Friday, January 31, 2014

BMW i3 Born Electric Guest Blogger: Meet Hil from Holland


My i3 was delivered to my home on a flatbed truck, more than 300 kilometers (180 miles) from my i Agent. Traveling that distance in an i3 BEV on one charge isn’t possible and the i3 being my first EV, we agreed that the car be delivered! As it stands, I’m probably the first i3 owner in Frysl├ón, Holland and I’d like to report on my first month’s experiences!
A while ago I announced that I would be starting a new series here called, "I was Born Electric on...". The series will be featuring readers who are i3 owners and who are willing to share their thoughts on the car after owning it for a while. They will begin the post by introducing themselves and stating the date they were Born Electric, which is when they picked up their i3. Last week we had the pleasure of kicking off the series with a post from Andy, who lives with his new i3 in the UK. We'll now be hopping over to Holland to visit with Hil and his new Ionic Silver i3:       

    Hello, my name is Hil and I was Born Electric on Monday, December 30th 2013. 

My recent BMW history
My BMW before the i3, was a 5 door 118i (F20) which I bought for it’s economy and comfort. It was less the sports car than the Z4M Coupe I had before it, but with more room and an adjustable suspension, it meant super daily driving pleasure! Just after the “1” came, BMW launched their ActiveE program with a preview of the concept i3 and i8 in Rotterdam. With my eldest son Tom (also a motor head!) our short, snowy test drive in the ActiveE sold us to the i concept!

The big wait...
This past summer, BMW made production slots for the i3 available in Holland. An i3 in the autumn? Great! In early September the i3 was ordered and after a few glitches in the ordering process (an other color and not fully optioned!), the i3 turned up in the early winter, on snow tires, in Ionic Silver (which is more blue than silver) and with it’s cool Adaptive LED headlights.


Daily Use:

I use the car mostly for local trips, from one village to the next.  As a rural Family Doctor, it’s great to do my rounds in the pre-warmed comfort of the i3! To now the only EVSE I use is the standard socket plug-in, delivered with the car. It charges at 3.4 kW which is fast enough for my daily trips. Occasionally I make a longer trip to meetings, for post-grad education or visits to family and friends.  Those trips are between 100 to 140 kilometers (60 - 87 mi), but according to my i Agent (and BMW), form no problem to the all-electric i3! For on the road charging, there’s also a growing network of quick DC chargers in Holland, thanks to Fastned!

Adventurous Start:
True to the EV pioneer calling, on New Years Eve, the family traveled with the i3 to our traditional  New Years celebration at good friends. They live 103 kilometers (61 miles) away.  At the start, the i3 gave me a range of 120 kilometers, more than enough! But beware,  this figure is based largely on previous driving habits and I had only driven 70 km! But 120 km should be enough! We left at 6 pm, outside temperatures 5 degrees Celsius with a stiff southwesterly headwind and 3 adults in the car with the trunk packed. My normal ICE driving style is to limit my freeway speeds to 115 kmh (70mph) and on two lane roads, I drive 100 kmh (60mph). That evening I set out to copy my 118i driving style to see how the i3 fared. After 40 km (26mi) the battery had just 50% charge left! What??? Total i3 range as claimed by BMW to be 130 km (80mi) per charge, not a scanty 80 km (50mi)! At this rate we’d have to walk 20 km to our friends house. What now? Turn back and take the reserve ICE car or charge up somewhere?

I knew of a quick charger along the freeway nearby, so we decided to drive on! In the confusion we took the wrong exit and drove an extra 10 km to get back on track.  My first encounter with a public EVSE was a disappointment. Fumbling in the dark with wind and weather. the quick charger didn’t charge! I called the ANWB help desk number (=AAA in the US) who told me that there was a working charging point 30 km ahead on my route. The question again: press on or turn back? Well, we decided to "Go (South-) West"!

By now I had become a bit more EV savvy and after studying the settings and menu of the i3,  it seems I had started out in the standard, uneconomical but sporty “Comfort” mode! In “EcoPro” mode (EP) the range sprung from 55 to 65 km and in the EcoPro+ (EP+) mode, all of a sudden I could go 81 km! I kept it at EP+ and drove on with the Southwesterly storm at full head. On the freeway ahead, a Motor Home drove a leisurely 85 kmh (50mph) so I slid behind it and slipstreamed further. Meanwhile my hands and feet had turned to ice, as had everyone in the car! EcoPro+ is a spartan experience, with no heated air or seats, but it got us to our friends house, with 3 km to spare. We had become true pioneers on New Year’s Eve!

A Second Go…
The next week I had a meeting in Utrecht, at 138 km (84 mi) from home. After the cold experience on New Year’s Eve you might think that I wouldn’t consider an even longer trip. But that’s not what EV pioneering is all about my friends, and to be honest, the first trip turned out fine! But for this trip, I prepared myself. To ward off the cold, I took a hot water bottle along, put it on my lap, covered with a fleece blanket. From the start, I drove moderately (max. 100kmh=60mph) in EP+ mode and strictly followed the EcoPro route chosen by the BMW Navigation. It takes you over roads with lower maximum speeds but the route is shorter. My planned 1st destination was a public charging station 10km (6mi) from the meeting place and I had a folding bicycle in the trunk (yes it fit!) for the last leg. But the range expanded as I drove! I left with a calculated range of 124 km (77 mi) and after the first 25 km (15.5 mi), still had 119 km (74 mi) left! With this kind of magic the i3 grew on me! Once on the freeway I hit headwinds, so chose a truck to slipstream behind at 93 kmh (58 mph) on the cruise control.  Except for some wind buffeting I really enjoyed my radio in the quiet of the cabin! I reached the meeting venue at 138 km (86 mi) without the wayside charge! Range anxiety is a thing of the past!
DC Quick charging at 50kW's on a Fastned CCS Quick Charge Station

In the parking garage there was an EVSE which only charged at 3.4 kW instead of the expected 7.4 kW. After 2.5 hours the state of charge increased from 5 to 27%, not enough to get home! But I had enough range to get to the nearest Fastned DC 50kW quick charger, 40 km away. Within 30 minutes I had more than 90% of charge, enough to get home comfortably. When the Fastned network is expanded from the present 5 to the planned 100 stations at the end of 2014, cross country trips in Holland with the i3 will be no problem! At the end of 2015 the projected planning even calls for 200 stations, one for every 40 to 50 freeway kilometers!

EcoPro EcoPro+ and Comfort:
The difference between Comfort and EcoPro modes is purely performance. The i3 Comfort mode would be the Sport mode in an ICE BMW mainly because of the incredible acceleration! EcoPro differs from EP+ more because in EP+ the Seat and Main Heaters are turned off.  In cold seasons, choosing EP+ mode makes the cabin icy cold, even with a hot water bottle and fleece blanket!

My lesson is: when range is at issue, put the i3 in EP mode but turn the heater off with the dashboard button. The seat heater still works and hardly reduces range, but keeps you warm! If the windows fog, the heater rapidly clears them and when done, switch it off until needed again.

