BMW i3 – 2,000-Mile Real-World Review – The Dislikes


I have to say that overall I am very pleased with my i3. It’s living up to what I had hoped it would be, and after a month of ownership I’m convinced it was the right electric vehicle choice for me. However that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. In fact it’s far from perfect, but so is every other car out there. As much as I really love my i3, I can probably list a couple dozen things that I would have done differently. Listed below are some of the top things that I’m not particularly fond of.


I took this picture from an i3 display at the LA Auto Show. Somehow 100 miles turned into 82 miles once the production i3 was revealed.

The Range

So let’s just get this out of the way now. I’m disappointed that BMW didn’t deliver a real “100 mile” electric vehicle as they had been promising. The 82 mile EPA range on the BEV i3 and the 71 mile rating for the REx, falls a little short in my opinion. If the BEV i3 had an EPA range of 95 miles per charge or greater then I wouldn’t have ordered the REx, and I think a lot of others share that opinion. I hope I’m wrong, but I believe this is going to hold back BEV i3 sales significantly. I think 82 miles falls just short of what many US customers will find acceptable for a premium electric vehicle.

*Editor’s Note: This post appears on Tom’s blog. Check it out here.

Check out Tom’s earlier piece: BMW i3 – 2,000- Real-World Review – The Likes

Looks like the battery is 3 & 3/16th's out of 4 bars full. Wonderful.

Looks like the battery is 3 & 3/16th’s out of 4 bars full. Wonderful.

No Proper State of Charge Gauge

When I first found out that the i3 wouldn’t display the state of charge in numeric form, I was dumbfounded. Instead, the i3 state of charge display is just four bars that slowly erode as the range diminishes, and it displays the predicted amount of miles the car “thinks” you can travel. In other words, a Guess O Meter. When Nissan initially offered the LEAF, this is basically the same way they displayed the state of charge. Their customers complained so much, that after a couple years Nissan finally realized they made a mistake and added a proper state of charge display. I dedicated an entire blog post to this back in December of last year when it was revealed that the i3 wouldn’t display the SOC. Still to this day I am in denial and refuse to believe it’s not coming in a future software update. There is absolutely no logical reason for omitting it. It was simply a mistake on BMW’s part and like Nissan they will indeed realize that and add it to the display at some point. I’m not saying they need to eliminate the bar system they have, just give us both and let the customer decide which they prefer to rely on.

Like the MINI-E before it, the ActiveE had a clear state of charge and battery temperature display. It's puzzling why both of these important features were omitted on the i3.

Like the MINI-E before it, the ActiveE had a clear state of charge and battery temperature display. It’s puzzling why both of these important features were omitted on the i3.

No Battery Temperature Readout

Like the state of charge gauge but to a lessor degree, this is a little puzzling. Maybe the majority of i3 owners might not really care what their battery temperature is, but I do and I know quite a few others who do too. It’s further puzzling because both of BMW’s beta test cars that I drove, the MINI-E and the ActiveE, had battery temperature displays. I like to see how well the thermal management system is performing, how hot the battery may have gotten while baking in the direct sun of a parking lot for a few hours, or how cold the cells are after parking outside overnight in the dead of winter. Knowing the battery temperature helps me know what to expect of the car performance-wise and can also help me to keep the cells from getting too hot in certain circumstances. The car knows the battery temperature, just provide that somewhere on a screen buried in iDrive somewhere and I guarantee many i3 owners will appreciate it.

When you are in "Glide Mode" the white bar is in the position it is shown here. As you use power the bar moves to the right (ePower) and if you are recuperating energy with regenerative braking, the bar moves to the left (Charge) of center.

When you are in “Glide Mode” the white bar is in the position it is shown here. As you use power the bar moves to the right (ePower) and if you are recuperating energy with regenerative braking, the bar moves to the left (Charge) of center.

Glide Position Difficult to Achieve and Maintain

BMW describes the i3’s glide feature as such: “The BMW i3’s accelerator has a distinct “neutral” position; i.e. rather than switching straight to energy recuperation when the driver eases off the accelerator, the electric motor uses zero torque control to decouple from the drivetrain and deploy only the available kinetic energy for propulsion. In this mode, the BMW i3 glides along using virtually no energy at all.” I’ve only had the car for a month, but it seems more difficult to find the glide (or coasting) position and then hold it, than it was on the ActiveE. A few years ago I was talking with a BMW engineer about this and I suggested there be a switch to turn off regen completely if the driver wished. I would prefer to do this on long, high speed highway driving where I want to coast as much as possible. I was told that they probably wouldn’t offer such a switch to disable it because they would be worried the driver would forget they deactivated the regen, and possibly have an accident because they expected it to engage later on. I still think this would be a good solution for maximizing efficiency by coasting at higher speeds.

