Friday, December 6, 2013

Test Drive Video From The LA Auto Show

During the LA Auto Show BMW held a private event for the people in the ActiveE field trial. The purpose of the event was to introduce us to the i3, let us take one for a drive and to answer any questions we had about the i3 or the ActiveE program we are in. All of the ActiveE lessees were invited but since this was held in LA, the East Coast ActiveE drivers (except for me) did not get the opportunity to attend. I was there covering the LA auto show for so I was able to attend. BMW has arraigned a similar event for the East Coast ActiveE drivers next week, which will be held at BMW headquarters in Woodcliff Lake, NJ.

My passengers
Everyone was able to take an i3 for a test drive through the streets of LA, but because of the volume of people, they were limited to just one drive. I had already driven the i3 a couple times the day before and I wasn't going to use my slot that day but since I heard some of the others saying they wish they could go for another drive I told them to come with me as passengers and we'll use my turn. So I headed out to one of the waiting i3's with three of the other Electronauts (that's what BMW calls the ActiveE drivers) - which I won't name since I didn't ask them if I could mention them by name here.

Getting the camera set up for the drive
As we approached the car we were met by a BMW i marketing manager who explained we got one of the "lucky cars". BMW set up six i3's with iPhone's attached to the rear window that would snap pictures every couple seconds and they would them put them together and make a short video of the test drive. I'm not sure if it will actually be used for anything, but they gave the six of us that had the special cars a link and a password to the video as it wouldn't be posted publicly at this time. The video isn't all that exciting -all it shows is us driving around downtown LA but it's definitely a cool idea. It would have been better if I could have broke away from the LA traffic for a while and zipped around some winding roads.

What do you want to know?

Before I went out to LA a couple weeks ago I asked people to post questions or requests for specific pictures in the comment section. I think I got just about every question and picture requested. With the East Coast ActiveE private meet next Wednesday, I'll make the same offer. Post anything you want to know about the car in the comments section. However we will not have the opportunity to drive a REx i3 while the battery is depleted and in range extender mode, so unfortunately I won't be able to answer questions about the REx performance, noise, etc. Anything else is fair game though. I'll try to get every question answered and every requested picture taken.


  1. Not an important question but with the 'Driving Assistant Plus' there seems to be a button on the dash to turn this all on/off (below the hazards). There are several separate systems in DAP so please could you see if it's possible to individually turn these systems on/off. Eg, I'd like to be able to turn the 'Lane Departure Warning' off but have all other systems on. Thanks.

  2. Can you please find out if the Car and Driver is correct about the REX being delayed till the summer. That's a problem for me because my LEAF lease expires in May and I can't be without a car for a couple months.

    Thanks Tom. BTW, this blog has been the best resource for i3 information since I started following the car

  3. Thanks tom for sending a link to this blog from i3 forum. As I have said there, my lease expires in March. Based on BMW i3 announcement it will be available in Q2 of 2014. So if they extend my Active E lease it would be very expensive for me if I had to pay for DMV registration which expires along with the leas. However as a dealer they can give the same car as a loaner where I pay prorated loaner fee then it would make sense.

  4. Can you take pictures of the various screens on the center stack, especially the ones with e-drive information please. thank you

  5. How long the cable is on the BMW i-Charger? I haven't been able to find much information on them as of yet. With my deposit, I've asked my dealer if it would be possible to pick one up at dealer cost when I take delivery, which he seemed open to doing.

  6. What is the electric kW output of the REx? (that is the generator electric output, not the ~34hp input to the generator)

    What are the actual % of total (not useable) SOC for the following events:
    Top of Charge
    Automatic REx activation (and if there is a difference between CARB BEVx compliant and other versions)
    Battery Depletion

    Is it true that all USA REx deliveries will not allow gen-set activation until battery depletion?

    1. Hi ultraturtle:

      I can do these now as I have already talked in depth with the i3 product managers about this.

      The i3 has a 21.6kWh battery (yes I know you've probably read 22kWh's everywhere - they rounded up!) and the usable amount id 18.8kWh so a "fully charged" pack is actually 87% charged and the 13% is unavailable as a buffer.

      The for the entire US, not just California, the REx will turn on when the SOC dips below 5% and you CANNOT turn it on earlier as you can in Europe (once the SOC drops below 75%) there isn't a CARB compliant version and a non CARB compliant version.

      I also asked about the question you did about the kW of the REx output and was told it can provide 25kW's to the battery and the actual power is higher (before loses). What they were telling me is the rating you see (34hp) is actually lower than the motors true total power output. I have no way of verifying that however but that is what I was told - it can supply 25kW to the battery under full strain.

    2. Also, If you are concerned about the performance while the car is in REx mode. I suggest you simply take one for a spin once they are available here. That will take a few months however, but I believe you'll be quite surprised how well it drives in REx mode and how the engine keeps the car charges fine so you can continue to drive without issue.

      You can purposefully overwhelm it if you intend to do so, by driving 75-85 mph for a while up a long hill, but if you simply understand how it works, and slow down a little when the REx is on - which won't be often, then you won't have any issue with it.
      I'll be taking mine on 225 mile trips to Vermont and I know I'm not going to have any problems even with the final leg going uphill for quite a while. :)

    3. The BMW 650cc engine has been tweaked to crank as much as 50 hp peak in the motorcycle variant, which is a peak, not a continuous value. 34 hp (25 kW) seems like a reasonable derate to 68% for continuous output of the gas engine. I'll maintain skepticism about electrical output much beyond 20 kW, but will tip my hat to the BMW engineers for designing an APU that keeps volume and weight only large enough to continuously power this sweet beast at highway speeds.

    4. Why did BMW remove the USA front the list of countries to sign up for a test drive?

  7. Hi Tom. Since it is next to impossible to get any information from BMW or any local dealer here in Washington can you ask these questions:

    1) If I get the range extender does that mean I'll have to pay sales tax? Zero emission vehicles here are tax exempt. I am hoping that this is part of why BMW will not allow the range extender to be turned on manually, so that it will qualify for the tax exemption.

    2) The Volt has a maintenance mode if you don't use the gas motor it turns itself on to burn the gas so it doesn't get stale and to keep the motor lubricated. Does the REX do that also? If so at what interval?

    3) It there a built in reserve once the battery hits zero on the all electric i3? Can the car drive for a couple miles or will it just shut off when the range gauge reaches zero. What are the warnings you get as this approaches?

    4) Will there be any sportier tire options? Will a wider tire and wheel combo fit?

    Thank you. I appreciate all you have done here. You do better promoting and explaining the car than BMW does.


    1. Thank you James. I'll try to get these answered for you.

  8. Tom,
    Try as I might to figure out a way to make it work, unfortunately I won't be able to make the event.
    If it does not become apparent, can you push them on what they will be offering to electonauts? I still can't get a firm lease extension price. And I'm super curious if we *really* will be "first in line", or if there *really* will be some special "Electronaut edition i3" you've mentioned. I'm wondering if this will be a financial incentive, early delivery, or unique badging? They may not be ready to disclose this...but there sure will be a lot of interested parties at the event! Wish I were one of them.