In Conclusion:
Yes, the i3 is the future of mobility, now! It’s quick, quiet, economical and clean! Range anxiety is unnecessary if you drive the i3 according to your purpose (range or fun!) and because this car also happens to be a BMW, that fun begins on your driveway!
 
The future has never looked brighter






Big thanks to Hil for sharing his experiences and thoughts here! If you own an i3 and would like to participate in the "I was Born Electric on..." series here email me at: tom.moloughney@gmail.com and I'll get you in the queue.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

My New Side Job: BMW i Dealer Training

It's -2 degrees F here in Canada and I'm talking BMW i3 at Budd's BMW in Oakville!

I've written a few posts on my blogs about how poorly many dealerships have done when it comes to selling their electric car offerings. I blasted Nissan and GM pretty good a while back and had hoped that BMW would learn from the mistakes the other OEM's made when they rolled their EV's into their dealers' showrooms. However I'm starting to wonder if that will be the case.

Electric cars are different in so many ways. If the sales team isn't prepared for the onslaught of questions that they are going to get hit with as soon as the i3 becomes available to order, then it will not only hurt sales of the i3 but it will certainly tarnish the BMW brand image. BMW dealers will have an even tougher time than the other brands had in my opinion because the i3 isn't just an electric car, it really is a revolutionary vehicle. Besides the typical EV questions about the car's anticipated range, battery life, battery management, the effects of weather on the battery, charging, etc, they also have to explain the unique architecture with the carbon fiber and aluminum construction and the thermoplastic skin. How will it respond in an accident? How expensive will it be to repair? Why are the tires so skinny and will they perform well? And that's before they even begin asking about the range extender. Can it drive up a long hill at highway speeds? Can I simply refill it with gas and keep going? Why can't it be turned on manually? Does the waste heat from the engine warm the cabin? What is the maintenance schedule? And so on...

I've been working with JMK BMW in Springfield to help get them ready for the i3 also.
When I first heard about the new "Genius Everywhere" program that BMW was launching I really thought they had solved the dealer problem. It sounded brilliant and I figured these "Geniuses" would be thoroughly trained about the i3 and be able to assist a BMW client adviser with any issue or question about the i3 that a potential customer would have. However once I learned a little more about the program I started to wonder. The Geniuses are there to assist not only with BMW i questions, but technical questions on all BMW products.  Yikes I thought, that's a lot of information for them to absorb. Yes, they will have fancy iPads in hand to help them pull up info that they don't know off the top of their head but still, BMW has a lot of vehicles in their lineup now, and even a "Genius" has their limit. Then came the real concerning revelation. I started getting emails and private messages from BMW "Geniuses". They reached me though this blog and the BMW i3 forums on the internet where I post regularly and answer questions about the i3. After completing Genius training they felt they didn't know enough about the i3 to be comfortable, so they were reaching out to me to help answer questions they had. The worrisome part, is the questions they have are basic, generic electric vehicle questions. If they weren't taught this stuff then they will likely be no help at all to the dealers. In fact one person said this when describing how he feels about going to his designated dealership if someone asks him anything about the i3: "I feel like I'm being blind folded while walking into a room!" This isn't good to hear and believe me it gives me no pleasure at all to have to report it.

In addition to the Geniuses asking me for help, I have recently been getting emails from BMW dealerships asking me questions about the i3. They say BMW has promised them support for the i brand, but they haven't gotten it yet and people are now starting to call and come in to ask for i3 and i8 information and they don't have anything. I have even been asked to come to a couple of dealerships to help train the staff. One dealer in particular, Budds' BMW in Oakville, Canada really wanted me to come and give them a crash course in the i3. They flew me to Toronto and paid me to spend the whole day there and instruct three training sessions. I didn't do it for the money. I really just wanted to help them out since they clearly want to establish themselves as the area's premier BMW i dealer. They were willing to go the extra mile to fly me out there and pay me to help train them and I respect that so I went. The day went really well, and I'm sure they learned a lot about the i3. The following day I got emails from both the dealership manager and the owner and they both thanked me and were so pleased with how the training went they indicated that they would like me to come back to help them more once they get closer to the i3 launch. I have to say they were all really great people up there and I will certainly continue to help them if they ask.

It's not too late to get everybody up to speed, but the clock is ticking. The i brand launches in a couple of months and there is a LOT of ground to cover. I'll continue to help out when I can and in fact I have another dealership training set up for next week. I won't mention which dealer because I didn't ask them if I could talk about it.  Budds' was fine with me talking about this, and they really should be in my opinion. I commend them for wanting to be prepared. They are obviously a forward-thinking, progressive dealership that wants to have a competitive advantage and I really respect that. The next few months should be very interesting. I guess I'll know how well BMW is doing in preparing their dealer network for the i3 by how many phone calls for help that I get! I really hope they do it well. BMW put so much into the development of the i3 and i8, it would be a shame to have them do poorly because they didn't help their dealers get prepared for these unique and ground-breaking, cars.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

BMW i3: Tax Credits and Leases and Residuals, Oh My!

Will BMW's financing options put the i3 out of reach for many of its enthusiasts?
There have been many discussions on various websites since an internal BMW document surfaced that led to people to believe the BMW i3 lease terms in the US would be very high. One potential i3 buyer even has his local dealer (Stevens Creek BMW) work up a lease quote using the information on the document. The i3 he built had a total price of $55,978.52. With very little money down the lease payment came out to be $930 per month. There were a couple things that led to this very high lease estimation and I thought it would be worth while to discuss them here.

The proposed i3 lease was posted by insideevs.com
First, the residual values on the document were very low, around 40%. Unfortunately this is basically in line with residual values of other electric cars and there are basically two reasons for it. First, electric cars are new to most people and there is a lot of uncertainty regarding what the secondary market will be. What will a 3 years old i3 with 40,000 miles be worth? How much will the battery have degraded? What will its practical range be at at that point? Until we have years of EV use behind us with tens of thousands of examples to draw data from, finance companies will likely err on the side of caution and offer low residuals on EV's. Then there are the tax credits and rebates. California is the largest market for EV's in the country and basically paves the way for everywhere else. EV's buyers in California not only get the $7,500 federal tax credit, but they also get up to a $2,500 State rebate. Therefore a used EV is instantly worth $10,000 less than a new one as soon as it rolls out of the lot.  So to be fair, you really should include the tax incentives and rebates in the equation when you discuss electric vehicle residual values, because that is the actual effective cost of the car to the buyer.. If you do that, the i3 residuals jump up to nearly 50%. That is still a bit low, but not really far off of what a typical car would be worth after a three year lease. 

The tax credit is now a center of debate
The document also showed that BMW is only going to apply $4,875 of the expected $7,500 federal tax credit as a capitol cost reduction to leases. This led some people to assume BMW is simply pocketing the $2,625. I raised this question to Timm Bock, Product Development & Pricing Manager for BMW Financial Services and he told me that BMW will only realize $4,875 for the federal tax credit and that they will pass every cent of what they get along to the customer. I still don't know exactly why they don't get the full $7,500 because it seems the other EV manufacturers do since they pass it along to the customer as a capitol cost reduction in their lease offerings. So either they get more than BMW does which would be surprising, or they are eating the $2,625 in an effort to push their electric vehicle offerings. This to me would be equally surprising, so I really don't know what the truth is at this point, but I will continue to investigate this. 

