Friday, November 14, 2014

BMW i3 Tires: Get Ready For Winter!

The aggressive tread and the specialized rubber compound of Bridgestone Blizzaks should help me get through all the bad weather this winter brings
I live in Northern New Jersey and we can get some pretty bad weather in the winter. The temperatures in January and February are routinely in the 20s (Fahrenheit) and can even dip down below zero from time to time. At those temperatures, you really should have dedicated winter tires for proper traction, even if the roads aren't always snow covered. In fact, most tire experts recommend that you buy dedicated winter tires instead using all-season tires if the average temperatures where you live are below 45 degrees in the winter.
The Rial X10-I that fit the i3 come in the bright silver pictured here, and also painted black.

That's not a plot to get you to spend more money on tires that you really don't need as I've seen some people contend. Winter tires are specifically made for use in cold weather and will definitely outperform all-season tires in cold conditions. The rubber compounds used in winter tires are completely different than what is used in summer or all season tires. Winter tires are designed so that they become stiffer on the inside of the tire, and more flexible on the outside to provide better grip at lower temperatures. They also have stronger bead construction to resist the multiple mounting and dismounting because winter tires are often mounted and dismounted every year, unlike regular tires that quite often stay mounted on the wheel their entire life.  Non winter tires become stiff and lose traction, which increases the chance of the vehicle losing control and skidding.
I'm liking the new look!
Snow chains are also available for the i3
In my case I absolutely needed to get winter tires because I ordered my i3 with the 20" Sport wheels. The tires that come with these wheels are summer tires which mean they are not recommend for cold weather use. The three 19" wheel options for the i3 all come with all-season tires and if you don't live in a really cold area, you can live with all-season tires year round. To complicate things even more, there are no winter tire options for the 20" Sport wheels of the i3. Since there are no other cars that have such tall, skinny wheels as the i3, Bridgestone only made winter tires for the 19" wheel options. Therefore, anyone who has the optional 20" Sport wheels and needs to get winter tires, needs to buy a set of 19" wheels as well. BMW sells a package that uses the base model i3 wheels (#427) and the Bridgestone Blizzak 19" winter tires. However, I opted to buy aftermarket wheels made by Rial, and the Blizzak tires from the Tire Rack. I like the look of the Rial wheels, and I also like that they are different from the stock wheels, giving my car a more custom look. I was actually a little surprised when I found out the Tire Rack was going to offer aftermarket wheels for the i3. Since the i3's wheel sizes are so different from anything used on any other car available today, I didn't think aftermarket wheels would be available so soon. 
The Rial wheels bow out in the center. Not good for preventing curb rash or aerodynamics.

I'm sure I'll take a range hit from this modification, but how much I'm not quite sure. The aggressive tread and softer rubber will increase rolling resistance so that alone will make a difference. The weight will also be a factor. The Rial wheels with the Blizzak tires weigh 39.2 lbs, while my 20" Sport wheels with the Ecopia EP500s weigh only 36.2 lbs. Three lbs per wheel might not seem like too much, but it actually will make a difference in the car's electric range. Finally, these wheels aren't nearly as aerodynamic as the stock wheels so I'm sure my drag coefficient just went up. BMW spent a lot of energy designing wheels that are good looking, lightweight and are aerodynamic. These Rial wheels appear not to have taken any of that into consideration when they were designed. The large openings between the spokes are begging for increased wind resistance, and to make matters worse, they aren't even flush with the rims, the center of the wheels actually bows outward and will clearly increase drag. I'm really not worried about this though because safety in the winter, and being able to negotiate the snow covered roads of Northern New Jersey are my primary concerns. Plus, I have the range extender so if my efficiency is reduced by 6 or 7 miles per charge, I'll still be able to get to wherever I need to go without worrying about running out of juice. Bring it on!


I'm happy to report the i3's hatch will indeed fit a set of wheels/tires if you need to transport them to your dealer or tire shop to install them.
My old MINI-E did pretty well in the snow. The front wheel drive and winter tires worked really well, better than my ActiveE in fact. I'm anxious to see how the i3 does, but I'm optimistic it will do well. The thin tires will help, as they will cut through the snow instead of riding on top of it. 

11 comments:

  1. Those wheels look real nice, too bad they are not as aerodynamic as the OEM stuff, but I like the look a lot.

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  2. I'm a little disappointed there aren't any 20" snow tyres. I'm sure you've checked all the vendors?

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    1. Yes, I have. There definitely aren't 20" winter tires yet. Will there be? Perhaps, but the i3 is the ONLY car that uses 20" wheels that are only 5" wide. Plus those wheels are optional so not many cars are going to need them. It might not be economically viable to make them for such a small audience.

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  3. Hopefully despite the fierce start this winter will be mild. With a 44/56 weight distribution, 5.5" ground clearance, and narrow tires the i3 REx should do well in the snow.

    These wheels do look cool, they remind me of the double-spoke penta-star design found in the E38 from many moons ago, a classic.

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    1. Thanks vdiv, I like them too. I also expect good performance in the snow, but let's see. I'll definitely report here once it snows.

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  4. Love the rims. Curious to see how they'll effect the range.

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  5. Nice wheels! We could only choose between 427 standard or 429 turbine as winter wheels. I choosed 429, same as my summer set, but I'll black them out I think.

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  6. This is encouraging to read, Tom. I always wondered how you would handle winter with the i3. I just put Blizzaks on my C-Max Energi this morning... first time for snows on any car I've owned, despite the fact that Felix, my C-Max, was a tank through the second snowiest winter on record in the Philly area with his stock all seasons last winter. Never stuck, never slid. I seriously debated a Subaru Outback as a replacement to Felix, but cancelled the order. It's really hard to walk away from electric and go back to an ICE. Love the blog; I've been a silent reader for months. Love the picture of the i3 in Hoboken as your banner photo, too./Steve

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  7. Thank you for the very helpful writeup!
    Your pictures lead me to another tire question: since the car does not come with a spare tire, I am thinking about buying one Rial wheel and spare tire and carrying them in the trunk on longer trips. Will a wheel and tire fit flat in the trunk without folding the rear seats?

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    1. I think they would but they would have to be standing up. They won't fit lying down without folding down the rear seats.

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