BMW i3 BEV Or BMW i3 REx – Range Of Future BMW EVs Depends On Which Version Sells More

MAY 8 2014 BY TOM MOLOUGHNEY 54

BMW i3

A Legion Of BMW i3s Waiting For Delivery At A US Port Last Week

Many people considering a BMW i3 are a bit torn between the full electric version (BEV) and the range extended version (REx). What they may not know is their decision will indeed help BMW decide how much electric range its future electric vehicles will offer.

Now that the EPA range rating for the BEV i3 has been announced at 81 miles per charge, customers can finally decide if they BEV i3’s range will suit their needs. If it doesn’t and they still want an i3, their only choice is to fork over the extra $3,850 to get the range extender. There are electric vehicle enthusiasts that consider this unacceptable because they don’t ever want to put gasoline in their electric vehicle, it just seems wrong to them. Others don’t mind, since they will be driving on electric the vast majority of time and using a little gas is OK with them.

BMW i3 BEV Window Sticker

BMW i3 BEV Window Sticker

*Editor’s Note: This Post originally appeared on Tom’s “The Electric BMW i3” blog.  Check it out by clicking here.

BMW i3 BEV Waiting Delivery

BMW i3 BEV Waiting Delivery

Should you buy the full electric version (BEV) BMW i3 or the range extended version (REx)?

Basically there are four groups of perspective i3 purchasers:

  1. They are interested in the i3 but the 81 mile EPA rating is just too low for them and the range extender is out of the question. They walk away from the car and consider their other electric vehicle offerings.
  2. The 81 mile range works for them. They select the BEV and understand its limitations.
  3. They really wanted the BEV i3 but the range rating was too low for their comfort so they reluctantly ordered the i3 REx. (I fit in this box)
  4. They really liked the idea of the range extender from the start and wouldn’t have bought an i3 without it. The ability to drive primarily on electric but have the range extender there for the few times they need more range is perfect for them. Not ever worrying about getting stuck on the road because they ran out of charge or a public charger was broken or blocked is paramount for these people.

It will be interesting what the percentage of BEV buyers to REx buyers are and yes BMW will be watching that breakdown very closely. I have personally spoken to BMW managers that have said the breakdown of BEV to REx sales will give BMW a clear indication of the amount of range buyers are comfortable with. If BEV sales dominate, BMW will take that as verification that the range it gave the i3 was right for this vehicle.  Conversely, if the majority of i3s sold are range extended versions, or if sales in general don’t meet expectations, they have a clear message: The potential customers didn’t believe 81 miles per charge was enough, especially for a premium brand EV.

In other words, your purchase is your vote. Buying a BEV i3 is telling BMW that 81 miles is fine, and buying a REx i3 is telling them it’s not.

Hopefully, BMW will break out the sales of the BEV i3s and the REx i3s in their monthly sales reporting instead of just including them in one group. That may just help to give us a better idea of what to expect next from the i brand.

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54 Comments on "BMW i3 BEV Or BMW i3 REx – Range Of Future BMW EVs Depends On Which Version Sells More"

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Tom, I quiet like and agree with your explanation of the four different categories. In those I undoubtedly would fit in the fourth one but I would also expect to have the choice of a larger and more conventional shaped BMW like a BMW 5 series, so that would be like a BMW i5, I suppose.

And if one purchases a Model S what does that tell BMW? What about a Volt/ELR?

That is group 1.

If you have to “reluctantly” order a car, you have chosen the wrong car.

He reluctantly ordered the Rex but wanted the car

the author of this article has a long term commitment to BMW EVs; so he was going to buy a BMW EV no matter what. as it apparently turns out, the BMW that he bought is not what he ideally would have wanted.

the author’s purchasing process should not be confused with the way that most people actually buy cars…

that EPA window sticker is goin to cause problems. the huge 124 will be interpereted as the range. the largest number on the sticker should be the range on an EV. the smaller # the efficiency.

cant wait to see the Rex window sticker

BTW my vote is BMW should have put a larger pack in the BEV. I will buy a REX version if I buy an I3.

BMW won’t be able to control for what is going on, in sales of BEV vs. REx, because people who don’t buy had no input into what they will conclude, apparently. Did they lose sales because of the AER, or the gas range? Seems to me BMW will never know?