Timm was kind enough to also include an overview of the financing options BMW Financial Services will be offering for the i3, and this is what he sent me:
Tom,

Please see my response below regarding the Lease and OwnerChoice products you had asked about, as well as how each product relates to the Federal EV Tax Credit when purchasing a BMW i3.

Traditional Lease - Our tax team has advised us that each leased BMW i3 qualifies us for a Federal EV Tax Credit of $4,875 - all of which is passed on to the consumer.  This $4,875 Lease Credit can be directly applied as a Capitalized Cost Reduction, or to other costs, at the time of lease-signing.  Regardless of your tax situation, by choosing a BMW FS lease with the $4,875 Lease Credit, you'll know exactly how much you will benefit, it’s applied at the time of purchase and there is no subsequent filing, administration or personal tax implications.
(As a reminder, only EVs purchased for personal use are eligible for the maximum $7,500 tax credit.  However, the benefit is reduced to $4,875 for 100% business use.  Regarding Nissan and Chevy, we can’t speak to why they are choosing to offer $7,500 or more; this may be part of the their incentive or discount strategy.)


But for customers who want to claim the maximum tax credits, we have made attractive alternatives to leasing available:  OwnersChoice and OwnersChoice with Flex.

· OwnersChoice – OwnersChoice provides:  low lease-like monthly payments, the lease-like option to return the car at the end of the term AND the eligibility for you to claim the maximum income tax credits.  

· OwnersChoice with Flex - In addition to the OwnersChoice benefits above, OwnersChoice with Flex allows you to increase your final balloon payment due at the end of the contract term by up to $7,500. Increasing the final balloon payment due further reduces your monthly payments, and in this way provides you with the opportunity to benefit from the $7,500 immediately.  OwnersChoice with Flex bridges the time-gap between the vehicle’s purchase date and your tax filing date.  We are proud to say that BMW FS is the first in the industry to develop an enhanced balloon finance solution like this for EVs. 


BMW Financial Services will also offer our traditional loan product.  Like both of the OwnersChoice products above, a BMW FS loan provides you the eligibility to claim the maximum $7,500 Federal EV Income Tax Credit.  


In general, due to the uncertainty and complexity of tax credit rules, we encourage anyone considering an EV to consult with a tax professional.

While this doesn't really clear up the tax credit questions, it does give some clarity on the OwnersChoice with Flex product that they developed specifically for the i3. This will allow a buyer to get the full $7,500 tax credit, yet still return the car like a lease at the end of a predetermined period. It's a purchase, but allows the buyer to have a capitol cost reduction up to $7,500 (the customer decides how much they want BMW FS to deduct as a cap cost reduction) to lower their monthly payments. That money is then owed to BMW FS and the owner can pay it off anytime they want. The owner will then have the option of making a balloon payment equal to the residual value plus the additional $7,500 and buying the car outright, refinancing the balance and keeping the car, or simply paying back the $7,500 and returning the car as if it were leased. 

There is interest charged on the $7,500 cap cost reduction they applied that is baked into your monthly payment, but BMW will allow you to pay it back early and save on the interest expense. The best way to utilize the OwersChoice with Flex may be to pay the $7,500 up front when you take delivery of the car, therefore you'll never have paid a penny of interest on it. Of course you'll need to have the finances to do this, but since you'll be recovering the $7,500 a few months later when you do your taxes, you will only be a short time without the funds. (provided you qualify for the full tax credit)

I hope that provides a little insight into the OwnersChoice with Flex. However, admittedly it doesn't get us any closer to really knowing what leasing deals BMW will be offering. Until we get the official residual values, interest rates and terms, we're all just guessing. I just hope people don't expect the i3 to have leasing deals that are comparable to some other much less expensive EV's like the LEAF or Volt, let alone the great deals on some of the other manufacturers compliance EV's. These cars are subsidized by tens of thousands of dollars per vehicle just so the manufacturer can lease the minimum required be California, in order to continue to sell their gas cars there. BMW has been consistent with saying the i3 is going to be profitable from day 1, and BMW will not subsidize it. This will likely make the i3 more expensive to lease in California than a Honda Fit EV, a Fiat 500e or a Toyota RAV4 EV. However for the rest of the country this comparison really doesn't matter because those cars aren't available nationally like the i3 will be.

Personally I expect to BMW to announce the financing details pretty soon, like within the next couple weeks and I will certainly post them here. There is hope that BMW may surprise up with a good leasing deal after all though. This week at the NADA convention in New Orleans BMW's North American CEO Ludwig Willisch said "It will be an attractive lease offer" and "It will be in the ballpark of a normally equipped 3 Series". A friend of mine recently leased a pretty well equipped 328i and with $3,000 down and he's paying $415/month. I find it hard to believe the i3 will lease for that low, but I suppose it's possible on a base BEV i3 without any options. I'll pick this back up here once the details are revealed. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

I Was Born Electric On...The First BMW i3 Owner Review:

 
A while ago I announced that I would be starting a new series here called, "I was Born Electric on...". I'll be featuring readers who are i3 owners and who are willing to share their thoughts on the car after taking possession. They will begin the post by introducing themselves and stating the date they were Born Electric, which is when they picked up their i3. Without further ado, I bring you Andy from the UK, our first i3 owner & Born Electric guest blogger:
 
Hi, my name is Andy and I was Born Electric on Saturday, January 11th,  2014.

I came to the EV party a bit late in the day, as I was a typical petrolhead and dismissed electric cars as an irrelevance - underpowered, no range, ugly, the usual stuff - and even when I first saw the i3 concept, it looked weird & the projected price seemed way too high (I think a projected £40,000 base price was mentioned at the time).  So I ignored it and carried on driving my gas guzzling M3, even though I wasn't enjoying the daily grind in it: mainly in traffic, 40+ miles a day, costing me around £350 a month in petrol. The only times I really got to enjoy the M3 was on my drives with the guys at Petrolhead Nirvana, who arrange trips to Scotland, Wales, the Alps, and elsewhere - amazing places where you can give a 400hp car a bit of stick. More about them later.

Then the i3 proper was launched in August, and at seemingly sensible prices (c£25,000 after the UK grant), with leasing costs at around £350 a month.  Hey, that number looked familiar - an idea began to formulate in my mind... and a few days later, early August 2013, I was putting down a deposit. My man-maths (or man-math for our American cousins) told me that the fuel saving, together with fewer miles on the M3 meaning lower depreciation, less tyre wear & fewer services, could make the i3 a “free” car!  A quick spin in an ActiveE in September blew me away and confirmed my thoughts that I was doing the right thing, then an actual i3 test drive in early November really sealed the deal.  Except the demo car was loaded with extras which I had a chance to play with, so my originally bare bones car ended up, if not fully loaded, at least three-quarters loaded. On top of the gadgets like Parking Assist & Driving Assistant, I liked the wood on the dash, but I also liked a darker interior that wouldn't show the dirt so much, so the Suite (Tera in US) interior was added in too. Suddenly my arithmetic wasn't adding up quite so well, but too late now!