Kenaf in direct sunlight

Kenaf in direct sunlight

See the reflection in the windshield?

See the reflection in the windshield?

Windshield Glare

The majority of the top deck of the dashboard is made of compressed kenaf fibers. The use of this material has garnered some criticism because some people think it looks cheap, and not worthy of being in a car made by a premium automaker. I actually like the look of it but what I don’t like is that in direct sunlight I can see the reflection of the entire dashboard up on the windshield. After a few weeks I’m getting used to it and it isn’t as annoying as it was when I first noticed it, but it definitely isn’t ideal. The shiny kenaf surface does cast a pretty clear reflection on bright, sunny days.

No AM Radio

I like to listen to AM talk radio and I am a Mets fan (unfortunately). Mets games are only broadcast on AM so I was disappointed to find out that i3 doesn’t have an AM radio. BMW spokesman Dave Buchko recently told Jim Motavalli the reasoning for excluding the AM radio was primarily due to interference from the electric motor: “We learned from our experience with MINI E and BMW ActiveE that the electric motor causes interference with the AM signal. Rather than frustrate customers with inferior reception, the decision was made to leave it off. HD Radio is standard on the i3 and through multi-casting, many traditional AM stations in key markets are available on secondary and tertiary HD signals.”

I admit the AM radio in the MINI-E had really bad interference, so much so that I rarely listened to it, but it wasn’t bad on the ActiveE. Other electric cars have AM radios and they don’t seem to be all that bad. This is a little bit of a head-scratcher to me. I’m learning to live without it, but why should I have to?

Grooves like this in the pavement can be felt more in the i3 than in other cars. I believe it's because of the vehicles light weight combined with its narrow tires.

Grooves like this in the pavement can be felt more in the i3 than in other cars. I believe it’s because of the vehicles light weight combined with its narrow tires.

The Thin Tires Can Get Caught in Pavement Grooves

When roads are paved, unless they are narrow secondary or tertiary roads, they are usually done in multiple strips. This also allows the street to remain open with one lane of traffic flow at a time during the paving process. The problem is, the line where the two sections of the new pavement meet has tiny gaps and over time the road degrades with the help of water and ice and a groove develops. The i3’s tires are so thin that they are effected by these grooves and uneven pavement more so than most cars that are heavier and have wider tires. It doesn’t present a safety problem; the car doesn’t lose any control, you just have to be cognizant of this and make sure you have a grip on the steering wheel when one wheel dips into pavement grooves – which is a good idea in any event. I also believe the very sensitive steering of the i3 adds to this sensation that the grooves are trying to steer the car for you. The i3 has very tight and sensitive steering. You only need to slightly lean in one direction or the other to make a turn, and it is something that takes a week or so to get used to. It has by far the most sensitive steering I have ever experienced on any car. The turning radius is also a freakishly-short 32.3 feet.

The Key FOB will open the front trunk, but not the rear hatch.

The Key FOB will open the front trunk, but not the rear hatch.

Key FOB Doesn’t Open the Hatch

This is a minor complaint, and since my i3 has comfort access I can open the locked hatch just by grabbing the hatch handle as long as I have the key in my pocket. I would still prefer to have a button on the FOB that remotely opens the hatch. There is a button that opens the front trunk, which I will rarely ever need to open, I don’t know why BMW didn’t use that button for the rear hatch, or just add a button and have one for both.

Regen Braking is Less Aggressive

Before I start complaining, let me say that I’ve driven just about every modern electric vehicle and plug-in-hybrid and I believe the i3 has absolutely the very best regenerative braking system on the market. Telsa probably comes in second and the Volt, when driven in low mode, is right behind the Model S. BMW dialed back the regen on the i3 a bit, probably in the vicinity of about 10% when compared to the ActiveE. People who never drove the ActiveE or MINI-E won’t understand what I’m complaining about because the i3’s regenerative braking is still strong and very smooth. It can bring the car to a stop without using the friction brakes faster than any regenerative braking system on any other EV will. Still, I liked it stronger like it was on the ActiveE and MINI-E. I guess regenerative braking is like coffee. Some will prefer the Blonde Roast with cream while others want the Dark Roast served black. Give me my regen as strong as possible please. I recommended to BMW that they offer different regen settings and let the customer decide how strong they like it, but that didn’t come to pass on the i3. It’s still very good, and integrates seamlessly when decelerating, I would just prefer it a bit stronger.

