BMW i3 BEV Winter Test Drive Video

FEB 23 2015 BY STAFF 53

BMWBLOG’s own Chuck Vossler takes the BMW i3 BEV for winter test driving. At temperatures of 5F (-15C), the new i3 is being put through the roughest conditions one can imagine, a true test to see how the fully electric car handles not only the cold, but also plenty of snow.

To level the play field, we swapped out the 19β€³ all-season tires in favor of the Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2 winter tire and not surprisingly the winter performance on the winter tires is outstanding with the rear wheel drive electric i3; they inspire confidence on the road and they keep you safe on the road.

To make the cold weather testing even more authentic, Chuck decided to leave the winter jacket at home while shooting video footage with a beautiful icy backdrop.

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

Hakkapeliitta r2 bmw i3 16 750x563 Winter Test Drive: BMW i3 BEV

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53 Comments on "BMW i3 BEV Winter Test Drive Video"

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This scares me, regarding pure BEVs, living in Michigan. It was -15F (-26C) on my way into work today. If the range is cut to 1/2 on an 80 mile car, I’m going to get range anxiety. I will be shopping for 200+ mile BEVs in a couple years. Does the Tesla Model S lose 40 miles of range when it’s negative temps out?

It is quite possible to lose 40+ miles of range when it is sub-20F in a Model S.

Anecdotally it’s not 40 miles, more like 10, maybe 20 but the Model S is not an 80 mile range car. It’s 200 in the 60Kw version and 265 in the 85Kw version. Big difference but it’s not a cheap car either.

Also, I didn’t know that the i3 could only precondition on L2 charging. That kinda stinks.

Seriously – bad idea. I frequently preheat my Leaf when it’s not even plugged in. It’s amazing to climb into a warm car when it’s below zero outside! I do this all the time – leaving the grocery store, a friend’s house, the mall, etc.

I’m actually very interested in getting some first-hand info on preheating a Leaf/BEV in 0 degree Fahrenheit temperatures.

How long does it take to preheat a Leaf when it’s 0 degrees Fahrenheit outside, and how much electricity do you estimate is consumed? Is the preheating time with the Leaf parked outside or parked inside an unheated garage? If inside an unheated garage, is it also 0 degrees in there or is it a bit warmer? Also, if parked outside when charging in subfreezing temperatures, does a strong wind affect the preheating time? I’m thinking the Leaf’s cabin and underbody might act like a computer CPU heat sink where a fan moves air over it, cooling it down.

Good questions. I will do my best to answer based on my own experience/observations. If I precondition the Leaf without it being plugged in, the car has a timeout of 15 minutes. (If it’s plugged in, I think the timeout is 2 hours). In 15 minutes, it takes about 1.25 kWh in the worst case (that’s basically about 5kW for the whole time). If the car has been sitting at 0F in an open parking lot with no wind, 15 minutes will bring the cabin to nearly 70 degrees. It’s pretty toasty in there, but not fully preheated (77F – takes two iterations of preheating). Typically 5-10 minutes is enough to make the car comfortable even down to 0F. I have tried this as cold as -15F and it really needs the full 15 minutes to warm up the car at that temperature. A strong wind absolutely affects preheating time. I can’t begin to estimate numbers, but on a windy day the car is not nearly as warm. I have my car set to prefer climate to charging. In other words, if the climate control pulls more than the charger can source (mine has a 3.3kW charger), it pulls from… Read more »

Oh, and I have a 2012 Leaf. 3.3kW charger, no heat pump.

Thanks for the info Brian! I asked because I am considering buying a used LEAF to keep at my future ski house next winter, and plan to hop on a ski bus to travel to and from NYC instead of driving to and from the mountain.

Glad to help! I don’t often drive more than 25 miles in a day, so I make ample use of the preheat function.

What ski resort is your ski house at? I know Windham in the Catskills has L2 EVSE in their parking lot. Maybe others will follow.

I will be purchasing something this spring or summer in Hunter, possibly Windham. I prefer Hunter because more ski buses go there, and the game plan is jump on a bus rather than do the mind-numbing drive every time. I’m also choosing Hunter rather than Vermont, because starting this spring my days off will be on weekdays and I can avoid the insane weekend crowds at Hunter by skiing mid-week. Since Windham will be a such a short trip from a Hunter ski house, I’ll let others who need the charge use them. But if a charger is not being used at the end of the ski day, I’ll preheat if it’s particularly cold for the short trip back to the house. πŸ˜€

Wow. I’d be more than satisfied if you could just pre-heat to 65 degrees. I’m shocked to learn you can get it up to 77.