Delivery was scheduled for late January, but you'll have gathered that I was hardly racing to be the first owner of an i3; I figured there had to be many UK buyers who'd been more far-sighted & quicker off the mark than me. So I was really surprised to be the first in the UK - or at least, the first in the UK on the mybmwi3 forum - to take delivery of an i3.  As I write, 10 days after, it seems there have been no more deliveries still, and there's even talk of further delays, so I don't know how mine beat the blockade, but I'm glad it did!

The Wallbox
Before the car was due at the end of January, I had to get one fitted at home, so after a fair bit of chasing, I took a call on Monday 6th January booking me in at short notice for the following Thursday - "we'd better get on with it as your car's at the dealers". Wait, what?! A quick trip down there after work confirmed there was a car matching my order exactly, sitting there quietly - but the dealer at first denied it was mine!  A bit of pushing from me finally established it was mine, but also that there was a mistake on my invoice, putting the dealer's £5,000 grant from the government in potential jeopardy. So while it was all sorted out, my car sat there doing nothing, just out of my grasp, and I eventually took delivery on the Saturday. Frustrating - but in light of the delays others are experiencing now, I should've been more patient!

It turned out my house, built around 1900, had electrics that weren't much newer, so neither the supply to the house nor the cable to the garage were up to the job of charging at the full 7.5kW. I've ended up with half that, but that's plenty to recharge the car from almost flat to 100% overnight. The BMW wallbox is a big ugly thing though, and I wish I'd gone for the smaller & cheaper option made by Polar, or one of its competitors. I think for the charging rate my house will support, it would've been free in fact.

My first few miles
My first day as an EV driver was spent going round friends & relations, and blowing their minds. I'm sure this is old news to all you current EV drivers, but the whole experience is so alien, yet so pleasurable, that a huge grin is inevitable the first time you try it, whether driving or as a passenger. It’s a fantastic talking point too – friends, clients, even strangers are all eager to know more about what the future of motoring holds for us all.

My first long trip. Range Anxiety - what's that then?

Only 6 miles to spare!
Each month, Petrolhead Nirvana (the guys who organize the long distance driving trips) hold a meeting at the Ace Cafe, a famous venue for car & bike owners in northwest London.  January’s meet was only two days after I'd taken delivery, but I was keen to take my new toy to show off to my pals there, although it wasn't quite in the spirit of the occasion - people usually bring their Ferraris & Lambos, M-cars & 911s. I was fairly sure they wouldn't kick me out, but there was another hurdle for someone with a 2-day old pure electric car (I'd avoided the REx on cost, performance, and purity grounds - lugging a petrol generator around everywhere seemed to spoil the whole idea, and with a bit of planning, didn't seem necessary, for me anyway) - the Ace is about a 70 miles round trip, and at that stage of my ownership, a whole week ago, I really wasn't sure if I'd make it.  I know better now! A cold & slow EP+ drive up there left me with plenty of range (especially after borrowing some electricity from the cafe manager, thanks Nick!) to give some rides to my Petrolhead mates, all of whom raved about it - the more demo cars BMW can get out there, the more they'll sell, definitely - and to drive home in Comfort mode, and in comfort, with the heating on and a heavy right foot. I figured that if the range remaining got close to the distance to home, I could soft-pedal and knock it back to EP or even EP+ mode and still get home. Using this method, I had a fantastic fast drive back through London and made it home with 6 miles to spare - a close call, but I really didn't feel worried at any stage.

Range Reduction vs Miles Traveled
Since my epic(!) trip, it's been the usual commute for the last week, and as I know I'm going to do around 50 miles a day at the most, I drive it without thinking about economy at all. As a result, my iPhone's been telling me I have 75 miles at the start of the day (100% SOC), but then my spreadsheet tells me that my range reduces by about 13 miles for every 10 miles I drive, even though the car's had a few days now to predict it accurately. So if I drove normally (for me), I'd be stranded at about 60 miles. Don't be alarmed though - if I needed to go further in a day, I'd drive differently,  and get maybe 90-100 miles. I don't know for sure yet though, as driving economically is next week's experiment! 

As it is, one thing I'm enjoying immensely is coming home, plugging it in, and knowing that a few hours later I’ll have a full “tank” for minimal cost.  I'm certainly not missing my frequent visits to the petrol (US: gas) station, and it feels strangely liberating each time I drive past one. If you haven’t experienced it yet, you'll love it.

Performance - the i3 vs M3 race
You've probably seen this video of the drag race at Brands Hatch from the UK launch, where the i3 storms ahead of the M3 before finally being overtaken at maybe 50mph. After driving the i3 for a week, and being in the fortunate position of having both cars, I thought it didn't quite seem right, and once the weather improved enough to get the M3 out of the garage, I fired up my Dynolicious app (no, this wasn't going to be a properly scientific test!) and set off - to a test track near me, obviously.  The i3 was very easy to measure consistently – just put your foot down. The M3 needed a bit more finesse, and it was strange having to get used to driving it again after only a week. It turned out that, surprise surprise, the i3 was quick, but not as quick as an M3. To its credit, it was only a second off at 50mph (5.5s vs 4.5s), but then I wasn't really trying in the M3 as it was a bit damp and I had to be careful with the throttle.   If the M3 was properly driven by someone who knows what they're doing, the gap would be much wider I'm sure. Click on the pictures to enlarge:
i3 Stats
M3 Stats














Tech Stuff
I guess I’m a bit of a geek, although I don't profess to be any kind of computer expert. I do enjoy fiddling with technology though, and that's one of the things that attracted me to the i3 - I'm especially enjoying stuff like the Driving Assistant, almost making my commute enjoyable, and the Parking Assist just makes passengers laugh! The voice control is very good, much better than the old iDrive's in the M3, and the phone call sound quality over Bluetooth is much better too, helped by the quietness of the car I guess.  And coming down to a toasty car with a clear windscreen on a frosty morning is superb!  However, I somehow imagined the quiet peaceful surroundings of the car, and using the Active Cruise Control, would get me to work completely relaxed and happy, but that was expecting too much: it still takes me just as long, and there are just as many idiots on the road, after all.  Even an i3 can’t magic them away! Some of the tech is pretty tricky to figure out, even for a geek like me, and I wonder if BMW will lose some of their potential audience - people who aren't tech-savvy but who would otherwise be perfect for an EV might get scared off.

Problems
Waiting patiently at the dealer
There's also stuff that doesn't work so well, including both the things I've just praised. The Active Cruise Control, part of the driving assistant, intermittently (but quite often) switches itself off, saying it's outside its working parameters - even when it's in the same conditions it was working fine in a minute ago. I'm not sure if it’s a design “feature”, or if my car has a fault. The Parking Assist threw a fit last night too, just when I was showing it off to someone, naturally. As it began to reverse, it lost track of where it was and slammed on the brakes (it sounded like the ABS came on, even though we were going slow), with dire messages appearing on-screen about the system being broken and insisting the car be taken to a dealer ASAP.  I turned it off and on again (see, I do know about computers) and it worked fine.  I've dropped it in to the dealers today though, and they're sending the diagnostic report off to BMW to see what they say.