When the car is locked the connector will not release, even when charging is finished

When the car is locked the connector will not release, even when charging is finished

Locking Connector

While charging, the connector is locked to the car as long as the vehicle is locked. The connector cannot be released unless you unlock the doors, even when the charging session is complete. I’ve found this very annoying and so have many other i3 owners. The ability to lock the connector to the car should be configurable in iDrive, giving the owner options like “Unlock when charge is complete” and “Do not lock connector”. Allow the owner to decide what works best for them. Many people like to share chargers, especially in EV-friendly California. These people will leave a note on their dashboard telling others it’s OK to unplug them and use the EVSE once they have finished charging or after a specific time. The locking connector prevents any charger sharing unless you leave your vehicle unlocked, which is not a viable option in most circumstances. I can understand this locking feature would be necessary in Europe because the charging cables are not tethered to the EVSE like they are here in the US and this prevents theft. It seems BMW may have built the i3 for the European charging process and didn’t consider the inconvenience it would cause for US customers. This is another feature I believe we’ll see changed in a software update at some point in the future.

When I navigate this bend in the road by my house, the regenerative braking disengages. Since the road is also downgrade I find I have to use the friction brakes to keep from accelerating down the hill. I didn't have to do that in the past while driving my MINI-E or ActiveE as both would allow the regenerative braking system to hold back the car during turns like this.

When I navigate this bend in the road by my house, the regenerative braking disengages. Since the road is also downgrade I find I have to use the friction brakes to keep from accelerating down the hill. I didn’t have to do that in the past while driving my MINI-E or ActiveE as both would allow the regenerative braking system to hold back the car during turns like this.

Regen Braking Disengages During Hard Turns

I’m a little surprised with the second complaint I have with the regenerative braking. While negotiating turns, the regen sometimes disengages which will give the sensation that the car is actually speeding up. Of course it isn’t (unless you are going downhill), but when you are in full regen and it suddenly disengages, it does feel like the car is accelerating when if fact it just isn’t being slowed down by the regenerative braking. During the MINI-E and ActiveE programs, I personally spoke to dozens of people who contacted me asking if my car ever suddenly surged ahead. What was happening with those cars was different though. If the regenerative braking system was operating and the car hit a pothole or a bump that caused the wheels to lose traction, the traction control would disengage the regen in an attempt to prevent the loss of control. When this happened, it would give the driver the sensation of sudden acceleration, especially when driving downhill. This was unsettling if you didn’t understand what was happening and typically when this happened the owner would take the car to the dealer for service. The dealer would look it over and find nothing wrong and give it back to them. Frustrated, many of the drivers then contacted me to ask if anyone else had complained of this sudden acceleration problem. After explaining what was actually happening to them they understood what was going on. I would also caution them to always have their foot ready to press the friction brake when they were using regen to slow the car down, especially if they were approaching the car in front of them as they were decelerating.

BMW has indeed improved the whole traction control/regenerative braking system communication and the i3 performs much better than the MINI-E or ActiveE did when the tires lose traction during regenerative braking. However it now disengages during cornering, and neither of its predecessors ever did this. I can tell by how it’s working that it isn’t a flaw in my system, it was intentionally designed to do this, perhaps to prevent the thin tires from losing traction while negotiating hard turns. Again, it’s not a problem as long as you know it’s going to happen and you are ready to use the friction brakes if necessary. I’ve found it mostly happens while I’m taking a highway off-ramp that circles down under the highway overpass. It seems the speed I’m traveling combined with the sharp, constant turn is too much and the traction control preemptively disengages the regen in an attempt to prevent the loss of traction. I believe this is something the dealers need to communicate to the customer. It can be a safety issue if new i3 owners aren’t prepared for it. Just like with the MINI-E and ActiveE, I’m certain there will be customers that believe there is something wrong with their car and will take it to the dealer for service. And just as I’m sure that will happen, I’m sure the service departments won’t have a clue what the customers are talking about and will tell them they checked it out and car is fine. Unless the service manager happens to read this post 😉

I haven't had this happen to me, but a couple people have reported it.

