BMW i3 Is Still The Most Fuel-Efficient Car In The U.S.


BMW i3

BMW i3

Spark EV

Spark EV

No electric car has been able to knock the BMW i3 BEV off its pedestal as the U.S. most fuel-efficient car.

Since its launch back in mid-2014, the BMW i3 BEV took hold of the most fuel-efficient title and has been unchallenged.

Yes, there are vehicles that are nearly as efficient as the i3, but it seems no other automaker is interested in grabbing the title from BMW.

The BMW i3 is unique in that it’s mostly carbon fiber reinforced plastic and aluminum. This setup keeps weight to a minimum and allows the i3 to be ultra-efficient.

Here’s a rundown (via BMWBLOG) of the Top 10 most fuel-efficient cars sold in the U.S. for 2016:

10. Tesla Model S, electric, $71,200, 101 mpg.

9. Kia Soul Electric, electric, $31,950, 105 mpg.

8. Ford Focus Electric, electric, $29,170, 105 mpg.

7. Smart ForTwo EV, electric, $25,000, 107 mpg.

6 Mitsubishi i-MiEV, electric, $22,995, 112 mpg.

5. Fiat 500E, electric, $32,300, 112 mpg.

4. Nissan Leaf, electric, $29,010, 114 mpg.

3. Volkswagen e-Golf, electric, $28,995, 116 mpg.

2. Chevy Spark EV, electric, $25,995, 119 mpg.

1. BMW i3 BEV, electric, $43,395, 124 mpg.


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68 Comments on "BMW i3 Is Still The Most Fuel-Efficient Car In The U.S."

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The unrivaled i3.

For the money the Spark seems to be a much better deal. Same 0-60 and much, much, less expensive, and almost equally efficient.
I am not sure unrivaled really is an accurate use of terminology.

The Spark , A Totally better choice in every sense of the word .

Front-wheel drive, torsion-beam rear suspension

You meant Torture-beam rear suspension.
Can’t understand why it’s so difficult to get a real suspension on these cars. Crude suspensions don’t test well and don’t sell cars.

Honda went downhill dropping independent suspensions. It hurt Civic and Insight sales.

Yes driving the two back to back makes you realize how far superior the suspension in the RWD i3 is in putting down the power. No torque steer like the Spark or even a tire chirp. I consistently get 0-60 in 6.4-6.5 seconds with the Vbox, matching the Car and Driver test results.

Ran many times against my friend 2014 Spark EV. His car feels faster because of all the drama, but there is no comparison:

Last night, came across a Camaro (304HP V6, with exhaust, unknown mods). He was revving his engine next to me. Sorry about the camera view, he never caught up to come within view. But you can hear his engine fading away. But it is priceless to hear the driver in the end say: “That thing is fast!” and “My car gets 17 miles per gallon”.

Kind of funny hearing people state the i3 might be the most efficient car, but it is so slow. It is only the quickest car in it compact EV class.

Except the Spark is not available everywhere it’s only available in a handful of states and I would imagine it’s even worse outside the United States. The Spark is purely compliance, yes it may be good but it’s no good if we can’t buy it in every State. And The Spark is also butt ugly.

AFAIK the Spark EV is only sold in the US and South Korea, possibly in Canada as well this year.
I think it was intended to be more of a pilot car (with real consumers, as opposed to an engineering-only prototype), so more than a compliance car but less than a fully-marketed car. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like GM is going to fully market it.

SparkEV is sold in CA, OR, MD for $26K (pre subsidy). In Canada and Mexico, it’s sold for $24K, cheaper than in US! Canada is even cheaper as that price comes with DCFC option. One could make some money if they can import SparkEV from Canada to US, assuming if they’re not sold out in Canada.

Sorry, but that is NOT correct. The Spark EV starts at $33,945 in Canada.