The rear doors can be closed quite gently before you close the fronts - but if you do, a warning appears on the dash as you drive round corners saying they're open! A proper slam to close them does the trick; the dealer's looking into that too. Finally, some of the connected drive stuff is pretty poor (not unique to the i3, I realize); Facebook & Twitter don't give you enough of each post to be useful, email doesn't work at all unless you have a Blackberry apparently, and the apps like Napster & Audible are very clunky to operate.
Andy's stable is worthy of envy!
Summary
So, it's fair to say that overall I'm really pleased with my i3. It's quick, interesting, cheap to run, well made (niggles aside - but it feels solidly put together), and superbly designed inside. I'm still not 100% keen on the exterior looks, but she's growing on me. The Andesite paint looks great in some lights, a nice technical shade of grey, possibly with a very slight hint of brown to go with the dark brown leather interior & the wood on the dash - and in other lights it just looks like old man's beige! I rather wish I'd gone for a different colour, but unlike Tom, I like the contrasting black hood & roof, so the dark greys are out. And I don't like white or silver - so bright orange is what I should've gone for. Next time, eh? For now, I'm looking forward to many happy miles in this futuristic vehicle which seems to get everyone talking.  I might be a latecomer to this particular party, but hey, I’ve got the perfect ice-breaker!

If you own an i3 and would like to participate in the Born Electric series here, you can email me at: tom.moloughney@gmail.com

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Strong Turnout at JMK BMW For i3 Drive Event

One of the i3's at JMK before they needed to take it off the showroom floor to use for test drives. I'd guess at least 50 test drives were given during the day.
Manny Antunes, JMK BMW client adviser and BMW i3 specialist admitted he was overwhelmed with the amount of people that came to check out and drive the i3's the dealership had for the day last Thursday. BMW gave JMK two i3's for the day and the original plan was to leave one on the showroom floor and use the other one for test drives. However as soon as the day began it became clear they needed both cars for test drives because there were so many people there that signed up to drive an i3. Manny did a great job and was at it all day. He didn't even stop for lunch as there was a line of people waiting all day for test drives.

Manny Antunes & I after a long day
The problem was, once they took the car off the showroom floor there was nothing there for the people waiting for their turn to test drive one to look at. Plus since Manny had to use another client adviser to accompany the customers in the test drives, there really wasn't even anybody from the dealership that could stand there and take on all the i3 questions. However that's exactly why he asked me to stop by, just in case they needed help with answering questions about the i3 or electric cars in general. I usually never mind talking about electric cars, but even I was worn out after over 8 hours of nonstop questions from the 100 or so people that came to see and drive the i3.

Even with running both cars not everybody got to drive one, since both cars drove well over 150 miles they needed to be charged a few times during the day to keep them going. Witnessing the strong demand for test drives was very promising. The range of people I talked to was also surprisingly varied. There were Nissan LEAF owners as well as people that have never even driven in an electric car but had heard about the i3 and were interested in buying one. We also had about six ActiveE drivers stop by to take another look before they decide to place their order for the Electronaut Edition i3 or not.

I'm really happy Manny and JMK reached out to me to give them a hand with the i3 launch. The i3 is going to be like nothing that BMW dealers have ever had to deal with before. Dealers that understand this and reach out for help will be the ones that excel with the i brand and sell a lot of i3's. Nissan and Chevy went through the same thing when they launched their electric car offerings. Some of their dealers are selling plenty of LEAF's and Volt's, yet other dealers in the same markets sell very little. What is the difference? Being prepared. Knowing the product and training the client advisers to know what questions to expect will make all the difference. I know JMK BMW is taking this serious and I'm sure they are going to be one of the areas leading i brand dealerships. Wherever you live, if you are thinking about getting an i3 check out a few of your local BMW dealerships and feel them out a bit. Make sure you find one that is making an effort to really know the i3 and have people on hand that can answer the unique questions that battery electric cars have. If your dealer doesn't know the difference in level 1 and level 2 charging, or they don't know the details of the i3 battery warranty then my recommendation would be to look elsewhere.

It was a crazy hectic day, but it was really great to see how many people came out to test drive this truly revolutionary new BMW.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

JMK BMW To Host The Area's First "i3 EVent"

 
On Thursday, January 16th, (tomorrow) JMK BMW in Springfield NJ is hosting a "Get to know the BMW i3" event from 10:00am to 7:00pm. For most, it will be the very first time they have the opportunity to actually see the i3 in person and test drive it. JMK client adviser and i3 product specialist Manny Antunes will be there to answer questions and take reservations on the spot if you decide to order an i3 while you are there.

I have been working with JMK to help prepare them for the coming i brand cars and have already ordered my i3 through JMK. I appreciate that JMK recognizes that these cars are different, and will elicit different questions and concerns from their potential buyers so I have personally tried to help prepare them for these potential issues. It's encouraging that they understand this and have reached out to make sure they can offer the best possible customer experience and service.  That is why I recommend considering JMK if you are from the area and considering an i3 or i8.


I will also be there for most of the day to help answer questions and provide information to anybody interested in my personal experience driving and living with an electric car. I hope to see you there and please introduce yourself to me if you've been following my blog, I love to meet the readers in person.


Event Details:


JMK BMW "Get to know the i3" Event
JMK BMW
391-399 Route 22, Springfield, New Jersey 07081

Sunday, January 12, 2014

BMW i3 Samsung Galaxy Gear App Overview Video



I'm heading off to NAIAS in a few hours to cover the show for InsideEvs and one of the things I'll be doing there is meeting Horatiu Boeriu of BMWBLOG and Samsung to review and discuss their new partnership with BMW and the BMW i3 Samsung Galaxy Gear App. The above Samsung TV video shot at CES in Las Vegas last week gives an overview of the features. Hopefully I'll get more info on the partnership at the show. You can enjoy this video for now.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Green or White? Which HOV Sticker will the BMW i3 REx Get in California?



There is a lot of confusion swirling around the interwebs the past couple days regarding the CARB classification on the BMW i3 with range extender. For Californians this is a very important topic because it will determine whether the REx i3 gets the $2,500 or $1,500 California rebate and more importantly, will it qualify for the white or green carpool lane sticker.

I was just beginning to write a post on this; what we currently know (the situation seems to be changing hourly) and what may come of this as it is an evolving event, when I noticed my good friend and fellow Electronaut, George Betek wrote a post on this for InsideEVs.com. It was really comprehensive and probably better than what I could do, so instead of me writing another post, I just got permission to post it here. Just so you know, this issue doesn't effect the all electric BEV i3. That will still get the maximum rebate and qualify for the white carpool sticker. It's the range extender that is causing the debate. I still believe when the dust settles the i3 REx will only get the $1,500 rebate (This was disputed by BMW - as you'll see they maintain it will get the full $2,500 rebate) and the green carpool sticker which will likely run out in about a year. Therefore if you live in California and are thinking about getting an i3 with the range extender, then order one as soon as they go on sale so you are assured of getting the coveted carpool access. The rest of the country can sit back and watch the drama unfold, as this will likely have little to no bearing on most people outside of California.


 Green or white? Which HOV sticker will the BMW i3 get in California?