I haven’t had this happen to me, but a couple people have reported it.

Software Bugs and Various Glitches

There have been a number of various software bugs and other issues reported since the car launched here in the US about two months ago. For example, all of the i3s with the range extender option have had their check engine light (CEL) come on sporadically. Evidently there is nothing actually wrong with the engine, it’s just a software bug and BMW has just released a patch to stop the light from coming on, but it’s still not something you want to see on a new car. I’ve also heard of a couple people have their onboard charger fail, and a few others report that the car flashed a “Drivetrain Malfunction” warning. In the cases I’ve heard about, it just cleared itself and the owner was able to take it to the dealer to be checked and there was no problem found. Honestly I did expect there would be some initial glitches, and it’s really too early to tell if these are isolated cases or if it’s an indication that there are indeed going to be more problems to come. Other than the phantom CEL warning, my car has been perfect so far, but I’ll be watching it closely and reporting on what I experience as well as what I hear from other i3 owners as time passes.

The dangling plastic charge port cap seen here isn't really too high on my list of annoyances, but I have heard quite a few other i3 owners complain about it. I even know a couple that have cut it off.

The dangling plastic charge port cap seen here isn’t really too high on my list of annoyances, but I have heard quite a few other i3 owners complain about it. I even know a couple that have cut it off.

Minor Annoyances:

There are a few things that really don’t bother me that much, but I know other i3 owners who have complained about these things:

1) Charge port plastic caps. After you open the watertight charge port door you need to remove a plastic cap before you plug the car in. It really doesn’t bother me, but I agree it isn’t the best solution. a spring loaded cover that flips over and snaps in place like the ActiveE had would be better. Is this really even needed though?

2) The adaptive cruise control system will sometimes disengage for no apparent reason. When it works, it’s really a great feature, but it does have a tendency to disengage by itself. It seems like driving in the rain, in direct sunlight and going under overpasses give it the most trouble. I have used it a couple dozen times now and it has disengaged four times by itself. Not a big issue, but one that BMW will hopefully improve.

3) The “Door Ajar” warning light is very sensitive. If you don’t close the doors pretty hard, the door ajar warning light will come on while you are driving. The doors aren’t in any danger of opening, I just think the warning trigger is just too sensitive.

4) BMW advertises that for home charging “a maximum charging power of 7.4 kW can be reached”. I have yet to be able to crack 7kW’s and usually see my charge rate at around 6.7 kW to 6.9 kW. Sure, this is a minor complaint, but my supply is more than adequate to accommodate at least 7.2 kW, so why won’t the car pull it? I’ve talked to other i3 owners about this also, and 6.9 kW is about the most anybody has seen the car pull.

5) No programmable button on the key FOB to initiate battery and cabin preconditioning. The European i3s have this feature, but for some reason it was left off the US i3s. You can still initiate cabin and battery preconditioning via the smartphone app, but having it on the key FOB is easier. Some people (you know who you are!) have told me it was a deal breaker and wouldn’t buy an i3 without it.


I’m sure I’ll come up with more dislikes as time goes on, and I’ll continue to post them here. Even considering everything I’ve detailed here, I’m thoroughly enjoying my i3. I drove it a total of 162 miles today and less than 2 miles was with the REx running. The range extender allows me to really push the range limit without worrying if I’ll make my destination. Oh yeah, that reminds me of one more complaint. I want the ability to turn the range extender off if I know I’ll make my destination. Twice so far the range extender turned on when I was less than a 1/4 mile from my house and once it turned on while I was pulling up my driveway! I believe the European i3s do allow the operator to turn it off manually, so that’s just another feature (sunroof, programmable key FOB, REx hold mode) that we don’t get here in the States. Yeah, I know… first world problems. 🙂

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51 Comments on "BMW i3 – 2,000-Mile Real-World Review – The Dislikes"

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That was a very thoughtful report. I hope BMW is listening to you.

Sounds like a programmable regen value would solve a couple of these.

“Oh yeah, that reminds me of one more complaint. I want the ability to turn the range extender off if I know I’ll make my destination. Twice so far the range extender turned on when I was less than a 1/4 mile from my house and once it turned on while I was pulling up my driveway!”

