Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The i3 World Premier: What was Learned?

Photo by Hugo Becker of BMWBLOG
The much anticipated World Premier of the i3 has come and gone, so now it's time to look at what was learned. There was a lot of information released and I'll try to touch on as much as I can here, but I also recommend reading the full press release I posted on my post yesterday.

With the range extender - pretty tight!

I had a chance to talk at length with Oliver Walter, Head of Product Management for the i3. We discussed many things, but what stuck out in my mind the most was our discussion about the performance of the range extender. During the day it seemed to me that when reporters asked some of the speakers about the performance of the range extender, they never got a clear answer. So while I had Oliver all to myself I asked him directly if the i3's performance will be drastically reduced as many speculated. When I mentioned the term limp-mode, he looked at me like he was surprised I would even ask that and quickly said "No this is absolutely not a limp mode". He further went on to say the car will actually behave pretty
Without the range extender
normal and that the drive can continue to drive along - even at highway speeds, just as they were before. It will have slightly less power, but still be capable of driving normally in most conditions. Evidently BMW has designed it to come on while the car still has a reasonable amount of battery charge left, so there is enough of a buffer to allow the car to reach back and get the extra energy needed for bursts of speed and to climb long hills. So this also means the car will have a shorter all electric range with the range extender because you'll only have access to the first 80% or so of your battery power before the REx turns on. However I did find out that the driver can turn the REx off so it never comes on if they know they'll make their destination without needing the range extender. Therefore, you can have access to 100% of the fully charged battery as long as you can make it to the next plug without needing the REx to help out. I really like this feature and think users will also. However you cannot turn the REx on manually, before it turns on itself, like you can with a Chevy Volt's "Mountain Mode" This mode allows you to use the generator early in your travels so you save the battery charge for later when you may need the extra energy to drive up very steep hills or mountains. The i3 will have difficulty in these rare situations. If you drive it until the Rex comes on and you then need to drive up very steep inclines for a long time - like 10 miles or so, the REx may not be able to keep up with the energy output the electric motor needs after a while and will likely slow down at that point. This is a complex topic and I suspect the only way to really determine exactly what conditions will be too much for the REx will be once people start driving it. However in most normal driving circumstances, it appears the REx will be able to allow the driver to continue along without any issues for as long as they need to. The range extender option costs $3,850 and which brings the cost up to $45,200 without any other options.We also learned the US i3's will come standard with all LED exterior lighting but the European versions will have halogen lights standard and LED's optional.

There are three trim levels that can be ordered. They are named Mega World (the standard trim level) with Giga World and Tera World available as options and here is what each consists of: (US pricing for options has not been announced)

 Mega World ($41,350; $45,200 w/REx)
  • BMW Navigation
  • BMW ConnectedDrive with eCall
  • BMW i Remote
  • Alarm
  • Bright, lightweight Sensatec and sustainable cloth made from recycled materials
  • Leather trimmed steering wheel
  • Grained dash trim
Giga World
  • All Mega World features, plus:
  • Interior wrapped in leather and wool cloth
  • Universal garage door opener
  • Comfort Access
  • Sunroof
  • Satellite radio
  • Leather-trimmed steering with contrasting stitching
Tera World
  • All Giga World features, plus:
  • Luxurious full leather
  • Olive leaf-tanned interior, with textile accents and contrasting stitching
  • Anthracite floors mats.
An i3 in Solar Orange with the optional 20 inch "Double Spoke" wheels
The 19 inch "Turbine" wheels
However the BMW i3 online Visualizer offers four different interior design styles called Antelier, Lodge, Loft & Suite. I am not entirely clear yet how these fit into the different "World" trim levels, but I'll get that cleared up soon. If you want to go to the i3 Visualizer you can from this link. Each World trim level comes with a different 19" wheel and all are visual upgrades from the standard wheel in my opinion. However to me the best wheel is the optional 20" one that also has wider and lower profile tires then the 19" wheels. These will undoubtedly provide better performance but will likely shave a couple miles off the range of the car because of higher rolling resistance and greater weight.

Ionic Silver with the 20" wheels
My previous post over two weeks ago was 100% correct about the color options. The only thing I didn't have was the official color names. They are "Ionic Silver" which is silver blue, "Andesite Silver" which I called basic silver, "Arravani Gray" which I called dark gray, "Laurel Gray" which I called basic gray, "Capparis White" which I simply called white and I did have the Solar Metallic Orange correct. I expect the Solar Metallic Orange to be a very popular color choice as most people I ask seem to like that the best. It's really the only bold color that "pops". I haven't decided which color I'll choose and I'll wait till I see them all in person. That being said I think the only colors that are out of the running for me are the Capparis White and Andesite Silver, they just aren't for me.

BMW also released the performance figures. It's important to note that the i3 with the range extender will be slightly slower because it weighs 260 more pounds. Here are the performance figures for the i3 without the REx option:

0-35 mph     3.5 Sec.
0-60 mph     7.0 Sec.
50-75 mph   5.4 Sec.
Top Speed   93 mph (electronically governed)

Without the need for engine cooling, the i3's "double kidney" grill is solid to improve aerodynamics. The small grill under the license plate provides all the air flow needed for the thermal management system.


