BMW i3 BEV – 102.5 Mile Road Trip With An Epic Mile High Climb


BMW i3 At Palomar Mountain State Park

BMW i3 At Palomar Mountain State Park

A little over two years ago, on April 7th, 2012, I took my wife’s brand new BMW ActiveE on a mile high climb and 104 mile round trip up to the peak of Palomar Mountain. You can read about that trip here: April 7th 2012 drive

Today, I wanted to see what my new 2014 BMW i3 could do. I recreated the 2012 drive in the BMW i3.

I’ll plagiarize a bit of my own previous article in my writing about today’s May 26th, 2014, epic mountain top trip with the BMW i3.

My first words are that the BMW i3 is far more than “just” a city car.

Imagine a perfect sphere that weighed (including driver) 2900 lbs. Imagine the energy and strength required to push the sphere up an incline from sea level to 5300ft. Now add the energy to push that sphere 102.5 miles down the road at normal driving speeds. That is the energy that is contained and regenerated in our electric BMW i3. A most incredible and amazing car.

Editor’s Note: This post appears on Peder’s “Electric BMW” blog. Check it out by clicking here.

What a great morning

As crazy pioneers we test our cars to the limits. Why? Because we love cars, love to drive and love to explore where the outer edge is.

Today was a picture perfect day, I planned a 102 mile trip that began at sea level and climbed 5300 feet to the top of Palomar Mountain, then returning to sea level and home on a single charge. This is the exact same trip and same route as the 2012 ActiveE trip.

Speeds were 60-65 mph for 45% of the trip and 30-45mph twisty’s for 55% of the trip.

Leaving home I drove my i3 up Palomar Mountain. The first 45 miles climb a total of 2000 feet. The last 7 miles the climb is 3400 feet. It was an awesome drive up the mountain. The i3 is very fast, light and nimble in the twisties.


BMW ActiveE At Palomar Mountain State Park


BMW i3 At Palomar Mountain State Park

Arriving at the 51.3 mile half way point, the top of the mountain, I had roughly 20% battery left and 8 miles of range with an efficiency of 3.1 miles per kwh. When I did this trip in the ActiveE, I arrived at the top with with 23 percent battery, 10 miles of range and a 2.4 miles per kwh efficiency. However and very importantly, in the ActiveE my average speed was only 29.6mph and this trip in the i3 the average speed was 39.7 which no doubt was less efficient at the higher speed.

BMW i3 Readout

BMW i3 Readout

BMW i3 Readout

BMW i3 Readout

It’s a little unnerving being 52 miles away from home and having only 8 miles of range showing! At the bottom of the mountain, still 2000 feet above sea level and 45 miles to home, I was back to around 33% battery and not so certain I would make it home without the need to pit stop. In the prior trip in the ActiveE when I hit this mark it was 36% battery left.

So 33% battery left and 45 miles to go, 2000 feet above sea level you need to ask yourself, “Do I feel lucky?

I had two emergency plans for charging as I was fairly sure I was going to need it. The first one was the BMW dealership in Escondido about 20 miles from the home. I hit that offramp with 13-14% range and decided to press on. The next emergency charging location if needed was BMW of Vista, about 6 miles away from the home. I hit that offramp at 4 miles of range showing and I knew I had a fairly good size hill to go up to get to our home……so……

What do I do?

Simple, you press on as a crazy pioneer to find out where the endpoint is. (warning! do not try this at home 🙂

A little over 1 mile from home, I hit zero on the miles but there was just a bit left on the battery bar. So up the last sizable hill to our house which is on a street named Hillside, so you get the picture.

OH NO, the i3 started slowing down and then came to a complete stop just 300 ft from my driveway! As I walked up to my front door, my iPhone said I had arrived at my destination!

So, the exact range of this trip in my BMW i3 was 102.5 miles, a mile high climb and descent, and 5.1 miles per kwh efficiency.

