BMW Exec: Next BMW i Electric Car (i5) To Get Optional Range Extender Due To Range Limitations Of Today’s EV


BMW i5 Rendering

BMW i5 Rendering

BMW i head of product develop, Henrik Wenders, told Car and Driver that range limitations on current and near-future electric cars means that the automaker will continue to offer an optional range-extender on future i cars.

The next i car in the pipeline, likely the BMW i5, will get an optional range-extending setup. Quoting Wenders:

“The range-extender plays an important part in the next years when range remains a limiting factor and a source of anxiety. Of course, once we get to a range that is more comparable with that of an internal-combustion engine it will become obsolete. So this is the reason I can say we will continue to offer the range-extender in the future as optional equipment, to address different customer needs.”

Well, Tesla has already solved the range limitation issue by equipping its cars with big batteries and by putting in place a nationwide network of Superchargers, but BMW sees the situation differently.

Quoting Wenders:

 “At the beginning of the i3, the [take rate of the] range-extender was much more than we expected. More than 60 percent. It’s decreasing dramatically now and what we’re seeing is that people are almost never using it and that it was purely a psychological thing; it is being regularly used in fewer than five percent of i3s.”

“We are thinking of a new i model above it to attract families, and that means it must be capable of being the first car in the household. We are still working very hard on the usage concept, but this needs to be defined by the market and not by us.”

The upcoming i5 will make use of carbon fiber, like the i3 and i8, which keeps weight to a minimum, but it seems a big battery pack, or lang-range BEV version of the i5 is out of the question for now.


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34 Comments on "BMW Exec: Next BMW i Electric Car (i5) To Get Optional Range Extender Due To Range Limitations Of Today’s EV"

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I agree with their strategy 100%. The range extender as an option makes perfect sense. They can sell cars to the “purist” EV folks who don’t want the ICE, and they can sell cars to people like me that live in an area almost desolate of public charging infrastructure and don’t want to be chained to a 30-mile radius of their home.

Me too. At the same time, BMW has been trying to support QC infrastructure. An EV with 100+ mile range, a small range extender, AND a QC port is a great transition strategy. As QCs become more and more common, the REx gets less and less use. And the car remains useful through it all. I think this does a lot more to support the transition to BEVs than the Chevy Volt approach (which has its own merits, of course).

I can’t wait to see what they come up with for the i5. I’m sure it won’t be the car for me, but that doesn’t mean I don’t welcome it with open arms.

THere must be two types of people who buy I3’s.

Those who use it for their first car, and then those who use it as a second car.

Second car people probably don’t need the rex. First car people absolutely have to have it, so I’m surprised the 60% who buy the option only use it 5% of the time.

Under perfect conditions, I drove my ELR 52 miles this afternoon, after preheating the cabin and heating the battery (around 6 and 2 kw, each, respectively) for 1/2 hour before letting the battery recouperate another 40 minutes afterwards.

I still had 2 miles left on the range before I plugged it into the charger dock.

Now with the I3, if my trip was much further, I’d absolutely need the REX to keep from getting stranded, seeing as the nearest ccs charger in the states is 200 miles away in Ithaca.

\So maybe most I3’s are second cars.

Who would buy a car that was useless 5% of the time (one out of 20 days)? I make a 120-mile round trip once a month or so. A non-Rex i3 could not be my only car unless I planned to rent a car once a month! That’s not going to happen!

Buy a PHEV or get a 200 mile range ev.

All EVs usually end up being the “first car” in thier households. The question is: do you also need a “second car” for long trips?

The i3, with or without the Rex, requires a second car for the vast majority of the public that take long trips. This is due to the low power and pathetic range of its gasoline range extender.


It makes sense, but BMW’s integration is poor. Heating a cabin with electric resistance, while that little REx is on its own, looking for cold coolant, is a little dumb. No? Cars that come with big batteries (I’ll give the i3 that) and engines, are better if they use the engine’s waste heat. They are better if they generate engine heat, on demand.