Welcome to the world of a Volt driver. It’s called gas-anxiety.

+1 “gas-anxiety” It’s an affliction.

The Ford Energis have the best solution for this: They remember locations where you frequently charge. When you get close to one of these locations, the car automatically enters “EV+” mode, where it prevents the ICE from coming on as it normally would even if the battery is running very low.

Tom, fellow sufferng Met fan here.

Thanks for the insight.

When you did 162 miles in one day can you outline the trip (left with a full charge, drove 81 miles and charged for XXX hours/minutes/etc.) and drove back 81 miles).

Also, are you maintaining miles traveled and gallons used on your blog?

Does the charge port cover have a locking solenoid? Is it spring-loaded to open? I have had a lot of issues w/my Volt’s locking solenoid & cover in the winter due to ice. They got rid of the solenoid & spring-loaded door for the 2014MY.

“The Range” – I totally agree that if they would have made a true 100 miles range I would have been all over this car. The added cost of an REx + no state incentive on “hybrid” cars made me decide against the i3 — and I am very bummed because I love the car. But the range you’re seeing on your REx, is it truly 71 miles? (I would expect it to be lower because the car’s potential invites you to step on it therefore using more).

Regarding the reflection… polaroid sunglasses help a lot. They also make the HUD very hard to see but it’s not the case here. The car does not come with a HUD.

Thanks for a great review. I hope BMW will listen.

Being a range extended EV driver for the last 2 years, I think I have a pretty good understanding of the limitations and what not. I find that range anxiety is misunderstood because the majority of the road going public really doesn’t understand how far they drive daily. I know I was one of them. Anyone who has become an EV or PHEV owner will understand this and I understand this experience varies depending on where you live. In my case, 90% of charging is done at home. My daily commute is approx. 25 miles round trip. I have a Chargepoint station at home which lets me keep accurate energy usage data. I average almost 850 miles per month which is roughly 28 miles a day. That consumes approx. 250 kWh monthly. My average daily charging time is 2.5 hrs (on a Volt limited by the 3.3 kW charger). Cost averages about $0.98 per day. Has anyone noticed that even on my 40mi EV range limited Volt, I don’t have to use the range extender? So for me, 84 miles range is pure gravy. When we get some actual Fast Charging infrastructure in-place, we can start thinking about a BEV… Read more »

Oh yeah .. and now maybe a deal coming with Tesla for use of the Supercharger network. Oh please, please, please make it so!!

Hmmm. I listen to AM radio almost every day in my i-MiEV. I wonder what they’re doing wrong on the Beemers.

The i-MiEV also has problems with reflections. When the sun is directly above you, the light bounces from on top of the steering column right onto the gauges, making them nearly unreadable.

The i-MiEV’s thin tires make grooved roads a challenge, too. Regen, however, works even on switchbacks. You may get a traction light on occasion, but only if you’re REALLY pushing it.

Surprised the back seats weren’t on the dislike list.

From the article, ” I think 82 miles falls just short of what many US customers will find acceptable for a premium electric vehicle.”

Thinking about that statement, i can agree and disagree. From the standpoint of the BEV model, you are absolutely right. There is no excuse for not having at least more range than a Leaf, which is basically the standard to beat right now for any EV other than a Tesla.

However, when looking at the Rex version, they have no competition at all. There are no other PHEVs on the road that can beat the all-electric range of the i3 Rex.

Another great piece Tom. Incidentally, someone in my parking garage just went to unplug my car since it was fully charged and texted me that they can’t get the plug out since it’s locked. I went to the remote app to try and unlock the car only to find out that there is only an option to lock it. Am I crazy or did we have a option on the Active E to “unlock” as well?

The unlock feature had been removed from the MyBMW Remote app. It is not present on the BMW i Remote. Security review and certification is all I heard as potential reason.

The unlock feature was removed in the USA version. European customers have the unlock button. I assume they though there was a legal problem in the USA? (My Volt, OnStar app lets me unlock the doors, but my i3 app does not)


-RE: Range. BMW’s 82 w/CCS, or MB’s 102 w/o. Ugh.
-RE: SOC Meter. Wouldn’t it still be a guessing game, in different temps? Ex. “1kwh” wouldn’t promise the same range.
-RE: Glide position. What about using neutral, on the fly?

