BMW i3 Goes 56,000 Miles On 50 Gallons Of Gas


My 2014 BMW i3 REx is now 27 months old, and the mileage on the odometer just recently surpassed 56,000 miles. I’ve needed a little over 15,000 kWh of electricity, and exactly 50 gallons of gas to power the vehicle thus far. That means I’ve driven on pure battery about 96% of the time, and managed an impressive overall gasoline consumption of 1,120 mpg.

Normally I wouldn’t highlight the gasoline use in my electric car; it’s really not something most electric vehicle owners like to do. However, as many Chevrolet Volt owners can attest to, adding a range extender to a short range (under 100 mile AER) electric vehicle can expand its versatility immensely. While I haven’t needed to use the REx often, there were plenty of times, especially in the winter, that I was very happy it was there.

Back in early 2014, a few months before the North American i3 launch, I openly debated whether I’d buy the BEV or the i3 REx. I ultimately decided on getting the range extender, because the EPA range rating wasn’t as high as I had previously hoped. If the i3 BEV had an all electric range of 95 miles per charge or higher, I would have opted for the BEV. The EPA rating of 81 miles per charge just wouldn’t be enough for my high mileage driving needs, and even though I had lived the past five years with two pure BEVs – the MINI-E and ActiveE, I chose to go back to gas with the i3 REx.

i3 2

The vast majority of energy used to power my i3 was generated by the 9kW solar array on the roof of my home.

However I have to admit, I thought I’d need to use the range extended more than I actually have.  Of my 56,000+ miles, only 1,925 miles have been with the range extender running. I’ve bought 50 gallons of gas (I kept records) and averaged 38 miles per gallon while the range extender was running, just slightly less than the EPA rating of 39 mpg.

But just how little gas is that? Well, as I’ve said I’ve owned the car for 27 months now, so that averages out to me needing to refill the tiny 1.9 gallon gas tank about once every month – I drink more coffee than that in a month! However, refueling hasn’t been nearly that regular. I’ve gone stretches of four or five months at a time without needing to buy gas. But I’ve also taken the car on a couple road trips of two or three hundred miles where I needed to refuel three or four times in the same day to complete the journey. In fact, the majority of my REx miles were accumulated on long trips. These trips simply wouldn’t have been possible in an i3 BEV, as charging infrastructure is only now becoming available along the routes I’ve traveled.

i3 3

My lawn maintenance contractor cutting the front lawn

To put the tiny amount of gas my i3 needed for the past 27 months into perspective, more gas is used in a year to mow my lawn. I have a large lot, it’s a little over two acres and most of it is grass. So I asked my lawn maintenance contractor how much gasoline he needs to mow the lawn and he told me about a gallon and a half. Our lawn gets cut between 32 and 36 times a mowing season including Fall clean-ups, and that adds up to about 50 gallons of gas.

I can now look back on the decision to get the range extender and confidently say it was the right choice. I probably could have managed with the BEV if the climate here in New Jersey was more like Southern California, but along with the harsh winter weather comes reduced range. From December through February, I averaged only about 55 to 60 miles per charge, down from the 70 to 75 I can rely on during the rest of the year. If only the BEV i3 offered the 95 or so miles of electric range I had hoped, then it would have adequately served all of my needs outside of the occasional long distance trip. In which case we would have just used my wife’s car for the long trips instead. In fact, if I didn’t have the range extender, there would have been many days where I took my wife’s car, just in case. Most of these days I never needed to fire up the REx, but having it there allowed me to use the car that day and not worry about rearranging my day to find a place to plug in. I’m sure if I had bought a BEV i3, it wouldn’t have 56,000 miles on it already.

i3 4

The harsh winters of New Jersey meant opportunity charging whenever possible, as well as more use of the REx.