Nobody worry if the math isn’t instantly intuitive, but just for fun, let’s quantify dollars per MPGe. This ignores the differences in luxury and range, etc. This is just what vehicle gives you the most MPGe for your dollar. The smaller (least number of dollars) spent per mile of efficiency wins. Lower price and higher MPGe rating both improve a car’s score: 10. Tesla Model S, electric, 704 $/MPGe 9. BMW i3 BEV, electric, 350 $/MPGe 8. Kia Soul Electric, electric, 304 $/MPGe 7. Fiat 500E, electric, 289 $/MPGe 6. Ford Focus Electric, electric, 278 $/MPGe 5. Nissan Leaf, electric, 254 $/MPGe 4. Volkswagen e-Golf, electric, 250 $/MPGe 3. Smart ForTwo EV, electric, 233 $/MPGe 2. Chevy Spark EV, electric, 218 $/MPGe 1. Mitsubishi i-MiEV, electric, 205 $/MPGe Number 2 again for the Spark EV, but the i3 takes a hit, going to 9th. Conclusion: If you are already planning on buying an expensive car, the i3 is a very efficient choice. But if you are looking for efficiency to save money, the expensive up front price of the i3 is a big strike against the i3. (Note, this was pretty quick and dirty math. The right way would probably… Read more »

So the eGolf should get another look, but the i3 is still King.
Can’t beat that Range Extender optoin.

Insane Electric Torque

i3 can be with 10-12kWh battery and will have better MPGe, lower weight and lower price, but with 40 miles range. :DDDDDD
What MPGe i3 will have with heavier 60-70kWh battery pack?

As with another article from insideevs, you’re only looking at range per charge. i3 is a performance car, so it should take performance into account (as well as price and range). I have such comparisons using CA post subsidy pricing in my “ev ranking” blog post. i3 not the bottom when ranked as such. Link may not show, so you may have to search for ev ranking.

SparkEV — Yup, that’s exactly the kind of more detailed analysis I was talking about in my post. You link is much more detailed than my quicky 10 minute post I threw together just to illustrative purposes to compare just price and MPGe (intentionally ignoring all other factors).

How in God’s green earth can you call i3 a “performance car”?!

Compared to gas cars costing less than half it’s price, it is slow. Did you forget the Autocar track test where a $17,000 Suzuki hatchback was eight seconds faster around a track?

You i3 guys have bought into a lot of fantasy. There are scads of parameters by which one could typify a “performance car”. I cannot see even one that would include BMW’s quirky, expensive attempt at a consumer-grade EV.

US Car manufacturers count on luring in buyers with slightly lower pricing compared to European or Japanese cars. But one day that car will not be new and then they have you. Also, if you are any kind of driving enthusiast, there is no comparison between a BMW and a Chevy. And I agree, the Chevy IS butt-ugly.

Actually, i3 BEV is lot quicker than SparkEV in 0-60. I think i3 BEV is 6.5 sec, i3 REx 7.2 sec, SparkEV 7.2 sec.

Official i3 numbers are 0-60 in 7.0 seconds for the EV version, 7.9 seconds for the REx version.

Unofficially, compared to manufacturers such as GM, BMW is known for underrating their Horsepower and 0-60 times. The German manufacturers often come close to their “official” horsepower ratings at the rear wheels instead of the crank.

I seem to remember some place in Europe used to base your insurance rates partially on the horsepower rating of the vehicle, so many European car companies sand-bagged their HP ratings to appeal to consumers.

I don’t know of that practice still exists (or even if my memory is 100% accurate — don’t get old….)

Spark is slower than i3; very similar acceleration to the fiat 500e.

It is efficient but not just due to the materials.
It’s really slow. Which is fine with me, but some might find the increase in efficiency by giving up any semblance of quickness a bridge too far.

What’s really slow? The i3? You are nuts. Have you driven one?

LOL, makes you wonder what he thinks of the Leaf!

The i3 has plenty of acceleration. It is small and had lightweight materials and sub 100-mile range battery.

I think what will probably blow people’s minds is how inefficient the Bolt is compared to the i3.

The Bolt will be bigger & heavier than the i3 and the Spark EV, so I don’t think anyone is expecting it to have a better MPGe than those cars.