-RE: Regen. ELR and B-Klasse may make paddles more popular. The Volt is much easier than the Tesla (eyes on road, simply pull lever to “L”). No screen hopping, as you approach tail lights, and no guessing whether your Tesla is still cold (0 Regen). At least both have regen modes, not one setting that has to be modulated at the throttle.

In turns, you don’t want to late brake on skinny tires! Lifting throttle on a rear drive car, whose regeneration is perhaps 100% rear-axle?, could be, um, provocative 😉 Could be fun, too, and this gets frustrating to the extent BMW messes with what we can expect, and takes over.

Have you tried driving the i3 in wet condition? This video seems to suggest i3 doesn’t handle well on wet road.

this idea of being able to turn off automatic engagement of the range extender is something that some Volt owners complain about. it is a really bad idea. first of all, people can set this thing and forget to reset it, which could damage the battery. most importantly, if you were to engage such a feature it would most likely invalidate the warranty on the battery. so think about it, if you knew that those were the consequences for using such a feature, would you actually want to use it? i can understand BMW not wanting to over-gauge the instrument panel with stuff that will be of no interest to the majority of drivers. even in ICE cars, engine temperature gauges have largely been eliminated and replaced with warning lights, because that’s all that most people really need. active regen would be pretty jarring to most drivers, so i can understand not wanting to go that route. i think the Volt has a pretty good arrangement where you can operate in “D” when you want light regen that allows for coasting, “N” if you want no regen, and “L” if you want regen. at first, i didn’t like using “L”… Read more »

You could implement it by pressing a button that gave you an extra mile. You could only press this button one time, and it would reset after that mile, or after the car is hooked up to the charger.

This way, forgetfulness would not be a problem. It would not be a setting, just a temporary override. The “LAST MILE” button.

any way that you look at it, this proposed feature makes no sense from the perspective of the auto maker. the auto maker sets a floor state of charge under which they do not what the SOC of the battery to go. such a feature as you are suggesting means that the “floor” isn’t really the floor and that you can go lower. well, if the auto maker discovers that the floor was set too conservatively, then they should change the floor. but going below that floor is something that you would only want to do in an emergency and not for frivolous purposes; such as the mode that the Chevrolet Volt (and apparently Tesla Model S) have where you can drive a few extra miles at reduced propulsion.

I am a Volt owner (i3 BEV on order). There is no reduced propulsion mode in the Volt that I know of? It is true that the Volt Gas Generator (aka. range extender) can power the motors without any usable charge remaining. When you run out of charge, the car automatically switches to the Gas Generator. If you floor the throttle you will notice a slight reduction in acceleration than when running on battery alone, however.

I do not believe this is a feature that i3 REX supports? If you run out of usable charge, my understanding is that the Range Extender cannot produce enough power on its own to power the electric motor. True?

you’re actually incorrect on both counts on your understanding of the Chevrolet Volt. there are 2 reduced propulsion modes in the Volt: a)when you attempt to operate the Volt with stored charge but no gasoline in the tank; and b)when you run out of stored charge and run out of gasoline, there is an emergency mode in which you can dip into reserve charge stored in the battery. Case a) is easier to try, i would not attempt case b). in case a) you will see a message telling you that the engine is not available and that you are operating on reduced propulsion. i have not been able to tell a whole lot of different in this mode, but i don’t typically try for quick acceleration because it reduces EV range. when the Volt switches to charge sustaining mode, the 0-60 acceleration is not reduced because the ICE engages the drive train to assist the traction motor. the ICE never engages in the drive train when the vehicle speed is below 20 mph or so as the ICE is not a high torque engine. the charge sustaining mode of the BMW i3 REx is different from that of the… Read more »
I don’t discount what you are saying but I’m not aware of any charge sustaining mode in the Volt? At least not for 2012. I have 3 modes: Normal, Sport, and Mountain. No EV Hold mode in 2012 models. In Mountain, I guess you could think of it as charge sustaining. Once the charge remaining reaches 15 mi of calculated range, the car switches to ICE operation. This supposedly holds enough electrical power so that in combination with the ICE, the vehicle can still power up long hills. However, I have no idea to what grade or for what distance this may have been designed? In my case, I use it look a pseudo EV Hold. Since the vehicle is more efficient at lower city speeds on battery, and the ICE is somewhat efficient at highway speeds, I put it into Mountain Mode if I plan a long trip on the highway. In this way, 15 EV miles will remain when I reach my destination which will usually be off the freeway. BMW has not done U.S. i3 REX owners any favors the way they have “limited” it to 6% remaining charge before activating and the reduced fuel capacity. I… Read more »
I agree, BMW should target the common car buyers here, not just the nerdy types like Tom here 🙂 Besides, it is a good idea to run the REX once in a while, to use up the old gas sitting in the tank. And also, it tests the extender working. You don’t want the REX to be never used, and then on a long trip you find out it doesn’t work! For most people, EV is already a new concept. Why complicate it further with all these options presented to them? But I think, these technical details could be fine as a sub-menu. Also, regarding 82 mile range, I’m certain BMW did an analysis of what percentage of drivers are covered by this. There is a weight-cost vs. range tradeoff here. If you need the peace of mind and freedom from range anxiety, get a REX, which gives you unlimited range with just $4000 more. As for the dashboard reflection, I have always used the black dashboard cover from for years. It cuts the reflection considerably, making your drive much safer. In short, we can’t generalize from Tom’s experience. He is an EV purist, and is too deep into… Read more »