The good news is the 2017 i3 is getting a battery upgrade, and the range for the all electric BEV i3 will increase from 81 miles per charge to 114 miles per charge.  That’s an impressive 40% increase in range without increasing the physical size of the battery. The new battery is simply better, and more energy dense. The i3’s battery pack is comprised of 96 battery cells, packed 12  cells per module, with 8 individual modules. Each cell now holds 94 Amp-hour (94 Ah) of electricity, up from the 60 Ah cells used in the 2014 through 2016 i3s. The 2017 models will be available in the US within a few weeks, and I’ve already heard reports from new owners in Europe where they driven as far as 130 to 150 miles on a single charge with the new, improved battery.

i3 5

The intense competition within the industry is creating improvement in battery technology faster than ever before.

Battery improvements and increased electric range is happening across the industry. The 2011 Nissan LEAF had an EPA range rating of 73 miles per charge. The 2016 LEAF now has a 107 mile rating and by next year it’s rumored to jump up to approximately 200 miles. By the end of the year Chevrolet is introducing the all electric Bolt EV which will have a 200+ mile range and replace their current all electric offering, the Spark EV which has an 82 mile range. The 2016 Volt now has 50% more electric range than the 2012 model did. Sometime in late 2017, Tesla is scheduled to launch the 2018 Model 3, their affordable 200-mile electric sedan. However even with longer ranges, increasing the public infrastructure will be key in gaining market share, especially in the more rural areas of the country.

Before long, 200 miles of electric range will be the norm, and BMW will have to up the ante again. They know that, and their battery supplier, Samsung SDI is already far along in development of the next battery which will undoubtedly end up in future i3s. That being the 125 Ah cell which is not only much more energy dense than the current 94 Ah cells, but it’s also smaller and lighter. As EV ranges increase, and public charging infrastructure continues to mature, they’ll be less and less of a need to bother with the added complexity of a range extender. Sounds good to me, we’re just not quite there yet in my opinion. Extended range electric vehicles like the Volt and i3 REx are still a good choice for many who want to transition from gas to electric drive. There’s no magic bullet, the more options available, the healthier the plug in electric vehicle market will be.

Categories: BMW

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

75 Comments on "BMW i3 Goes 56,000 Miles On 50 Gallons Of Gas"

newest oldest most voted

That’s really good Tom, I’m at 59 gallons for 18K miles, 90% all electric

That’s great, Franky. But if you calculate what this means in *energy* terms it isn’t quite as impressive as it first seems. If we assume your consumption is similar to the article author’s, you have spent 18/55 * 15000 = 4909 kWh of electricity. 59 gallons of gas contain 59 * 33.7 kWh = 1988 kWh. Hence, Total consumption: 4909 + 1988 = 6897 kWh of which electric: 4909/6897 = 71.1% fossil fuels: 28.9% Nearly one third of the energy then is still from fossils. This just shows how near completely a hybrid has to cover the user’s needs in all-electric mode to achieve the kind of reductions we need. And your results is from the world’s BEST hybrid. GMs own numbers show that the second-best hybrid in the world – admittedly with more first-gen Volts than second-gen ones in the mix – has been driven in all-electric for only 40% of the miles. Think what that means in ENERGY terms. Then think of hybrids like BMW 330e, the X5 plug-in or Volvo XC90 plug-in. It is ridiculous to give vehicles like these preferential treatment as “green cars”, and yet many governments (including my own, in Norway) do just that.… Read more »

In your math, you should consider the losses of the potential energy in a gallon of gas(wastes, heat, friction etc), vs the efficiency of the electric drive.

uh yes, 223 litres/29k km, thatś really bad, shame on you Franky. You should be like Tera who lives in a cave, doesn’t eat hamburguers never shops at the mall, doesn’t use clothes, doesn’t use the Internet nor a calculator (uses an abacus instead), doesn’t read magazines and on and on. In fact, Franky my good friend, with that kind of energy usage, you would have been better off with a Camaro. Next time, do your calculations properly ok? Either you buy a bike or a Humvee. Anything in between is just ridiculous.