It’s those details, after you’ve paired engine and battery, that also matter.

I think Larry Nitz had some of the same questionable conclusions about Volt charging. He looked at data, and drew the wrong conclusion. Wenders feels more began opting for the BEV i3, because engines weren’t used. Could it have been because the gas tank was so small, people didn’t treat engine only as mode? Or, again, that drivers never witnessed the engine coming on because BMW didn’t allow it until the charge state was far down?

Marketing spin.

Will our corporate greed make us wait the uncontrolled exponential rise of temperatures?

You first and get rid of your Prius.

BTW, I hope you saved up $46K Canadian dollars for your Model 3. LOL.

David, it only makes sense if you are doing it wrong.
For instance a CF car shouldn’t weigh as much as a steel car. Yet the BMW i cars so far do.
Just eliminating the alum frame to a CF/composite unibody they could have got 200 mile range from a 24kwhr pack.
With a SC they just have to join, could recharge in 10 minutes.
But instead they chose a 365lb REx that others/Lotus, have done in 115lbs!! Then limit it to 70 miles of fuel!!!
And with batteries at $100/kwhr, why are FF REx’s even needed anymore?
By switching to Kevlar type and medium tech FG, they could have built it for far less yet been safer than in CF.
We don’t need better or more batteries, we need better, lighter, more aero EV’s to put them in.

With a range extender 20 kWh is generally enough. It would be great if they could offer it as a 60+ kWh BEV too

I like Tesla’s approach and this is the next best thing. Resale values of cars with range extenders will be much higher too, especially as they will age…

Good looking car.

Confusing range limitations with charging ones perhaps?

Well I would put it a different way, with Tesla you pay a premium to get a big battery to address range anxiety and most of the time you never need the extra capacity. The price to pay is a reduced efficiency.

BMW is trying to balance efficiency and range. They are not off by their statement. With my i3, I rarely use the REX, but when I do, I’m happy to have it. Why pay 50K$ more (in Canada) for little to no use, so I can brag about it? I prefer the agility of my i3 any day in the city.

And you assume the range of the i5 will be limited and yet the range of the 2017 i3 will be around 115 miles and the i5 will most probably have more, probably the same range of the Bolt/M3, which most of us agree is the tipping point. If BMW is listening (which they do), we could see an optional bigger battery in place of the REX for the.

I would also expect the i5 to be the most efficient car in it’s categry as the i3 is.

The problem with having the range extender is packaging. Otherwise it’s a winner, though if the range extender is as crippled as it is in the i3 then it cannot be thought to enable long distance trips.

On the other hand, the idea that Tesla’s charging network enables long distance trips rests on the traveler being willing to plan the trip around chargers and to spend a lot more time charging than they would pumping. Plus it only holds for a limited set of travel.

Most long-distance Tesla driver don’t spend the time charging, they spend it on input/output biological functions and socializing with other drivers, something that would be rather frowned upon at the nasty and dangerous pump.


I like Rex concept better, even in more long term future.

Current technology still unable to recharge battery in reasonable time (15 min?). So even with additional range like Tesla, I still need to make decision upfront whether I should use EV or not for this particular trip based on the distance. So it’s rather black and white (use 100% EV or 100% ICE). With Rex (or PHEV), I shouldn’t need to care much about distance or risk of running out of battery so I can use it with almost any trip. The EV/ICE usage may be anything from 100/0 to 10/90. This end up allows me to use more EV time than pure EV w/o Rex.

Yes, we can add more battery. But that will reduce efficiency. I’d carry battery for my 90% of usage pattern (commute) + 10% (100 miles?), and have Rex to handle the 10% of those longer trips.

Just my 2 cents

The issue with the rex option in NL is that it disqualifies it from the lowest tax rating of 4%. Instead, anything with a ICE in it is classed as a hybrid and enters the 15% tax disc. And from there is must compete with everything from the Prius to the Volt.

There are other countries where the i3 with rec is treated as such. But BMW doesn’t even give us the option of a i3 with a larger battery.