+3. SOC is a guess also, it doesn’t measure anything real. As for the range, my wife commutes 43 miles each way 86 miles round-trip and has 10 miles left when she gets home. 96 miles no problem and no public charging. As for the charge port cover, there is a small hook on the door to hang the cable.

Tom, take a shot at building your own EV and when you get it perfect for everybody on the planet let us know. As for now the i3 is perfect for us in every way, we could not be happier for the small amount of money that we spent on it.

I have recently test-driven two different i3 models at the local dealer, and I have to say that this article, along with Tom’s earlier “Likes” article, are right on target. I would like to add my own dislike: No backup camera. I have really grown to depend on the backup camera in my C-Max, and I thought that these were going to be required in the USA in the next year or two. Were these models just missing some option for the camera?


The combination of narrow tires and “unhelpful computer choices / programming”, make me concerned about safety…

Christopher Allessi II

All I am going to chime in on at this moment is not having AM Radio. I too listen to AM frequently, for Talk Radio and Sports. My Tesla Has ABSOLUTELY no problems and no interference with my AM Reception.

I can vouch that the Chevy Volt EREV han no issues with the AM Band as well.

Thanks for both likes and dislikes reviews, Tom!


Thomas J. Thias

The AM radio problem might be made worse by all the carbon fiber in the i3.

A regular steel or aluminum car can use the entire body of the vehicle to assist AM reception. That’s not going to happen in an i3 as well as it would in a Tesla Model S.

Hi from UK driver of i3, ex leaf driver. Very good article, most of the complaints are so minor in comparison to the fantastic plus points of this car, but still worth pointing out in case BMW are looking! Re tail gate- re program your fob on in car controls to open all doors and tail gate for door open button. My only major complaints are could have configured rear seats to take 3 people, enough space for 3 average size people. Generally the sat nav isnt any near as good to use as in the leaf- takes so many more entries to locate a destination- everytime you have to choose your country! Am I doing something wrong? Also BMW in uk still negotiating to include our local charge points on the sat nav after 6 months- none are shown- even though hundreds are located within 10 miles. Nearest one shown is at a VW dealer 12 miles away, our local BMW i dealership 2 miles away isnt even shown! Ive found that i am managing 80-85 miles on battery in our rex, average speed on town and country roads including highways only about 45mph- max speeds around 70 mph.Absoltely… Read more »

If I understand correctly, the UK i3 has both AM radio and means to program the key fob, is this correct?

Why is BMW removing so many features for the USA version? Is this normal for BMW to do on their other cars? (This is my first BMW)


Sorry! UK cars dont have AM- just fM and DAB-
we have a seperate “diamond ” symbol on key fob just for tailgate- but i have set so fob opens both front doors and tail gate from main button. Would post a photo but not sure how to.

Thank you for your time to share your experiences. I have been seriously considering an i3 and would be one of those conversion customers from another brand. I would expect nothing but absolute quality from such a marque as BMW and with such a high price here in Australia (AU$68,000 without ReX) – no government incentives either. I am starting to think the LEAF will do just as well and be far better value. We are unfortunate here, being a small market there will be no B class, No electric ford focus, no E Golf.
The Tesla has a starting point of AU$103,000, and while a big reach from the BMW seems to represent much better value for my dollar.