As trivial as this question might sound, it might have serious consequences for future buyers of the i3. Wait, what I am talking about? As you might have heard already, the range-extended version of the BMW i3, which is slated to arrive in the US sometime in April, is apparently at risk of not qualifying for all the incentives in California, which is the largest market for plug-in vehicles as of this writing.
*Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on George’s blog.  We suggest that you check it out by clicking here.
What incentives are those exactly? Well, for one thing, there are the carpool lane stickers, which permit single-occupant vehicles to use HOV lanes. Some people have said that it was “tantamount to having a helicopter for commuters”. OK, not quite, but it’s still an incredible perk. Then there is the clean vehicle rebate, which allows owners and lessees to apply for a rebate check, if they have either purchased or leased the new vehicle, and commit to keeping it at least 36 months.
That all looks pretty straightforward, wouldn’t you agree? I guarantee you that it won’t be when we delve into the specifics. The devil is in the details. Literally. Take the carpool lane stickers. They come in several varieties in California:
  • Yellow
  • White
  • Green
Yellow Sticker
Yellow Stucker
The yellow stickers were introduced in 2004 by Assembly Bill 2628, which allowed hybrid vehicles, such as the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight, to access HOV lanes. It was limited to 85,000 cars, and the stickers were issued on a first-come first-served basis. This program was extended several times, and the original more limited allocation of stickers has been more than doubled. Although some owners kept them as a souvenir on their cars, the incentive came to an end on June 30, 2011.

White Sticker
White Sticker
The white stickers were established though Assembly Bill 71 in 1999. Eligible vehicles must meet strict emission standards set forth by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The following categories would qualify: pure battery electric vehicles (BEV), dedicated compressed natural gas (CNG) or hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles (FCV). There is no limit on the number of stickers that can be issued. As of September 1, 2013, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) had issued 32,764 white stickers; the recent run rate has been about 1,500 decals per month. This program was set to expire on January 1, 2015, but has recently been extended until 2019 via Assembly Bill 266.
Green Sticker
Green Sticker

And finally, there is the green sticker program, which came into life on January 1, 2012. The stickers will be issued to the first 40,000 applicants, who purchase or lease cars meeting California’s Enhanced Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (Enhanced AT PZEV) or Transitional Zero-Emission Vehicle (TZEV) requirements. Examples of qualifying vehicles include Ford C-Max Energi, Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid and Chevrolet Volt. As of November 8, 2013, 24,452 green stickers have been issued; the recent run rate has been about 1,000 decals per month. At this pace, the sticker allocation could be exhausted in approximately 14 months. If the program is not extended, the green stickers will expire in 2019, just like the white decals mentioned above.
It’s worth noting that the HOV decal program is administered by the California DMV following guidelines set forth by the Air Resources Board, which maintains a comprehensive list of all eligible vehicles. This list does not mention or include the BMW i3 yet. That’s understandable, since the first i3 is not supposed to be sold in California until May 2014. While it would seem only natural that the pure electric version will qualify for the white stickers, some thought that the range-extended version would get them too.

CARB LogoWhat is the big deal then, aren’t the stickers interchangeable? At first blush, it would appear so. The green stickers, which the BMW i3 REx trim might end up getting, are limited in number. If BMW and the Air Resources Board cannot come to an agreement on this issue, it could start affecting i3 buyers as soon as late 2014 or early 2015. However, this problem would not be unique to the range-extended variant of the i3; it would affect other vehicles, such as Chevy Volt, Plug In Prius or Ford Fusion Energi, as well.

DMV Logo

Additionally, although both sticker types are slated to expire on January 1, 2019, some believe that the white decals had a better shot at getting an extension. All that said, this should be a non-issue for current BMW i3 buyers, so long as the i3 will qualify for some kind of HOV decal. Green or white. It doesn’t really matter. Although some might prefer one over the other, the practical difference is likely zero as of this writing. Should the green stickers run out in about a year, and an additional allocation is not approved, then early i3s with REx could have a better resale value. Much like a Prius with the yellow sticker would command a premium in the years past.
That leaves us with the clean vehicle rebate project. This project is a voluntary incentive program introduced in by Assembly Bill 118 in 2007. The program is administered by the Air Resources Board (CARB) to fund clean vehicle and equipment projects. It is managed by the California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) in San Diego, and has expanded its funding considerably over the past few years to keep up with the increased volume of new clean-fuel vehicle registrations.


CCSE LogoThere are two types of cars, which qualify under the program: zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). Light-duty zero emission cars and trucks are eligible for up to a $2,500 incentive, while motorcycles and neighborhood vehicles are eligible for up to $900.

PHEVs are eligible for up to a $1,500 incentive. To qualify, PHEVs must:
  • Meet California’s most stringent tailpipe emission standard
  • Have zero evaporative emissions
  • Have a 15 year / 150K mile warranty on the emissions system and
  • Have a 10 year / 150K warranty on the zero emission energy storage system.
While the pure electric version of the i3 would clearly qualify for the $2,500 incentive as a light-duty ZEV, the range-extended version of the i3 should get $1,500. Right? Well, not quite. The California Air Resources Board has recently established a new category: the range-extended battery electric vehicle (BEVx). It’s a new regulatory category initially approved as a zero-emission vehicle type in the clean vehicle rebate project in June 2012. In the current fiscal year, the BEVx continues to be an approved eligible vehicle category.
Decisions Get Made Here

How does a plugin vehicle get classified as a BEVx? According to the 2012 amendments to zero vehicle program regulations, it comes down to four criteria:
  • 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 80 75 miles electric range
  • Super ultra low emission vehicle (SULEV) and zero evaporative emissions compliant and TZEV warranty requirements on the battery system.
*CARB then decided to once again amend the criteria with this key alteration:
“The minimum range qualification has been corrected from 80 miles range to 75 miles range for range extended battery electric vehicles (BEVx) to match the minimum requirements for BEVxs in 2012 through 2017.”
This means that the new BMW i3 with range extender should qualify for the $2,500 incentive, just like a pure battery electric vehicle would. It does not automatically imply that the i3 REx will qualify for the white HOV stickers, although it would seem logical that it should. It’s also worth noting that the HOV decal and the CVRP are two separate programs, even though the CARB establishes guidelines for both.


I have recently contacted the California Center for Sustainable Energy and the Air Resources Board, and I’m led to believe that the i3 with REx will qualify for $2,500 CVRP and green HOV decals.  This belief aligns with BMW’s statement (courtesy of BMW Blog) on the matter:
BMW Chimes In With a Statement“The i3 with Range Extender qualifies for the green sticker, which is limited in numbers and will run out in the eventual future (possibly late in 2014). This is technically to be expected since the car is equipped with an internal combustion engine which potentially emits fuel fumes, and thus makes it harder to qualify for the white sticker which typically can be obtained by full battery-electric vehicles (BEV) and Hydrogen vehicles. The white sticker is not limited in terms of numbers. There is a continued, constructive relationship between BMW and CARB executives, and there has been no reversal of position. It also bears mention that the i3 with Range Extender qualifies for the full CA incentive amount of $2,500.”
There is apparently still a chance that the i3 REx might get white stickers as well.
Finally, there has been some talk that the range-extended i3 might not qualify for the BEVx classification in its first year, but perhaps it would be best to table this type of speculation for a future post.