BMW i3 Readout

BMW i3 Readout

BMW i3 Readout

BMW i3 Readout

BMW i3 iPhone App Readout Of Trip

BMW i3 iPhone App Readout Of Trip

Last Thoughts

I drove the exact same route as I did two years ago, traffic was very light today and I did not have the chance to draft at all. Two years ago it was heavier traffic, more drafting, and slower speeds as a result of the traffic. In the 2012 ActiveE trip it was 29.6mph, in the 2014 BMW i3 trip it was 39.7mph.

I arrived home in the brand new ActiveE in 2012, with 3% charge remaining. I arrived home (sort of) in the 2014 i3 with 0 charge remaining.

In both the ActiveE and the i3, zero means zero. At best you might get 1/2 mile more.

In the Active E the drive was in eco pro. In the i3 it was in mixed eco pro and eco pro plus.

Both drives I used the air con about 25% of the trip set at the second level.

I would have never passed up the chance to top off at the Vista BMW dealership under normal driving conditions. But this was about a max test, stuff that a car guy does to find out where the edge is. I knew I would be close, within a mile or two and within easy walking distance to the home. It’s kind of funny I ended up just 300 feet from my driveway after 102.5 miles!

We have so many L2 chargers around us that if we are close on the range like the situation today, it’s an easy 15-20 minutes on the charger to get an extra 5-7 miles in an emergency.

There is a discrepancy of about a mile on the trip lengths and the i phone has it as 103. I took the same route, so must be with the navs.

The BMW ActiveE when new, would go about 3 miles further than the i3 on this 103 mile trip with a mile high climb.

I am super impressed with the BMW i3!

Now, to get the car in the garage up 300′ of hill! Hmm, probably a tow rope.

Or maybe a tow truck…

My BMW i3 Getting Towed The Last 300 Feet

My BMW i3 Getting Towed The Last 300 Feet


No tow bolt in our BMW i3! The manual says it’s in the frunk but it wasn’t in the frunk!  We need to add check for tow bolt in the checklist!

A friend at S&R towing came by and “hooked” the car for $50 and towed it the 300 feet to the house. Probably a better outcome than me trying to pull the car up the hill with the ActiveE

Still worth the fun of exploration, end of the journey.


Categories: BMW


Leave a Reply

26 Comments on "BMW i3 BEV – 102.5 Mile Road Trip With An Epic Mile High Climb"

newest oldest most voted

I would have left the car there for a few hours to let the battery recover some charge for the remaining distance(it’s only 300ft).

5.1 miles per kwh efficiency . . . that is very impressive. Well done, BMW.

I can’t believe you were 300 feet away and still did a flat-bed tow. I would have pushed the car to the based of the driveway and ran long extension cords to give it enough of a charge to drive up the driveway.

I’m pretty sure he implied that it was 300′ uphill.

I can’t believe he didn’t get the RE. 🙂

Looked impressive to me. The Active E has a much bigger battery: 21.6kWh’s to 32 kWh?

This speed difference is pretty significant – 10 mph – “ActiveE trip it was 29.6mph, in the 2014 BMW i3 trip it was 39.7mph.”

Very good efficiency on the i3 – the light weight really appears to pay off.

Looks like you would have made it if you had simply bumped the speed down 2 mph on the freeway.

Instead of the tow-truck, perhaps meeting a new neighbor at the bottom of the hill and trickle charging for 30 minutes while you look at the car would have been easier?

This. I would have walked home to get an extension cord and rang some doorbells.


Exactly my thoughts — and save $50 for a well-deserved dinner. 😉

The light weight has something to do with it, but BMW managed to eek out more efficiency than the even lighter i-MiEV per mile. The Chevy Spark EV (also heaver than the i-MiEV) is also more efficient. I wonder if this has to do with the more-powerful electric motors?

I usually do mid 90’s miles per charge on my MIEV, that is with 16kwh battery = 5.9 miles per kwh. True is that is with speeds below 45mph, minimum stops and zero AC. With frequent stops same speeds mid 80’s, 5.3 miles/kwh. The MIEV is fairly efficient as long as you do not use the heater.