Please explain your “equation”.
Are you assuming that the electric power comes from fossil fuel? He could be powering with wind and solar.

Secondly, if he didn’t burn conventional gas, there’s a 20% of not having to refine oil into gas. Not to mention then lack of transportation of gas from a refinery to a gas station. You do know they use pipelines and trucks to move gas, correct?

Third, coal has dropped nationally to 30% of utility grid mix.

I snoozed somewhere in the middle of your nonsense.

You stay silent on the 96% of CO2 reduction, if we all did this, we would not only meet CO2 reduction goals, we would crushed them.

In my case, I reduced my carbon foot print by over 90%. (99% hydro-electricity here)

“Perfect can be the enemy of good”

GM does NOT say 40% of Volt miles are all-electric.

According to GM in their SAE technical paper #2015-01-1164, “In addition to confirming the 1st generation Chevrolet Volt provides substantial petroleum displacement through 74% [of total driven miles] all-electric driving, this in-use operating data was used to predict the 2nd generation Volt performance….projected to complete 80% of total miles driven using [only] electricity”.

I feel like the range extender is not something to be hidden away but to be proud about. It increases the possibilities of the EV rather than detract from it.
Thanks for the update.

yeah, but how many pizza boxes fit in the i3 vs the ActiveE or Mini-E 🙂

Great article!

As usual, great article! Sounds like you certainly made the right choice. For me the BEV has worked out OK (since my round trip commute is <20 miles and since my other car is a Tesla with ~250 range). That said, I don't think 50-80 miles of EV range is just not sustainable for most people and I sure hope to be able to upgrade my BEV battery when the time comes and the economics make sense.

Yep.. I highly considered an i3 before I bought my 2017 Volt. I had decided that with the current range I would have to get the Rex. But with the new i3 comming out with 114 miles of range, I think that is enough I could live with the BEV version just fine. Even in the winter it should have a dependable 90 miles of range or so.

also, that’s an interesting paint job on that thing.. I kept looking at the window curve thinking something seemed different.

Great report, great car. We would be driving an i3 Rex now, if not for the lack of coasting option. My wife hated the one foot driving feature.

Oh well, the Bolt does have that option, so it was all for the best. 🙂

Most important to me was small size, and efficiency, followed by sporty feel. I will be very interested to see how close the Bolt comes for EPA MPGe.

I coast everyday with my i3, it just take little time to get use to it.

You have to keep your foot very still on the pedal to do it. Medical issues make that painful.

Sorry about that.

But what you are saying, it’s not impossible, in fact it is very much possible, available, but due to your condition, you can’t do it.

You may want to reconsider the Bolt after Paris though! 😀

The 2017 LEAF and ZOE will both get very close to the Bolt if you look at how far it will go on highways at near constant speed. Both have better aero than the Bolt, so their smaller battery packs (of 46 kWh gross capacity, 40 kWh useable) gives a misleading impression of the gap. I expect at least 90% of the highway range of the Bolt.

If, like most people, you will need the full range only on longer trips, and if on those trips you’ll be driving at highway speeds, you may find that choosing a Leaf or Zoe will result in a very good hourly pay for the few extra charing minutes per year you will spend.

Had $99 down on a Leaf years ago. Test drive ended interest. It out Corolla’d my wife’s Corolla. The Zoe is a great car…just unavailable in US.

Great job Tom!

Keep it up.

I can’t wait for your reporting at 100K EV miles.

Well done Tom.

I was strongly considering the i3, but the low range killed it for me. I’m very happy to see the new 33KWh battery and look forward to the future 200 mile BEVs.

Very interesting report Tom. Congratulations on your 96% electric milage 🙂

Tom, we finally had an i3 Rex show up at work two days ago. The owner could not figure out why he was only charging at 6 amps, even after reading the owners manual. We got him straightened out of course. That makes 9 EVs at work now, 5 of them in the last 12 months. We just went from 4 charging spots (120 V) to 8 spots (four with 208 V like you have at the restaurant). For the first three years, mine was the only EV at work.