If 2, in 5, REx buyers walk because “low fuel” comes on after less than a gallon, then I guess this means 81 miles of AER are enough. Nice goin’ BMW.

Clear?

California=Noise
1.9 gallons=Noise, as walking REx buyers slow i3 sales and skew favor of BEV
Those who walk=Noise, as BMW will have no idea why
Unique state ZEV/BEV rules, and incentives=Noise

GM: “electric when you want it, gas when you need it”. Is overcoming gas prices and range anxiety really that esoteric?

I agree on the EPA stickers. Range is one of the smallest fonts, they assume too high a watt cost ($.12/kwh) and even smaller is the “kwh/100 miles” fraction, that no one understands and BMW wants everyone to know about.

Why is the posted watt cost too high? $0.12 is the national average (happens to be my rate too).

Great point PJ. I find that I like the i3 OK, but need the range…and am then turned off by the rEx’s goofy 1.9 gallon tank. Add in the exrta cost for the REx and general high price of BMW’s options and well…I may very well just pass and they never know why. Unless of course the “other” variable spikes: sales of a competitor’s car. Depending on the competitor’s configuration they may be able to infer what client’s prefer.

pj – The EPA did extensive studies when they came up with those lables, including focus groups with real world car buyers. When they asked their focus group of regular drivers if they knew what “Watts” an “Kilowatts” were, they responded with a resounding “No”.

When asked if they would want to learn the difference between watts, kW’s, kWh’s, volts, and etc, the response was an even more resounding “No”.

Enthusiasts are lucky to get any mention of kW-hrs at all on the label. It is a concession to enthusiasts on a label that has a single purpose of informing the broadest group of consumers who wouldn’t go research this stuff themselves before showing up on a car lot.

I fit in category 2 as I picked the BEV i3. I hope BMW doesn’t see that as me saying “the current range is all I ever need”, it’s more “I can get by with that range limitation this time around”. In the future there will be fewer limitations as more CCS stations get built (the current total is at around 100 in Europe now).

I also think it would be wrong for BMW to infer that those who buy a pure BEV i3 think that 81 miles is good enough. It is likely those buyers have another gasoline car for longer trips, and a longer range would allow them to drive the i3 a larger percentage of the time.

This is exactly what will be going on for most people, and if BMW makes its assumptions based on this they will lose a lot of owners when Tesla delivers whatever the Model E will now be called.

I feel the same way. I drive a 2012 Leaf with 73 miles of range. I can accept that because we are a two-car family. But that doesn’t mean it’s all I’ll ever need. I really do need a 200+ range for at least one of my cars. I just wish that car could be a pure EV.

The flip side is, if the REx is more popular, I hope the message isn’t that people like burning gas in their EVs. BMW has a whole lineup of (concept for now) PHEVs. I hope they don’t ditch the REx concept in favor of PHEVs.

BMW is in a unique position to gather this data. It certainly is going to be interesting to watch. The data will represent people’s “current understanding” of EVs which is enough to build to for now. Peoples understanding as well as technology will evolve. I have to wonder how much the smallish gas tank effects the decision process. Looking forward to an aftermarket solution to remedy this after a few get in the field. Looking forward to the data!

My prediction from approximately one year or so remains unchanged: Once the first 1,000 – 3,000 early adopters have been supplied, the ratio of REx sales to BEV sales is likely to grow and look more like 80% or even 90% or 95%. The REx is the i3’s major differentiated selling point, over those other 80-ish mile BEVs.

If it cost $2K more, I might agree. But $4K for a 2-cylinder motorcycle engine with a 1.6 gallon tank? Doesn’t seem to be worth it. Heck you can pay for many flat-bed towings with $4K. And if you get it, you probably won’t get to use the carpool lane in California.

True, but getting towed is really inconvenient…

Let’s say more people buy the Rex, what will BMW learn from that?

Will they offer BEVs with larger batteries, or won’t they offer BEVs at all and include a Rex in every BMWi car?

I’m not sure this will be a good test of the market. The range extender in this car is crippled to meet some CA classification. The Rex would be a lot more useful with a 3-gallon tank and a “HOLD” or “MOUNTAIN” mode.