However the Bolt should take the #1 spot in the list made by Nix.
Net Cost / EV miles
$30,000 / 200
= $150/mile

Well, we don’t know the MPGe of the Bolt yet. I was doing a slightly different calculation than that. I was doing price divided by MPGe, and that math is price divided by range.

But it is still a very impressive number. If I were to redo the math using the post federal rebate price divided by range, I’m certain that the Bolt would be the winner.

Until the base stripper version of the Tesla Model 3 goes into production, and gives it a solid run for the money.

Well efficiency is fun but totally unimportant by its own. If it doesn’t solve the problem it is set to solve it just a curious side effect. Worth noting but really nothing important.

Really slow? Are you out of your mind? No one drives the i3 and comes away saying “gee, that car is slow…”

You would be nuts to drive it on the Autobahn, for instance. Limited top speed, ok, it’s not slow to you guys, but at 8 seconds to 60, I would not call that fast either.

Wrong number. It is fast compared to the leaf, prius phv, volt … it has low power compared to a model S 70d. Not slow at all. Battery is small for a long autobahn trip, but I’m sure it can handle itself on the ultra safe german highways.

I Understand it tops 0ut @ 72 mph…autobahn? l m a o

You don’t understand much. Top speed: ~93 mph

I’m driving i3 on German highway with no sweat. 140+ km/h and pretty good take off. It is not worse than my Civic. Range around 100 km is enough. I can charge at work.
With the new battery capacity option I will add the REX to the package and use it also for weekends trips.

Less than 7 seconds to 60 mph.

Have you ever been on the Autobahn? I have and have driven my i3 there numerous times (there is no avoiding it when you want to go to other cities in reasonable time). Not sure if you’re aware, but Autobahn is just the German word for Highway/Freeway, nothing special. Vehicles that has a max speed of more than 60km/h is allowed to enter. A lot of parts also have speed limits of 120 or even 100 close to cities.

I have driven my i3 in various speeds but never with any fear. When I need all the range I drive at 93km/h with the Trucks on the right, but when that is not a concern it even handles really well at the (electronically limited) top speed of 150km/h.

No I know that it’s not all a high speed vehicle traffic, though some would say the original Model S was not ready for the Autobahn either, and it was much faster with longer range.
Good information. If it works for you that’s fine. I was just thinking that a top speed of 93 mph would be pretty slow for the

All trucks on the right lane are limited to 80km/h, which means they actually drive at 93km/h, which is perfect for low-energy EV driving. Unless there is no traffic this is the normal speed for the right lane.
In my experience I think that less than 10% of drivers ever drive faster than around 130, even when there is no speed limit.

I was comparing it to the least efficient vehicle in the list, the Tesla. So a sin of omission.
I meant in relative terms, not absolute. I neglected to complete the sentence.


“It’s really slow.”

The BMW i3 is “slow”? As compared to what? A Tesla? Well yeah, but then what isn’t?

I dunno what you’ve been driving, but the BMW i3 is far from “slow”. According to the article linked below, it’s one of the 7 fastest production electric cars:

How Anyone can compare THAT! to a Tesla or even put it near a Tesla , Let alone,on the same page & talk about it , is Beyond Me! ha ha ha .l o l..Koo Koo koo Koo.(*&^%$#@!#$%&*)

Anyone who doesn’t want to drive a huge, heavy (almost 5,000 lb!) would put the light, nimble, compact i3 on the same page.

Most people don’t want a car as big, heavy, and expensive as a tesla. IMHO they want something more like the model 3 than an i3, but people will buy either until what they really want arrives. Sales of the model S of course are highest, but get rid of the stupid BEVx small gas tank, a 4 door midsized EREV sports sedan with 90 or so electric miles might be what the market needs.

Not “Most Fuel-Efficient”, should read “Most Energy-Efficient”.

Electrons can not be oxidized as fuel … they just flow from one energy level to another as ions. So yes, BMW i3 is most efficient when driven in fully electric mode; but burning fuel drops energy-efficiency below that of other all-electric vehicles.

* this may be nitpick but, getting the science right matters in engineering.