“That being the 125 Ah cell which is not only much more energy dense than the current 94 Ah cells, but it’s also smaller and lighter.”

Just curios where this news came from in the picture I saw from a show they appeared to be the same size…

Good article.
The EREV technology in the i3 and the Volt are excellent designs.

IMO it needs to be adapted to a bigger platform/weight vehicle though… to serve its purpose most effectively.

A car as small as the i3 should just be all electric. There is no reason for the RE.

50 gallons = 1000 lbs or ½ ton of CO2. Sorry, but PHEVs are good when compared to the current norm, but are slowing the conversion away from burning dinosaurs. They exist not to promote a transition to EV, but to give automakers justification to delay it.

Yet, you stay silent on the 96% of CO2 reduction, if we all did this, we would not only meet CO2 reduction goals, we would crushed them.

I reduced my carbon foot print by over 90%.

Perfect can be the enemy of good.

While I agree that the 20 mile PHEVs are just delay tactics and compliance moves, the i3 REx and Volt are good gateways to EVs and I would bet that most owners will move to a 200 mile EV as their next car. Ever heard of gas anxiety?

There is a large portion of this country that has extremely limited charging infrastructure. There are less than ten L2 charging stations within an 80 mile radius of my house. I drive a BEV, but if I didn’t have other ICE vehicles at my disposal, I couldn’t own one.

EREV’s are the gateway drug to all-electric driving for people who don’t live in large cities.

Sweet news. Hope with the i3 MY-2017, many customers will go more distance on less gas.

5800 miles on my i3 REX, still have 95% of original tank the gas.
Range extended started a couple times right before I reached to my destination, if I can turn it off, I will be driving 100% full electric at this point.

> I’ve needed a little over 15,000 kWh of electricity, and exactly 50 gallons of gas to power the vehicle thus far. Ouch. It SOUNDS so good when you put it like that, doesn’t it?? The energy content of a US gallon of gasoline is 33.7 kWh. So you’ve actually spent exactly 16,850 kWh from gasoline – versus 15,000 or so from electricity. Another excellent example why hybrids are not the way to go. Don’t get me wrong though. The i3 Rex and the Volt, in that order, are the greenest hybrids in existence. If your alternatives were ICEVs or lesser hybrids you’ve certainly made the greenest choice you could. I’m merely trying to convince people of two things: 1) Hybrids are a transitional thing at best, and only when they offer significant all-electric range. Parallels hybrids (that offer reduced performance in all-electric mode) are bad. 2) We should never lump hybrids in the “EV” category (this is no more accurate than lumping them in “ICE” – they are HYBRIDS of the two for heavens sake!), but take care to maintain a distinction. The Volt is on average driving 60% of all miles – much more in energy terms then… Read more »

Ouch ouch! Immediately after posting I realized I’ve made an order of magnitude mistake here..! I’ve put 500 and not 50 into my calculator.

With your use, the i3 is indeed in the ballpark it needs to be in order not to make any serious mistake by regarding it as an EV. You’ve spent 1685 kWh from fossils – about 10% of the total.

I kind of ruined my own point here, but when we look at hybrids as a class there is zero doubt that the vast majority of their energy still comes from fossils. The Volt numbers show it, and nearly all hybrids are far worse than this second-best hybrid on the market.

Doing the tar and feather routine when his gasoline usage is .00089 gallons per mile his car has traveled since new just feels wrong. I too want a BEV, but I’m not quite there yet. The money versus range problem has not made sense to me yet. I intend to concert in about 12 – 18 months. Until then, 56k miles in my Prius with a lifetime average of 51 mpg means I have burned 1098.039 gallons of gas covering the distance Tom covered with 50 gallons.

I say, “Kudos to Tom!”