I live in Texas, so why should my car have to be crippled to meet some California standard? its a long way between major cities in Texas so we need the REX to be more functional!

I love the idea of the REX, but it is just not living up to its full potential due to those minor issues. I hope BMW takes that into consideration when planning for future vehicles.

“The range extender in this car is crippled to meet some CA classification.” I hear this a lot and would love to hear BMW’s official statement on the topic (do you have a link?) but in the end BMW chose to do it. The same goes for only offering the vehicle with one size battery that gets 81 miles range instead of say offering a larger battery in place of the range extender.

The California BEVx classification was designed and proposed by BMW as a way to get away with adding an engine while still getting the full amount of ZEV credits that a BEV would get. Even though CARB tried to obscure who proposed it by referring to “some manufacturers” it’s clear from the comment period that BMW was the main proponent. It was also designed to exclude the Volt (which GM protested in comments to CARB) which made the criteria quite strict.
http://www.greencarcongress.com/2012/01/bevx-20120129.html

As such, BMW has nothing to complain about the classification as they brought it on themselves.

It’s more than California. I rarely see the same number twice, but at least 10 other states have adopted CARB standards. I think it is also reasonable to expect more states to follow suit, in time.

It is unfortunate that the North American version of the i3 REX is crippled by the REX start-up restrictions which will make REX operation less useful to the end user compared with, say, a Volt. It’s an example of a well intentioned regulation that has an unintended consequence.

That will likely skew the results, especially when videos of people limping home under reduced power emerge.

I would prefer to choose the REX version, but with that restriction I’d rather have the BEV (or better still the engine weight allocated to a larger battery).

I give BMW credit for producing a ground-up designed EV with efficiency as its top focus. However I think they would sell more if the BEV version had a 120-150 mile range and the RX version had 65 AER with a no compromise RX to drive anywhere. Efficiency is great, but give the customer what they really want without breaking the bank and don’t be afraid to lose the fake grills.

The problem is, the i3 was NOT designed from the ground up as an EV. It was designed as a EREV with the ICE being optional. This is why BEV versions of the i3 have a gaping hole where the REx ICE would reside.

I disagree with you or most people on that point.

The REx is NOT designed to drive long distance like the Volt. It is designed “purely” for getting rid of range anxiety.

By shrinking the gas tank, it actually would make people drive more on Electric.

It is better than those PHEV such as Energi or Prius Plugin where I know plenty of owners who don’t charge at all and drive around in their gasoline mode since their MPG is still high.

By having a smaller tank and “poor” gas mode, it is really intended to be a BEV rather than an EREV or PHEV…

Interesting point, and that little gas tank provides more range than the equivalent volume of batteries (including the volume of the ICE and associated components).

Perhaps BMW is trying to prove that if people are buying range extended models, it supports the BMW’s main thesis that electric vehicles are not yet ready for mainstream but only for subsidy depended niche markets.

Good of course for Tesla, if BMW decides to postpone long range premium electric cars! Bad for the environment and solar economy.

Long ranged electric cars in large numbers are the integral part of integrating wind and solar into grid, as they can be charged on days when the availability of renewables is good.

Cut BMW some slack on the Monroney sticker. I too agree the range number should be as big or bigger than the MPGe number, but that’s not BMW’s call.
The EPA sets up the sticker specs and all OEM’s conform to the same standard.

We fit snuggly into the number two reason slot and look forward to getting our i3’s soon.
Nice article Tom!

I would go with the pure EV. But I can’t help but again say . . . why no option for a larger battery?!?!?!

#1 Option – 160+ mile battery which eliminates the want/need for the very loud and inefficient gasoline engine.

I kind of wish this car had a four to five gallon gas tank. In that I find it a little hill billy to have to have to drive around in a $45,000 car with a three to five gallon gas can in the back seat or the trunk. In that the 1.9 gallon gas tank is sort of worthless if you wanted to drive across rural Virginia. They would be better off adding a extra 50 miles to the battery instead.

I think a lot of people are coming to a similar conclusion: Either put more battery in the empty engine space on the BEV version, or make the REX more practical by adding “mountain” mode and a few more gallons in the tank.