Thanks again- your blog is very helpful.

As an i3 owner waiting for his car to arrive, these articles are priceless. So thanks for that.

The article makes mention of a few features that could be added via Software update. I agree but am wondering how BMW actually supports that? Does this happen over the air or do owners have to visit their Dealership (which may involve a charge) in order to be updated? How do owners find out that an update is even available aside from reading these forums??

I imagine not many people have had the opportunity to Fast Charge assuming they ordered this option (I did). If so, could you post some words about just how that works? For example, can the car charge to 100% using DC Fast or does it just go to something less (80%) and then the last 20% has to come from a Lvl 2 charger??

I have just had a software update in uK- its done at dealer via usb port on car. I had a warning light come on after I had used a charger at a long stay car park at an airport- I was first to use the charger- both 7kw charge points didnt work- one 3kw point worked- but must have been delivering an odd charge output- BMW dealer thought I may have been using with an extension lead. No cost involved- and they changed a couple of bump stops for rear seats, plus latest software. Think there were a few changes to screens etc, maybes more saves available for radio favourites but nothing noticeable.
I have opted for fast charge but so far in UK no fast charge points to try near me. Apparently lots of existing fast chargers (mainly chademo type) going to be uprated to provide this facility over next 6-12 months. I tend to charge mainly overnight at home, use city chargers mainly for free parking. You won’t regret buying one of these!


Good to hear that. In your case, I presume you needed to take it in to check on the charging issue. How would you have found out about the software update otherwise?

I own an i3 BEV and I have about the same likes and dislikes. Overall, I have to admit I am very pleased with the car and I think more people should buy electric vehicules. Everybody I lend the keys to is very impressed with it he experience.

One shouldn’t wait for the perfect EV because no vehicule will ever be perfect. No ICE vehicules are perfect and they all have big disadvantages: they cost more to run, pollute more, make annoying vibrations and noise, etc. The i3 almost a perfect vehicule on its first iteration.

I would add that even though I thought it was cool that they removed AM and the cd/DVD slot, I would have used the DVD to watch movies while waiting for someone or if I need to charge in a boring place. I didn’t find a way of streaming video from my iPhone.

One question I have, I installed a 40amp Leviton charging station (9.6kwh) – where do you find charging power ?

If I understand your question, you want to know how much power you are drawing while charging? I doubt there is a display that will show that in the car and it wouldn’t be accurate anyway since there are losses that occur along the way into the car. On the Chargepoint charger I have at home, the charger has an LCD display that cycles thru various things. One of those is the time you’ve been charging and the power you are drawing (i.e. 3.2 kWh as applicable).

You’ll never see 9.6 kWh because the i3 onboard charger is rated at 7.4 kWh. Most of the reports I’ve seen from folks seems to indicate an actual draw of 6.6 – 6.9 kWh.

I know I am limited by the onboard badger and cannot get more than 7.4 kWh but I am wondering how much more power I draw compared to public chargers. I have seen many people saying what their power draw usually is but I have no idea where to get the number from. My charger has no display so it cannot come from there. I am not sure I can precisely calculate it by the time it takes to recharge…

That’s right you won’t if your charger doesn’t have a display or another way to monitor it.

Power equals voltage times current. The i3 charger will pull a max of 32 amps. Line voltage is typically closer to 220 volts. So you will probably achieve something close to 7 kWh which is great!

Good luck with your car 🙂

Seems like your main two complaints are the same complaints most EV owners have:
– Offer us the option of buying bigger batteries
– Offer us control of the amount of regen

Both are no-brainers in my mind, yet no one except Tesla offers those things.

… Yet!

I’ve been reading that these things, at least the battery capacity options, are expected in the next generation of cars like the Volt and the Leaf.

Sure, but the cars coming out this year (i3, B-class…) still don’t offer those options even though ever since the Leaf came out that is what customers have been asking for.

How is this article not titled Op Ed. ?

I have one dislike for which I think I may be a lone wolf. When I direct the loading of my Ferry, I get to see the “faces” of a boatload (literally) of cars. I really like the happy “googly eyes” of all late model BMW’s, which of course get special treatment on my boats. It’s hard to tell the i3 DRL’s from those of Audi, Land Rover, and even VW’s. Wish BMW had maintained the cue for the i3’s.