I agree. Unfortunately Nissan decided for us that preconditioning will go to 77F; there is no way to change that. This is true for cooling in the summer as well, so they picked a number that is somewhat reasonable for both cases.

The i3 can also pre condition whether it’s plugged in or not. But when its connected to L2 it can also recharge during the process so when it’s done the battery is still at 100%.

Thanks for the additional info. This is what I would have hoped for BMW to do.

I believe that you’re conflating battery pack with cabin air preconditioning, both of which can be done independently on an i3. Unfortunately, the i3’s preconditioning user interface isn’t as intuitive as it could be which can lead to confusion about what it being preconditioned. Living in Honolulu, I have no experience with either kind of preconditioning, but I believe that the cabin air can be preconditioned without being plugged into an EVSE but that the battery pack cannot be preconditioned without being plugged into an EVSE.

Yes you are right, I stand corrected. The Leaf has no battery conditioning, so I’m not used to such a luxury!

Does the Leaf have a battery heater , or if not, do you risk damageing the battery when you charge it when its very cold?

My Roadster insists on heating only until the battery is up to 34 degrees. If not, the battery cannot be charged and there is no regen. Heating times vary between 30 and 220 minutes, before any charging can occur since it is fixed at 1000 watts and may only run while plugged in. There are times I would have liked to heat the battery using its own capacity, but that’s not an option.

The volt does this as well but doesn’t tell you. I havent figured out at precisely what temperature the battery heats up to if its only running 900 watts in. When the engine is running I would assume the battery is heated much more. Also it doesn’t matter how freezing cold it is, even if out of gas, you won’t lose regeneration. Not sure I understand that.. Unless the regen energy is sent to the water heater element (6000 watts) so as to not actually charge the battery.

All but the earliest Leafs have a battery heater (i.e. only the 2011s without the cold weather package). The heater goes on when the battery gets to about -4F according to the manual. This supposedly prevents it from getting damaged.

That said, Nissan is notoriously liberal with their treatment of the battery. I wouldn’t be surprised if it still gets too cold, and ends up being damaged.

I haven’t seen much damage on my battery according to Leaf Spy. But I garage my car overnight, and it gets far colder in Canada / the upper midwest.

It’s the L2 EVSE that I don’t like. So if you are plugged into an L1, you can’t precondition the battery.

So, on an I3, do you damage the battery if you try charging it in the very cold at 110? Or is the charging slow enough that the battery will not be destroyed?

I activate preconditioning from the i3 android app all the time with level one..I even see the charger cycling on and off as it’s I don’t know what is meant by preconditioning on level 2 only; it doesn’t seem accurate. Maybe in extreme conditions Level 2 would be more effective but that doesn’t rule out level 1 preconditioning.

I was thinking of the i3 as a possible next car since I saw it at the local car show. I don’t mind it’s looks while others seem to hate it. The range however is a severe disappointment. This car is just too damn expensive in Canada to warrant buying one. The finance and leasing costs are so much higher than the US, the residuals are low and there’s no deals to be had. Shame because BMW put so much effort and technology in it and it falls flat.

I’m going to wait for the Tesla Model 3 and see what happens then. Unless the i3 gets a much bigger battery and better pricing I’m afraid BMW will have a very expensive white elephant on their hands.

How much misery would be spared if a quart of petrol could warm the engine, send hot coolant to the cabin, restore range from the battery, and keep his windshield clear, all day?

At least snow is a place where narrow tires excel. Otherwise, I don’t care if its “BMW”, or “GM”, GM does this better. I wonder if he sometimes “parks it” on cold days? Then those cold 40-50 miles could be going through 1-2 gallons.

Webasto has been making car and big rig cabin heaters for decades in gasoline and diesel versions. European OEMs have included Webasto diesel heaters in their diesel car straight from the factory.

Webasto has recently developed two new cabin heaters targeted specifically at OEMs to include in their BEVs. One is a ethanol cabin heater with an efficiency of 85%. The other is an electric heater with an efficiency of 99%!!! It achieves such high efficiency by using thin-film technology. Of note to do-it-yourself types, it’s a plug and play system.