The REX fix is restricted by the California regulatory anomaly (which arguably shouldn’t apply for the other 49 states), but the bigger BEV battery is doable.

But BMW has already made their decision, so at this point all we can do is see how the sales stack up.

There is another group . .

5. Those that are interested in an EV with a REx but decide against the i3 because the little 2-cylinder REx costs $4K more, it is a bit weak on hills, and only has a tiny 1.6 gallon tank such that it really isn’t designed for long drives.

Yes indeed the rex of the i3 should be of a free piston direct generator type like the one from Toyota:
http://autonetmagz.net/toyota-developing-new-free-piston-engine-linear-generator-for-range-extender/4491/
It would be more efficient, lighter and more compact. It would also become almost negligible in terms of space intake in the car so that you could standardize it and simply desactivate it in the pure Bev versions.

I’m in that category 5. I wouldn’t have considered looking at the i3 except for the range extending motor. I recently went to a BMW i3 launch party where they had 5 or 6 different i3’s that I was able to look over very closely. I went away excited, but also more sober about the downsides. I’m still looking at other options for the following reasons: 1) Range Extender option is nearly double the $2000 dollar additional cost that was originally floated. 2) The odd size run flat tires you can only buy from BMW (and no spare) are a worry. We also have a chain law in my state when the weather gets really bad, and I’ve not been able to locate tire chains that would fit these odd size tires. 3) The exterior looks are hard to get around, and the color combo I like best (white with black) apparently isn’t going to be offered in the US market in the first year. 4) Gas tank is about 3-6 gallons too small. It is still a contender for me. But before I buy anything, I’d like to see the PHEV’s from Volvo, Mitsubishi, and VW that are supposed… Read more »

I know its not BMW’s fault on the window sticker, I’m just afraid it might work against them when customers see that giant 124 on the window and then reality sets in after a month or so or the first hard freeze.

when you buy a car, the prominent figure on the sticker is the mpg: nobody mistakes that for the range that you get on a full tank. so the labeling is consistent with the way car labels are done. what makes EVs different is the much longer “refill” time: in a gasoline powered vehicle, refill time is not signficant; but in an EV recharge times are significantly longer. thus, with EVs, range is more important than efficiency.

the vast majority of cars sold are not EVs, so don’t expect the labeling convention to change any time soon.

I agree with other sentiments here, that many reasonable conclusions may be drawn from a sales comparison between the models. However, it’s probably a moot point because BMW is going to pay attention to a lot more metrics than a sales ratio – they can poll the i3 owners directly, they can see poll results from others (like what people drove before they bought a Model S), and they can see sales data of any make that BMW considers to be competition for the i3. Plus, total sales may be a greater concern out of the gate than the ratio between the two versions.

BMW i3 with REX is best. Mostly EV miles with no range concerns; can be the single car in a family ( small family).

I expect BMW i3 REX will do really well in CA, as it is still qualified as a ‘light duty ZEV’ earning it a white HOV sticker an $2500 rebate. Th egreen stickers for PHEVs like Volt are extended. So, many Volt-liking customers will gravitate towards this now, if they really need the HOV sticker.

I meant ‘green stickers are exhausted in CA’, not extended 🙁 bad mistake!

The i3 REx is most certainly NOT qualified for a white sticker in CA. This is a big problem for BMW, as most of their lobbying for the new BEVx vehicle category (a category for which, by sheer coincidence, only their new vehicle meets the requirements) was presumably done so that they would be able to sell to buyers with range anxiety who would still want that sweet HOV lane access. The green PHEV sticker program (that Chevy, Toyota, and Ford have been snatching up) will be completed by the time the i3 makes it to market in CA, so BMW made a big gamble to try to create a new category of EV, in the hopes that the BEVx classification would qualify for the white sticker. BMW lost that gamble, and as a result, the U.S.-spec i3 REx is unnecessarily crippled compared to its Euro-spec version; the U.S.-spec cannot engage the REx until the battery is depleted. This is notable because the i3 takes a significant performance hit in REx mode without access to reserve battery power; when European i3 reviewers complained about this, BMW told them that they should manually engage the REx with about 50% battery remaining… Read more »

It seems like the folks at BMW are making this too complicated, and may well miss the point.