If you see the size of the Zero motorcycle battery pack at 13kWh, the i3 could have had a 13kWh extension pack in the same place it puts the rex. That seems awkward.

Also, if the i3 without rex put the charger next to the motor instead of on top of it (and leave a gaping hole) there would be a boot worth mentioning.

A number of choices make it awkward, I’d rather buy a 2nd hand Kia Soul.

“More than 60 percent. It’s decreasing dramatically now and what we’re seeing is that people are almost never using it and that it was purely a psychological thing; it is being regularly used in fewer than five percent of i3s.”

That’s like saying they designed a size 34 waist pants with expandable elastic for people with a 36 waist and they’ve found that 95% of their customers have a 34 waist. Talk about poor logic.
Another example is like a bra manufacturer saying the majority of their end users are female …. Ya think.
The customers currently buying an i3 are going to have commutes/life styles within the range limits or a gas powered second vehicle.
Remind me what’s happened to BMW i3 sales numbers. BMW needs to stop making excuses and double or triple the range.

“what we’re seeing is that people are almost never using it [REX] and that it was purely a psychological thing; it is being regularly used in fewer than five percent of i3s.” Or, people who bought the i3 REX expecting to drive it the same as a Volt on longer trips, have found that the crippled US version is too much of a pain in the backside unless they reprogram it. So they simply aren’t using their i3 for longer trips, and stay within the EV range most of the time. They think they have found that a feature isn’t needed, but it is easy to goto and see plenty of people who regularly use their Volts for long trips and log tons of range extender miles. So we know there is a demand for driving far past the all electric range, yet BMW i3 drivers have self-selected not to use the i3 REX to drive long distances. It seems as likely that owners just don’t like the experience of driving the i3 the same way a Volt driver would drive long distances, because it isn’t built to work well for that job. (And I’m not bashing BMW when… Read more »


Corporate double speak. We can’t do it so no one else can. We offer a range extender that hardly anyone uses, but will continue to offer it, because people have range anxiety, even though it’s just psychological.

If the i5 is meant for longer trips like family vacations then the ICE will have to much more powerful, perhaps the Mini/2-series engine put in the nose.

I don’t the REx doesn’t cost $10K on the i5.

“I don’t the REx doesn’t cost $10K on the i5.”

ah, I can’t edit it…

I meant to say “I hope the REx doesn’t cost $10K on the i5″…

The i5 will probably start at $50k, and yes, I’d bet the Rex will be a $10k adder.

That’s pretty dear, IMO.

Still a good strategy but I would like it all, large battery, supercharger and rex. This is especially true if the rex is made more compact so that its shoebox size makes the question of having one or not as relevant as having a spare tyre or not. The perfect car has it all not some of it.

It makes me a bit worried that maybe they won’t make a battery large enough (at least 70kWh) and charging not fast enough (around 150kW). As long as they make that, and make the car as a bev from the ground up just adding the engine in the back (preferably stealing a bit of cargo space hehe) for the people that want it, then it’s perfectly fine. More choices for the customers are great.

Would be great to have several battery sizes.Look at me, I don’t want, need or afford a 70 kwh battery (or a bmw for that matter). 20 kwh plus European rex would be perfect, with rex being used maybe +/- 100 km every 2 months.

Depending on when this is released, the range extender could well sport a hydrogen fuel tank with modest FC stack as an option. Germany will have 400 H2 stations by 2020. Most people will still choose the petrol engine, though.

In my opinion, companies like BMW (actually, all car companies besides Tesla) had to be forcefully dragged to the electric realm, now that they’re here via hybrid/range-extenders they’re having to be further dragged to pure electric. Their attitude is “lets see how long we can continue to sneak a little ICE into our EV’s before we actually have to cut the cord.

How about simply solving the range problem with electricity like that other company is doing? Telsa isn’t it?

I hope BMW eventually offers a true choice. Right now you get to choose a range extender or just the pack. What happens if they offer the range extender or a larger pack? I’m not sure necessarily the range extender will win.