Even with corrected math, your calculation is silly. What matters is gasoline usage vs. a similar, non-plug vehicle. Anyone who cuts gas usage 90% (like Franky) or more (like Tom) is a hero. Even a 75% cut, like the average Volt owner, is a massive leap in the right direction.

You’ll never get anywhere setting up the perfect as the enemy of the good.

A lot of congratulating here and that is appropriate. But all choices matter and I wouldn’t be writing an article about how good I’m doing that mentions my monstrosity of a yard.

50 gallons a year to mow a yard? And that is running with very little emissions controls. I remember in my early days of civic hybrid ownership that I suspected mowing my small yard meant more pollution that my driving. So I switched to electric mower.

So this writer used 75 gallons (give or take) in the last year. I guess that is better than average but 75 more than a lot of EV owners. Maybe not something to brag about.

Several choices to allow the yard to go natural.

I have an electric mower. I have had it for almost 30 years now (my dad’s originally). Still works great, just need to be careful with the enormous cable but one gets used to it.

We only cut a third of an acre with ours, but our neighbor cuts a bigger yard than Tom’s…both with this amazingly good design.

I agree with David here. Get rid of all that grass, or switch to electric yard maintenance

Face it, you guys aren’t keeping up with the Maloughney’s.

Consider the opposite perspective, and the damage caused by making the good the enemy of the perfect. I sense a fine line to sanctimony, here. I burned more gas in a “track weekend”, than the 100 gallons my Volt used all year. I get it, too, but what you’ll end up with “all battery, or forget it” is “stonewalled” and more pollution.

I’m not asking anybody here the compromises of an electric lawn mower, for the typical 15,000 foot lawn, and I won’t tell anybody the way I use a car is the way they should, too. Rant over.

Great post Tom,

I think you’ve done a great job expressing your point of view. Personally, I think it’s great that both GM and BMW are giving consumers the option to choose a BEV or a EREV.

One size does not fit all.

That’s AWESOME! Personally, I’m a pure EV guy because I have a big solar PV array and I don’t want to deal with an ICE. However, I still think that PHEVs (or EREVs if your prefer) will be the main way that most people will first move into plug-in vehicles.

The Chevy Volt and i3 deserves much better sales. GM NEEDS to put that Voltec drivetrain into more vehicle types (pick-ups, minivans, SUVs, large sedans, etc.).

I’d like to say that I haven’t burned any fossil fuels in my non-gasoline fleet of cars, but that’s just not true. I burned a butt load last night in the back of a Boeing 737-800… hybrid transport, if you will. Sometimes it’s all electric, and sometimes its with a whole bunch of dead dinosaurs. I will proudly pronounce the future death of hybrid cars, however. Many things will make that happen: 1) INCREASED CHARGING INFRASTRUCTURE – the infrastructure has rapidly expanded in the past 5 years (from nearly nothing), and I suspect that the rate will continue to increase for the next 5 years of more. Within a generation, charging will be ubiquitous in the developed areas of the USA. Yes, truly rural areas like where I grew up in western Montana will be a generation behind, just like they are with everything else (for instance, we never got cable TV… it jumped from broadcast to satellite dish). 2) INCREASED BATTERY SIZE – As batteries physically get larger in the cars, WITHOUT ANY FANCY NEW TECHNOLOGY, they car charge at a much faster rate (more kW, or more miles added per hour). Obviously, these larger batteries are strictly a… Read more »

I send my regards to a very informative and well-written article, as someone who has yet not owned a car and lives in Sweden where our EV options are just beginning to get real, I really enjoyed reading your stuff.


Hi Tom, I really enjoyed reading the article. From my point of view one interesting fact is missing, excuse me if I didn’t see it.
Do you have a number for how much you paid for charging, in other words how much did the 15000 kWh cost you?

Interesting article, but the main thing I walked away with was: For the sake of the planet (and any appreciation of energy or resource efficiency), you’ve got to let that lawn go. Man, what a waste of both fuel and water.

Your an idiot. Lawns rock. Roll-Coal!