Webasto’s website describes the electric heater as follows:

“Electric feeling. Webasto has developed an electric high voltage heater for the heating of hybrid or electronic vehicles. With an efficiency of 99 percent, the high-voltage heater converts electricity into heat with virtually no loss. This is made possible using the so-called thin film technology, which Webasto uses for the first time in a heater. At 1.9 kg (4.2 lb), the device is very light and is installed per plug and play.”

Another good ethanol heater is Brandy πŸ™‚

Webasto. Dunno. A proper range extender multi-tasks the coolant to warm all I mentioned. The EV battery stays cold w/Webasto…and Brandy.

I’ve done 50 mile sub-freezing trips, in a Volt, where starting off with an engine/cabin warm up has yielded close to 40 EV-only miles. The same trips, anecdotally, get closer to 30 miles EV-only, when I just run the battery down, first. The second trip (from cold) uses almost twice the gas.

With Tesla, from cold, the warm up can consume 2 miles of rated range, for every 1 mile of travel, for the first 20 miles. Heat retention is very good, and I’ve found it levels off, almost back down to 1:1 soon thereafter.

I can’t quote any exact statistics, but I’m on the Canadian Leaf owner’s facebook page, and I’ve heard several accounts of the difference in range between a warm and cold battery.

Most of the range loss is from generating heat in the cabin. Even at -20 C, if you keep the heat off (Snowmobile boots!) your range only suffers by about 15%. So we see our actual highway range go down from about 120-130 km (highway guesstimate) to about 102-111 km. If you turn the heat on the whole time though, you’re going to see at least a 40% drop in range.

What I’ve found particularly effective though for longish trips, is to turn the cabin heat up to around 30 C while I’m quick charging, then turn the heater off while I’m driving, keeping the seat and steering wheel heaters on. Of course, this requires that there’s quick charging on the way where you’re going, but hey, we’re still working on the infrastructure part.

“To make the cold weather testing even more authentic, Chuck decided to leave the winter jacket at home…”

I’m sorry, but that makes the testing LESS authentic. Nobody would do this on a cold winter day. All it does is raise the stakes unnecessarily.

This video isn’t going to inspire a lot of people to buy an EV. He made it sound like such a chore to constantly monitor the battery range and do all of the planning, etc. That’s really not realistic for most people and I’d dare say not even for EV drivers. Sure, I do some of that on rare occasion when driving the EV on an unusual journey. But most days I don’t give any thought to it. I can say this, here in Texas the coldest I’ve seen since owning an EV was 14 degrees F last winter. Both our Leaf and our Volt lost about 25% range compared to a warm day. But since our commutes still well well within the available range it was still no big deal. Even the Leaf arrived home with about 20 miles still left on the guess-o-meter. I think as long as people buy an EV making sure that the range of the EV will handle their commute even on the coldest day expected in their area, it should be fine. If a person buys an EV and intends to drive near the maximum range of the vehicle every day, they will… Read more »

14 degrees F in Texas! David, it’s a good thing you’re always packing heat when you drive your EVs. πŸ˜‰

“I think as long as people buy an EV making sure that the range of the EV will handle their commute even on the coldest day expected in their area, it should be fine.”

I’d modify the above statement to include factoring in the expected range degradation of the battery that will inevitably occur during the time period you expect to own your EV.

This is the one area where a ice makes at least some sense, since so much energy is wasted in the form of heat, in the winter some of that lost heat can be used to heat the vehicle.

The same can be said for a fuel-cell vehicle.

“At temperatures of 5F (-15C), the new i3 is being put through the roughest conditions one can imagine”

Seriously, we had those temperatures in NC last week… Nothing against the i3, but I doubt those are the roughest conditions one can imagine and I’m originally from an island in the Caribbean.

Seriously. It has been down to -15F in NYS a few times this year. Let’s ask a Canadian if he can imagine rougher conditions than -15C…

It has been -20C to -30C almost every night for the month of February here in Southeastern Ontario. And we are not considered the North.
I will be interested in the 200 mile version of an EV as soon as they are available. I don’t travel more than a few miles at a time in -25C conditions. I live out in the country so I would have to go get groceries. Round trip would be about 50 miles at most to my usual spot or 20 miles to the closest grocer but it isn’t that good. So even if the cold cut a 200 mile EV’s range in half, I could live with that.

For all you Americans out there, -20C to -30C is -4F to -22F. πŸ˜€


What is -40F in Celcius?
Trick question, it’s also -40

Well let’s see.

T_c = (T_f-32)*5/9


Oh wait, I still you already said that. How’d you do that so fast? πŸ˜‰

Is that how you old timers figured it out before Google? πŸ˜‰

When I was growing up my math teachers would not let me use a calculator saying, “You’re not always going to have a calculator in your hand”. I guess they were wrong about that.