Monday, January 6, 2014

To REx or Not To REx, That is The Question: Part 2

To REx or Not to REx, that is the question many potential i3 buyers are struggling with now
Back in September of 2011, only 6 months after I started this blog, I wrote a post titled "To REx or Not To REx, That is The Question". At the time, very little was known about the i3, and even less was known about the range extender; other than it would be available as an option and would appear sometime after the initial i3 launch.

The sign at the New York BMW i Born Electric Tour claimed a 100 mile range for the i3. It's looking like the EPA range rating will fall short of that.
My conclusion back then was if the BEV i3 had a real 100 mile range I would probably pass on the REx, but if the range was closer to 80 miles and the REx was only about $3,000, then I would probably go for it, providing I didn't have to wait too long after launch for the REx to be available. As it turned out, my fears about the range were justified. Even though I don't have proof of the EPA range rating yet, I feel confident by now that the range will be less than I had hoped, and that the i3 will have an EPA range rating that is somewhere in the 80s. I drive a lot and that's just cutting it too close for me. At 90-95 miles per charge I could probably do it, realizing that after 2 or 3 years the range will likely be in the high 80s anyway. A 100 mile EPA rating would have absolutely eliminated the need for the REx, but no company outside of Tesla is offering that on a real EV (one that is available across the Country). So at $3,850 the REx is a little higher than I would have liked it to be, but it's not astronomically overpriced, considering the utility value of having it on board and ready when you need it. 

So after bouncing back and forth a few times, I've decided I'll be getting my i3 with the range extender. After about five years of driving pure electric, I'll be back to hauling around an ICE. I don't love the idea, but I'm not hung up on "pure EV" dogma either. The goal is to use less gas and if the range extender allows me to drive on electric the vast majority of the time, yet still have the utility I need on the days I need to drive farther, than the goal is accomplished. The i3 simply won't have the necessary all electric range that's necessary for me personally but that doesn't mean it's not enough for many others. As you can imagine I'm not alone with the struggle to decide which version of the i3 to get. Now that the i3 is available to order in Europe, and only weeks away from being available in the US, I'm reading posts in the i3 forum and in our i3 Facebook group where others are grappling with the decision of if they should go BEV or REx.

I'll try to outline the pros and cons here. If you think I miss something please feel free to add your reasoning in the comments section. Here are my top six reasons for and six reasons against the range extender:

Why go for the range extender:


The added utility. Not having to plan out your mileage or look for public chargepoints if you know you'll be pushing the range on a particular day will be a welcome feature to many people. You won't have to think twice if your plans change and you need to drive more miles than you planned that day, and on days you know you'll be driving far you won't have to use the other family car, borrow a gas car or use a car sharing or rental service. With the exception of extremely long drives (hundreds of miles) that will take you up extended long mountainous routes the i3 with the REx can take you wherever you need to go without worry. Also as the car ages, the battery will lose capacity and your range will shrink. A new i3 with an 85 mile range may only be able to comfortably deliver 75 miles after 3 or 4 years. The REx means the car will always deliver the same utility regardless of how old it is and what shape your battery is in.

No range anxiety. There is some over lap with the first reason, but this really is another issue in itself. There is a difference in not using the car one day because you know the range wouldn't be enough, and miscalculating your total miles because your route had a detour, or your life had a detour that day. It happens. You  can plan your day all you want but things come up and you often need to drive farther than you thought you would have to. Usually the extra range you have is enough to get you home, but there are those days where you just come up short and can't make it. The last few miles you are gripping the steering wheel a little tighter and looking down at your range gauge every minute or so. I've been driving electric for nearly 5 years now and I can honestly say these kinds of issues don't happen often, in fact they are very rare. However when they do happen, it isn't fun. I can remember walking home at 2am last summer and thinking about how great it would have been to have that little REx motorcycle engine on my ActiveE. On that night, I ran out of charge about a quarter mile from my house. What made it really interesting is I live in a very rural area of New Jersey. There are no streetlights on my street and it's really pitch dark at 2am. Add to that I saw a bear walking on my lawn a few weeks earlier so as I was walking home I couldn't help but think of the headline, "EV advocate gets mauled by bear walking home because his electric car ran out of charge." I don't know if that is range anxiety or bear anxiety, but I could have really used the REx that night. I know some would say just get an EV with a bigger battery. No matter how big the battery is there could always be occasions when you miscalculate your range or drive farther than you planned and come up short. The range extender virtually eliminates any range anxiety unless you live in an extremely remote area where there aren't charge points or many gas stations where you drive. If that's the case, perhaps an EV isn't the best choice for you right now anyway.

Resale value. There isn't a lot of empirical data since modern EVs haven't been available long enough to really establish how much a pure EV will depreciate as compared to an EV with a range extender. Now that the earliest LEAF and Volt lessees are beginning to return their cars that were on three year leases, I believe in a year or so we can properly gauge if there is much of a difference. I suspect that electric cars with range extenders will fare much better in the second hand market. I know if I were looking to buy a three year old i3 I'd be much more concerned about the condition of the battery if it didn't have the REx. After three years there will be range degradation, there is no way around it as the battery ages. Will a three year old BEV i3 still have 90% of its original range? How about 85%? We simply don't have the answer yet. That uncertainty really hurts the value of the car. The potential new owner won't really know how far it can go until they buy the car and live with it for a while. However if the used i3 has the REx, then the all electric range isn't nearly as important. The buyer can still do anything they want with the car. They can drive it as far as they want to and the only negative they have is they may use a little more gas than when it was new because of the lower electric range. If it's a pure BEV they also have to worry about how many more years they have with the car until the range really impacts the cars utility - the REx removes that concern. Of course if you lease the car this isn't your problem and one of the reasons I recommend leasing if you are in the market for an EV today.

When will this be commonplace?
Lack of infrastructure. If there were level 2 charging stations in every parking lot, and finding a place to plug in while you work, dine and shop was without hassle, then daily life with a ~80 mile BEV would be simple. If we also had a robust DC quick charge infrastructure then long distance travel would be easy, even if it meant stopping more frequently then you would have to for a gasoline car. However we just aren't there yet. Outside of certain areas of California and a couple other progressive areas, charging infrastructure is still in its infancy. It's going to take a while for EV charging to be ubiquitous. I do believe we'll get there, but not for a while. There will be a lot of growing pains and I believe the number of EV's sold will greatly outpace the number of public charge points installed. For most people outside of a few select areas, I fear finding available EVSE's will be very difficult for the foreseeable future.


