BMW i3 BEV Long-Term Test Drive Review

APR 4 2015 BY STAFF 9

BMWBLOG has had our BMW i3 BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle) right at four months now and the futuristic electric car just turned 4,000 miles.

I was a bit concerned that being an “early adopter” of all the i3’s new tech could be problematic or even glitchy. That wasn’t the case. Apart from one flat tire caused by running over a huge bolt, the BMW i3 has been flawless. The i3 is the first mass production car with extensive use of carbon fiber reinforced plastic and it’s BMW’s first production electric car.


bmw i3 test drive winter 38 750x500 BMWBLOG Test Drive: BMW i3 BEV Long Term Update

BMW i3

Range Anxiety

The dread electric car range anxiety issue was the other thing lurking in my mind while signing the lease papers. Now, customers can choose an i3 Range Extender and nip that anxiety in the bud. However, we wanted to go all in on the pure electric car ownership experiences.

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

BMW states that the i3 BEV and its 22 kWh battery pack are good for 80 to 110 miles. The Range Extender is good for about 150 miles but you can stop, fill up the 2.4 gallon gas tank and truck on. At home, Level 2 charging has been easy, we just plug it in and charge it over night.

bmw i3 test drive winter 23 750x500 BMWBLOG Test Drive: BMW i3 BEV Long Term Update

BMW i3

Mapping Your Route

The i3 requires the driver to do a bit more thinking and planning. By that I mean, every time I get in it, I look at range, figure out our route and then take off. If going on a new route, I have taken to plotting out the day’s activities on Google maps to ensure I am not going to go over 80 miles.

Given I live in the Midwest and we don’t have many public chargers here, this route plotting is a necessity. There are just forty EV chargers in 7,950 square miles of Kansas City, so we don’t venture out farther than we can return on a single charge. I literally have tried only once to use a ChargePoint charging station in KC and it was broken.


BMW i3

We are always cognizant of the i3’s range and the miles left’ometer or as some call it a Guess-O-Meter. So far, no rides on the flat bed tow truck of shame from running out of juice.

The i Remote App

I have been really surprised by how helpful the iOS app is. Unlike the dash in the i3, the BMW i Remote app gives the actual state of charge (SOC) of the battery. Getting to work thirteen miles one way in the winter, we use about 16-18% of the battery. The return trip typically uses more more charge because the i3 can’t be plugged in at work so there is no way to pre-condition the battery pack.

The i Remote app is the easiest way to use Pre-Conditioning. Just set the time of your departure when it’s cold outside and the i3 will warm the battery pack and cabin up. The caveat is that pre-conditioning only works while attached to a Level 2 Charger.


BMW i3

Winter Performance

It can get seriously cold in the Midwest. Naturally, before taking ownership of the i3 I started to wonder how it would handle the snow because of its rear wheel drive platform and lightweight. We put snow tires on it and really the drivability in snow has really not been a problem. It handles like any other rear wheel drive BMW I’ve owned over the years and it’s easy to daily drive year round. To attenuate the torque curve, I set EcoPro while driving in the snow so I get less slip when accelerating.


BMW i3

The bigger challenge in owning an i3 was how serious cold affects your range. In the coldest weather, we have experienced a 35-40% decrease in range. The i3 uses electricity to go and electricity to heat the car, and cold batteries don’t work as well. At 5F, I really wanted heat. If you can tolerate no heat, you could probably go farther. The i3’s windows also fog up easier in the really cold weather more than any other car I’ve owned.


BMW i3

A cool thing I noticed in the serious cold is that at a stop light there is no exhaust plume coming from the i3, unlike all the other cars around me. In the cold, the heat pump also makes a slight rattling noise from the front end and when the i3 gets left out in the cold, the steering wheel can creak.


BMW i3


  • The front “frunk” isn’t good for much, expect Chinese carryout. Oh and did they mention it’s not waterproof?
  • The i3’s instant on full torque of an electric car never gets old.
  • Pay the extra for the Harman/Kardon sound. Standard radio only comes with 2 speakers total.
  • No one can adequately prepare you for how many complete strangers will be gawking at your i3. It garners more attention and questions than any other press car I’ve had, short of the BMW i8.
  • Though it has crazy narrow tires, and a short wheel base, the i3 still drives like a BMW.

Our i3 has taken us 4,000 trouble free miles. It transports us to and from work in the coldest weather of the year 5F (-15C), and had no problem in the snow while fitted with snow tires. It has carried our daughter’s bass without problem and made lots of trips to Costco.

We are looking forward keeping the i3 in constant motion.

BMW i3 Long-Term Test

Exterior Appeal – 9
Performance – 9
Handling in winter – 9
Tech – 9

Overall – 9

Categories: BMW, Test Drives

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

9 Comments on "BMW i3 BEV Long-Term Test Drive Review"

newest oldest most voted

Minor nit: the standard sound system includes 4, not 2 speakers, but none of them is in the rear.

Great to see a story from a fellow Kansas Citian!

One thing that puzzles me: The article says “crazy narrow tires” (and you can see that in the 5th photo) but it also says the owner put snow tires on the car. Do they make “crazy narrow” snow tires, and how do they get good traction in the snow if they’re that narrow?

Large diameter, narrow tires are actually ideal for snow.

So, a Model T Ford, with its very narrow 21″ tires, should do better in snow than an ATV with its much smaller diameter “balloon” tires? Don’t think so.

It’s basic physics: The more square inches in contact with the ground, the better the traction. Of course, for snow you also need a good tread for gripping.

My experience using narrow tires in the iMiev and Lectric Leopard in the snow is that they perform pretty well. The narrow tires dig down through the snow to the road surface and grip quite well. I think a larger tire may “float” on top and therefore, in some circumstances, provide less traction.

I remember reading that the contact patch of the tall narrow tires was the same size in total square inches (or larger, I can’t remember exactly) as a short wide tire. The decrease in the width of the contact patch from using a narrow tire was offset by the increase in length (front to rear) of the contact patch from using a larger diameter tire. All else being equal (i.e. width), a large diameter tire will have a bigger contact patch than a small diameter tire.

I found the news story about the contact patch size.

“By using a very tall narrow tire we simultaneously reduce drag, rolling resistance and tire deformation. The height of the tire in relation to the width also increases the contact patch which allows for retain the dynamic driving characteristics of a much wider tire.”

Oh, one error (or at least it’s misleading) in the article: The version of the BMW i3 REx sold in the USA may have a 2.4 gallon gas tank, but it’s absurdly limited to holding 1.9 gallons, to conform with counterproductive CARB regulations. Possibly worse is the fact that BMW lobbied CARB to create the category for which those counterproductive regulations apply.

I think the owner made the right choice in getting the pure BEV version. The crippled PHEV version wouldn’t be likely to yield an entirely positive review.

somebody is making a lot of assumptions here…