Brian, over 22 days bellow -20C in Montreal, Quebec.

I have a REX so I don’t worry too much. That being said I did use any gas since December 26th.

I even did a post (sorry for the french, but you can use the google translate bar to get it in english)

Like any car, friggid cold will impact the efficiency of the car. But in my daily use. I keep it in comfort mode and only if I do a longer ride do I engage Eco Pro or Eco Pro+.

I don’t play with the settings, I leave in AUTO (18C), the fan to its lowest setting.

My i3 sits in a heated garage and I charge on 110V.

It’s fun to drive in the snow, OEM tires are good but I heard the Nokian are a step above.

I meant, I didn’t use any gas since Dec. 26th.

I have a Leaf, but am in a similar situation. The nominal ~80 mile range is about 3x what I need on the vast majority of days. On those days, I don’t think twice about blasting the heat, or even preheating while unplugged in a cold parking lot.

On days that I need to go farther, I pay more attention. If I need to go more than 35-40 miles on a cold day, though, I just take the hybrid.

Brian, at -15F we just cover the BBQ… ;o) Our first winter in Montreal with the 2015 LEAF is pure joy so far. We have no garage and charge using a L2 EVSE in the driveway. And please, EV owners just have to accept that they will need an L2 EVSE for safety, speed and convenience. I have to say there is a little bit of nit-picking in these reviews and comments over details and technical settings that are really quite irrelevant for most applications, but I’ll put forth a few points: 1. Leaf has it’s own battery heater and it kicks in when the battery temp (not the air temp) drops below -17C. So far this year, I had it start twice when parked at work on -24C days unplugged, which is really the only time you think about it. Probably ran for less than 30min because I didn’t even notice a blip on the battery level. At -18-19C never went on. Not really an issue unless you use up 50% of your battery getting to work and you have no trickle charge to plug into. 2. Pre-heating the car, plugged in or not, with either the built-in timer… Read more »

Cold region EVs need some sort of liquid fuel cabin heaters. I know, it’s an EV, but it’s a necessary option here. I’m sick of 35 mile range in my LEAF during the winter when it’s below 0F.

I remember that Volvo was supposed to release a BEV in the US with the Webasto ethanol cabin heater that I linked in a post above. Maybe future US bound Volvo BEVs will have this feature, but CARB rule for ZEV credit might put the kibosh on ethanol heater in BEVs.

Where can you buy ethanol?

If you can’t find a gas station that sells it, in a pinch you could go to Home Depot and buy some denatured alcohol. It’ll be pricey, but you don’t need much since the heaters are 85% efficient and sip fuel very slowly.

Denatured alcohol is ethanol with chemicals to prevent people from drinking it to get drunk.

I completely understand the frustration, but despite Volvo’s excellent effort with the hybrid (ethanol) system, I don’t think that is the solution. The Home Depot ethanol is crazy expensive and corn ethanol (which is most of our supply) insanely inefficient to produce.

We’re all early adopters and this is part of the growing pains, but it won’t be an issue much longer. Once they double the pack and optimize the climate system a bit, it’ll be a ride in the park. ;o) Now that commitment to BEVs has been clearly stated from most big players, battery dev will accelerate. Perhaps not to Moore’s Law levels, but enough to make difference every 5 years or so.

I think a significantly important point of a BEV vs a PHEV is that it doesn’t burn anything… For whatever reason. That theoretically (and soon in practice), you can charge it off of sunshine and add no CO2 to the atmosphere in any way. I think it’s a principle worth holding high to not loose sight of.

In the summer (I got my car May 28th 2014) I averaged 5.1 miles per kWh. I keep the car in a cold garage, and in the winter I am getting 4.9-4.8 miles per kWh. However, I drive the speed limit, use cruise control, no heat, no air conditioner. And I have a 40 watt solar panel system on the dash which charges a battery, which in turn I charge my phone with, plus run USB based fans to keep the windshield clear. The video states that it fogs up easily and I agree – and sometimes crack the windows if the fans can’t handle it. I do not feel burdened and I suspect for the first few years it will be like a game milking the efficiency like this. Was the same with my Escape Hybrid more than 10 years ago. I love the i3 and when they get the battery system to support a 200 or 300 mile range I will upgrade in a heartbeat.

Leave it in AUTO, it won’t fog up…