My ActiveE battery was frequently drained
Damage from frequent deep discharges. This may be a minor concern, but since the REx will turn on at about 6% state of charge, the battery won't be run down to very deep discharges. There is about 10% buffer when you drain the i3's battery completely so when the REx turns on the real state of charge is actually about 15%. The buffer is there so you don't do really deep discharges which would damage the battery. However I can't help but think if you are a high mileage driver like I am with a BEV i3 and frequently roll into your garage with the state of charge below 5% of the available capacity, the cumulative effect of doing this frequently will have negative effects on the battery. With my MINI-E and ActiveE, there were many times I drained the battery well under 5% and even drove them until they just stopped and wouldn't go any farther a few times. This isn't good for the battery, but since these were test cars that would be taken out of service after two or three years there was really no reason to pamper the battery. However if you shell out $45,000 for a new i3, you will want to take good care of your battery, as it's the most expensive component of the vehicle to replace. Frequent deep discharges can bring on early degradation which will mean less range and perhaps even cause more deep discharges and accelerate the early capacity loss of your pack.  

My ActiveE preconditioning in the snow
Cold weather range degradation. If you live in an area that gets cold during the year this is something you need to be very cognizant of. Even with a sophisticated thermal management system like the i3 has and the ability to precondition the battery and passenger cabin, the range of an electric vehicle is less when it's cold outside. The combination of the need to use energy to power the cabin heater, the seat heaters, the defroster, etc, plus the fact that the batteries simply cannot store and use the same amount of energy as efficiently as they do when it's warm conspire to cut into the range. Without having thoroughly tested the i3 in cold conditions, I still feel confident saying you can expect at least a 20% range reduction in temperatures below freezing, and that number could quite possible as much high as 30%. So lets say the i3 gets an EPA range rating of 85 miles per charge. I wouldn't expect the average driver will get more than 60 - 70 miles per charge when they are driving at or below freezing, and even less as the temperature drops much lower than that. It should be noted that this isn't permanent range degradation, like I was referring to above.  As soon as the temperature rises back up again, so will your range, but that could mean for 3-4 months a year you have to live with an EV will less than 70 miles per charge. With the REx all this means is you may use a little gas, but you won't have to change your driving style, find secondary roads to your destination so you can drive slower or wear a hat and gloves so you don't need to use the cabin heater.

Reasons against getting the REx:


Do you mind if I smoke?
It's an electric car! - You don't want really want to put gas in it do you? The whole reason for going electric is to get away from gas, right? Well there are lots of reasons for going electric while not needing to buy gas anymore is definitely one of the top ones. The way I see it, my goal is to use as little gas as possible. My EVs are mostly powered with electricity generated from my solar array which really makes them as close to true zero emission vehicles as possible. I don't feel bad if I end up burning 10 or 20 gallons of gas in a year with my REx i3, after all I used to use that much gas every four days when I commuted in my SUV. Still an electric car that burns gas can leave a foul taste in your mouth as the exhaust pipe does when the REx is running

This stuff shouldn't pour out of an EV!
ICE complexity means added maintenance. One of the great aspect of electric cars is their simplicity and
extremely low maintenance. Slap an internal combustion engine as a range extender in there and you just complicate things. Now oil changes, tune-ups, filters, mufflers, etc are all part of ongoing maintenance again, just when the electric car promised to put all that in your past. The only redeeming aspect is since you'll likely only use the REx occasionally, the maintenance schedule will not be nearly as intensive as it is on a normal ICE car. Still - this is a major drawback in my opinion.

The added weight of the REx reduces the cars efficiency and performance. The i3 is the most efficient electric vehicle on the road. Everything BMW did while designing it was centered around lower weight and increasing efficiency. The REx adds 265lbs of dead weight to the car, which has to be lugged around everywhere you go. Even if you don't use the REx for a month at a time, every mile you drive you'll be carrying it with you. The efficiency will take a hit and you'll be using slightly more electricity to power the car whenever you drive it. It's kinda like going hiking and carrying 30 water bottles in your back pack every time you hike, even though you usually only need 1 or 2 of them for 95% of your hikes. Plus, the added weight robs some of the performance. The all electric i3 will go 0-60 in about 7.0 seconds, while the REx i3 will need about 7.7 seconds. Still pretty quick, but if you're driving a REx i3 and a BEV i3 pulls next to you at a streetlight, kindly decline the invitation for a race.

It takes a little away from the cool futuristic feel of the car. Driving electric is a blast. It's a different driving experience that most will tell you is actually better than driving ICE. There is also a really cool feeling that you are really driving the future. The ultra silent vibration-less cabin, the instant torque and feeling that you are almost being pulled along by a string instead of the car providing the propulsion really lets you know you are definitely not driving something from a past generation. Add to that the i3's futuristic architecture, advanced electronic features, extensive use of carbon fiber for the passenger cell, aluminum for the frame and thermoplastic for the outer skin and this is indeed a car of the future that you can drive today. Do you really think an internal combustion engine that's vibrating and belching pollutants into the air as you drive along really belongs there? Of course it doesn't.

It will complicate your conversations: I've been driving electric for nearly five years now and I still get people asking me about my cars all the time. I can't go to a car wash without someone asking me about it and often when I return to my car parked in a lot at a shopping center there is someone there looking at it and wanting to ask me about it. With a REx i3 I can no longer say, "Yeah, it's all electric and I love never buying gas!" like I do now. I see the conversation going something like this:

Them: That's an interesting car is it electric?
Me: Thanks, yes it is.
Them: Wow! Cool  - so it's all electric?
Me: Well it's not all electric, but 99% of the time I drive it is all electric. It has a small gas engine that is used to recharge the batteries if I need to drive farther than the electric range will allow.
Them: Oh, so it's a hybrid. My neighbor has a Prius and loves it.
Me: (Groaning under my breath) No, it's an electric car with a range extender.
Them: So it's not like Prius then?
Me: Well it's not like the old Prius, but there is a new Prius now that is a plug in Hybrid and it's kinda like that but the i3 has a much greater electric range.
Them: So it's kinda like the plug in hybrid Prius, but it's not a hybrid you say?
Me: Have a nice day. (Drives off mumbling)

I've driven the i3 a few times now, and the distinctive styling attracts a lot of attention. If you buy an i3 expect a lot of curious people asking you questions about it and the range extender definitely makes explaining the car more difficult.

Cost: The range extender option costs $3,850.00 in the US and that's a lot of coin. There is also the concern that in some states getting the REx option will then disqualify the car for the zero emission tax exemption. If that is the case, the range extender will end up costing them closer to $7,000 because the sales tax will add another $3,500 or so to the price. However I don't think this will be the case because I know BMW has been working very hard behind the scenes to get the i3 REx classified as a zero emission vehicle under the CARB BEVx rule. Hopefully we will get clarity on this soon because I know states like NJ, Washington and Georgia (possibly others also) all have tax exemptions and/or other state incentives for zero emission vehicles, but not plug in hybrids. Still, even if it only costs the $3,850, that is a significant additional cost.

Ultimately you have to decide what best suits your needs. I would hate to have someone buy a BEV i3 and then realize they can't live with the limited range and struggle with worrying about running out of charge. However I also don't want to give the impression that the BEV i3 wouldn't work for a lot of people. I happen to drive much more than the average person. I drive between 33,000 and 35,000 miles per year and average around 85 miles per day so for me the REx i3 makes more sense. However as I've said, I have lived the past 5 years with pure EVs and really didn't have too many instances when I wished I had a range extender. Only you know what's best for you. That reminds me of one of my favorite Dr Seuss quotes: 

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...” 
This one has the REx
You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who'll decide where to go.
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