Some may want more range, but refuse to have a ICE involved, and/or do not want to pay the $4K. The extra weight (and extra cooling drag) won’t help the range. Is the ICE cooling system closed off when not in use?

Maybe some of the people who walk away want more range, but can’t afford a Tesla. And we’ll see how the Mercedes B Class Electric sells.

Have they done everything possible to get the maximum range out of the pack they have? Does it have a direct heating defroster, and/or a heat pump, and/or heated seats? If they improved the aero drag, they would get more range on the same pack. If they have a free wheel coasting mode and driver adjustable regen, then that too could improve the real world range.

They should continue to improve the range, and as they do, they will sell more. Ditto for building it less expensively.

The BEV version comes standard with a heat pump (not available on REx since it is in the gas tank location). Heated seats are optional. No coasting due to the heavy accelerator based regen.

So what is the current guess with regard to REX range? 77 miles? I can actually tell a difference in my morning commute when I car pool with one other person in my Volt – it’s not much though. The REX is more than 2X that weight though. Still 4-5 miles less than the BEV sounds reasonable.

I think most people are comparing the i3 REx with the Volt. I don’t think they are designed to be the same. Here is reason why: Volt is designed to be an EREV (regardless how you feel about that term). Volt is designed to drive as electric car “but” you can always travel in long distance on gas if you like. i3 REx is NOT designed to be an EREV (although it can act as one). The REx is designed to give you a “peace of mind”, NOT designed to drive on long trips as the Volt. That is why BMW doesn’t recommend using it for such driving and offers you free weekend rentals. By making the gas mode “terrible”, it is designed to make it undesirable enough so most of the owners would stay on Electric mode as much as they can but without the worrying about range. Unlike other PHEV such as Energi or Prius Plugin where some of the owners don’t even bother to plugin and drive around with their gas engine all day. i3 REx owners won’t do that b/c BMW make sure that experience is NOT pleasant where Ford and Toyota made sure of the… Read more »

That is not really the usual point of view where EREV are seen as EV with an on board generator only able to produce electricity without possibility of a direct mechanical connection to the wheels.

In contrast the PIP and the Volt have a direct mechanical connection to the wheels possibility which make them Plug-in Hybrids rather then EREV.

Who defines EREV as “no mechanical” linkage?

If GM defines that term EREV, then GM’s first EREV product Volt defines the EREV.

I think the so called Extended range Electric vehicle depends more on the “electric mode” part than the extended range part.

In order for it to call EREV, its EV mode has to be “real” enough as in to the top speed of the car, to have electric heat and behave like an electric vehicle.

As far as “extended range” part, well, anything can “extended range”.

Only a Prius fan would think Volt and Prius Plugin belongs in the same category.

When Prius have an electric motor powerful enough and battery powerful enough to exceed the ICe, then we can talk. Prius can be powered by its ICE alone where Volt can’t.

the Volt and the i3 are definitely based on different philosophies. the Volt was designed to seamlessly introduce EV to drivers used to ICE vehicles. the Volt was designed to be a car that could be your only car. the total range was designed to be comparable to that of ICE vehicles. but what the Volt added was a premium EV drive train that does not require the gear shifts required with ICE vehicles; and the Volt was designed to maintain its drive character whether the vehicle was being powered from stored battery charge or from charge generated by the on-board generator. in the real world, people don’t car about this business of whether the ICE has a direct mechanical connection to the wheels – that is the kind of thing over which only the EV enthusiast would quibble. the i3 was designed primarily as a BEV; the generator is not so much intended for regular driving than it is intended as a safety net to allow you to get to some place where you can recharge the battery. the problem is, once you are out of charge, there is the wait time to recharge. in the Volt, if you… Read more »

Well said.

I totally agree.

I fall into group 2 although I would have been opened to paying more for 20-40 more miles. Rex for me was out of the question. I would have chosen a Tesla if it had been a little smaller to fit in my garage. My next car will either be an i5 or a Tesla model E. Who will win my heart in 2-3 years will depends on my experience with the i3.