  1. Tom, about the wheels, except for the 19" Star-spoke style 427 all the other wheel styles say "mixed tyers" which means the rear tires are wider then the front which is also called staggered width. So the 20" Double-spoke style 430 may only be different in rim size to the19" Turbine styles 428 and 429. BMW usually lets you add the bigger wheels as an addition to the sport package, my BMW was the same way the sport package upgraded the car to 19"s but then allowed for the 20" inch upgrade.


    1. Yes, I realize now the optional wheels have the standard sized 155/70 19" on the front but 175/60 19" on the rear. The 20" wheels have the same 175/55 20" on both the front and rear. so that will probably give them pretty much equal grip. I still like the look of the 20's better, but they will cost $$ ;)

    2. The cost to upgrade isn't usually that bad BMW is very good about the price on their packages. My 20" wheels were $1,000. extra if you buy upgraded wheels through their accessories department you'd pay around $5,000.


  2. Thank you for the post and your insights. I have read almost all your postings as you have travelled on the BMW EV highway and wanted your thoughts.

    It appears BMW is on an EV strategy to leverage reduced structural weight to compensate the inherent increased weight of batteries. As such, the reduced weight allows for a smaller battery pack for each EV product. For example, the battery pack in the i3 Is sized for a car intended for in-city use. A future i5 sedan may have a larger pack for a larger size but it will be smaller than a similar size EV competitor due to the reduced overall weight thanks to use of CFRP.

    Finally, a Tesla Model S rival from BMW may offer ranges competitive with the S but will attempt to rely on smaller packs to get the same range but reduced charge time. I could also envision a future BMW EV with a size appropriate range extender replacing the engine with a larger fuel tank for long distance travel.

    I have not seen a similar strategy outlined but it appears feasible. BTW: I own several BMW family products including a hybrid sedan and look forward to ordering my i3. Your thoughts?

    Thanks in advance


    1. Thank you. I don't see BMW going after Tesla with long range all electric vehicles for the foreseeable future. I believe BMW will instead use plug in hybrids for their customers that want long range cars.Like the i3 with the range extender, the customer can drive on battery energy for a high percentage of the time and still have the versatility of going long distances when needed.

      I'm certain BMW will eventually have long range EV''s but we won't see them inside of 8 to 10 years. They will wait for the cost of the batteries to come down and the energy density to go up. I just don't see BMW selling you a $30,000 or $40,000 battery.

  3. Is the space to the right of the motor (where the range extending engine goes) available for storage in the all-electric version of the i3? Like putting the mobile charging cable in there, freeing up the frunk for other things.

    1. No, you cannot Chris. However if you don't get the range extender, you can get a heat pump for heating and cooling. BMW says it uses half the energy of the conventional heater and AC units. The heat pump goes where the REx is so you can't order it as an option if you get the REx.

    2. Interesting. So with the REx and therefore not the heat pump, can one still remotely preheat or precool the cabin? Saw somewhere else that this might be the case (which is a bummer if true).

    3. Yes Rich, the preheating/precooling feature is available whether or not you get the REx option.

    4. Thanks so much Tom. I live in Minnesota, so the REx option is a near likely necessity to handle any sort of winter cold-soaked battery energy loss issues when I'm parked at work with no plug-in option to precondition the batteries. I know BMW claims significantly less than the typical 30% cold weather loss that Tesla users in this area see routinely under similar conditions, but I suspect there's only so much that BMW could do to address this issue.

    5. "I suspect there's only so much that BMW could do to address this issue"

      You "get it". ;)

  4. Correction to the above: where you refer to the Volt's "Mountain Mode", you should say "Hold Mode". While it's true that us early Volt owners "gamed" the Mountain Mode to get the effect, starting with the 2013 model year the Volt has Hold Mode which is a better solution and much more straightforward to explain.

    I didn't know about the heat pump / REx conflict!

    1. Thanks. Yes, the heat pump won't fit if the REx is ordered but I don't think that is such a huge deal. I'd prefer if the heat pump was just standard on all i3's but it isn't. If you have the REx, you won't necessarily be fighting for every mile of electric range like you would with the BEV i3. The heat pump system may add 5 or 6 electric miles on a cold day when you are using the heater a lot, less when it's hot and you are using the AC. So yeah it would be nice, but with the REx there it's not really much of an issue.

    2. But you'd think the existing air conditioner in the i3 could be upgraded so the fluid could flow the other way on demand to turn itself into a heatpump on demand. Why must the i3 have two seperate compressor systems? A heatpump is just 1 system that can heat or cool (evaporator and condenser trade radiators)

  5. I think a face lift like the one below might save the car:

  6. I hope they add the ability to turn on the extender at will. Do you know the SOC range the car will allow itself to go through? For instance the volt is something like 22% to 86% so the pack isn't that stressed even if you keep it fully charge or run it until empty and the engine kicks on.
    The article hints that it'll use the whole charge range but that probably won't be the case. It won't charge up all the way but might discharge nearly all the way before completely shutting itself off.

    1. In Europe you can manually turn on the range extender once the state of charge drops below 80% and it will automatically come on when it hit 18% but you can manually turn it off if you don't want it to come on.

      In the US it's a bit murky. BMW would like to have it the same way, but there are classification considerations to consider and BMW is still trying to get that straight. It may well turn out that the ability to manually turn on the range extender in the US will be disabled. I suspect it won't take long for someone to come out with a hack for that though ;)