It may say more about iMiEV technology. It was developed in the mid 2000s after all. I would hope new vehicles are more efficient.

Great story! It’s good to know that the i3 is capable of driving 100 usable miles (surpassing the EPA rating) at 70+ degrees outdoor temp.

Nice job!

I would have borrowed a portable generator and let it run for about 30 mins to get up the hill… I know they don’t like portable generators for charging… but you only need about 0.3KWh…


Another option is that many EVs and hybrids (like the LEAF and Prius) have beefy DC-DC inverters that can push quite a bit of power over 12V – enough to trickle charge in an emergency coupled with an appropriate pure-sine DC-AC inverter enough to get home.

You’d want to use a charge cord that can be limited to 120V/6-8A (700-1000W or so) and use an inverter with a 1000W continuous rating.

If you want more power than that, you need to tie into the HV battery directly.

Great report!
Question many are familiar With the Leafs warnings when near empty on the pack

How does the i3 warn you ?

Also does BMW not offer free rescue just as Nissan does?
Surely BMW roadside assistance would have towed you home for free?

I would love to see how the battery does in winter. My focus electric gets 50 km per charge(-20 celcius in ottawa,canada),and 120 km per charge in summer(+30 celcius)

Great job Peder! So close! I know the feeling. I once ran out a couple hundred feet from my house also. It’s a killer when the last few hundred feet are uphill.

Great run. It definitely beat the Nissan LEAF on a similar run that I did in 2011 with the Nissan LEAF to Julian (over 4000 feet elevation).

If memory serves, it was 84 miles.

Peder, Wow, what a classic BEV adventure! Thanks for sharing. If anyone’s planning to issue a book (or Ebook, more appropriate) about first-generation EV stories that one should definitely qualify. I just made the comment on Tom’s story about his i3REx trip, that his 89 miles suggest that ~100 miles should be fairly easily attainable for the i3BEV, and there you prove it! We have finally become a bit more adventurous with our 2012 Leaf (that’s about to be returned this summer). Based on this experience I second Dave R’s comment above: it’s amazing how sharply EV efficiency (esp. the less-aerodynamic ones like the Leaf and i3) drops off with increasing speed. Just now I returned from chaperoning my son’s school camp, taking him and a couple of classmates 65 miles each way (the YMCA camp folk were excited to let us trickle-charge overnight, we were their 1st ever). On the way there I kept strict 54-55 MPH discipline on the 3/4 of the trip that was freeway. We got there with 15 miles on the dial. On the way back, fearing about getting stuck in the notorious afternoon traffic snarls south of Seattle I fiddled around with speeds, going… Read more »
Morro Bay to Big Sur, California, Pacific Coast Highway, California Highway 1, June 2012: Traveling late at night was a positive for this leg (of the inaugural BC2BC rally) because I was dipping into single digit speeds. My LED sequential safety flashing arrows were mounted on the rear, and I ran them continuously all the way to Big Sur. I probably saw less than a dozen cars past San Simeon for the entire 6 hours from 9pm to almost 3am. I did overshoot the campground in Big Sur, but that’s because I still had 10% battery remaining. I wanted a record that every Tom, Dick and Harry won’t beat !!! (not easily anyway). So, 100.7 miles, Morro Bay to Big Sur. The new Gidmeter helped a lot, because whilst climbing the steep portions, I could hold speed more accurately with the amperage read out. One hill I was climbing at 10mph, and the speed slipped down to 8mph, so rather than accelerate the car, I could very carefully bump up power (far easier in ECO mode) from, say 14.5 amps to 15 amps, until I stopped the speed decay without wasting energy accidentally accelerating. I arrived in the camp site… Read more »

I do that all the time in my Volt except the engine comes on 200 feet from my garage….

Good job? The kwh consumption on our Chevy volt is consistently much higher and the car was developed 8 years ago! .. .BMW …less far.