Exactly! Thank you, this drives me nuts too. These are plugin electric cars and their efficiency/consumption is measured in units of electric energy, watt-hour (or joule if you insist), not in gallons of something they don’t use, which is the whole point of them.

Brian, while you are absolutely, 100% entirely correct, have you considered the possibility that engineers are not the exclusive target audience of a place called “BMW Blog”?

I’m all in favor of getting the science right. But I’m even more in favor of getting Mass Market buyers interested in EV’s. And the BMW Blog post is on a board hosted for ALL of the different kinds of BMW owners. From i3 to M3 to X6 M.

I don’t have any problem with talking to a target audience in a language they can understand. The truth is that WE want to reach out the THEM, and if that means we have to talk their language, we need to be willing to do that. Meet them half way.

So whether it is saying “fuel efficient”, or saying 124 MPGe instead of saying the more scientifically accurate 124 miles per 33.7 kilowatts of electricity, at some point we have to be willing to speak to them in their language.

I always hear this apology anytime someone points out the absurdity of MPGe. It is you who are committing an injustice, enabling an uninformed society who you assume won’t get it.

I’ll believe the mass market will understand the way Engineers would choose to describe things only after:

1) EV fans decide they will make the effort to understand MPGe == The number of actual measured miles driven on 33.7 kWh of electricity, and isn’t anything mystical.
2) The Mass Market adopts the Engineer’s preferred units for distance, the Kilometer.

Until then, I’ll continue to firmly believe that the vast majority don’t want to bend or change a single inch. Sorry, I’m sort of jaded and cynical about how resistant people are in general. Kinda like people and politics.

Nix said: “I don’t have any problem with talking to a target audience in a language they can understand. The truth is that WE want to reach out the THEM, and if that means we have to talk their language, we need to be willing to do that. Meet them half way.” Thank goodness this pattern of spoon-feeding the general public didn’t exist back in the days when the motorcar was a new thing, replacing the horse. If it was, we might be stuck with some nonsensical metric like “bales of hay per day equivalent” or some such, instead of the useful metric MPG. “MPGe” is just that sort of nonsensical metric. The sooner everyone quits trying to pretend EVs are just a new type of gasmobile that uses a special fuel, and the sooner we quit using “MPGe”, the better for everyone. The proper metric for an EV’s energy usage is miles/kWh. No, that’s nothing like measuring energy efficiency in MPG… which is as it should be. The public needs to be educated on the important differences between gasmobiles and EVs, not have those differences papered over. Furthermore: Drivers of the Volt, and other EV advocates, need to remember… Read more »

Brian_Henderson said:

“Not ‘Most Fuel-Efficient’, should read ‘Most Energy-Efficient’.”

Thank you Brian!

Plus, writing as though electricity is “fuel” leads to further idiocies, such as the highly misleading “MPGe” metric, which pretends that EVs are just gasmobiles which use a special kind of fuel.

EVs don’t work like gasmobiles. Gasmobiles get better energy efficiency (MPG) on the highway; EVs get better energy efficiency (miles/kWh) in low speed or stop-and-go driving.

Let us please not pretend the differences don’t matter, or that they’re not important.

“EVs don’t work like gasmobiles. Gasmobiles get better energy efficiency (MPG) on the highway; EVs get better energy efficiency (miles/kWh) in low speed or stop-and-go driving.”

That depends on the EV:

2015 Tesla Model S AWD – 90D
95 City
106 Highway


Thanks for that absolutely perfect example of what nonsense we get from the EPA regarding EV energy efficiency — and why MPGe is such a useless metric! I mean, really? Do I take it that the EPA is really trying to tell us that the Tesla Model S gets better range from highway driving than from lower-speed, stop-and-go driving? If so, that’s facepalm embarrassing for them! Not to mention Ludicrous™.

Now, if we want something that’s actually useful for indicating the Model S’s energy consumption vs. speed, something that’s close to real-world performance, we might try this:

Insane Electric Torque

i3 can be use less energy if lose battery weight with 10-12 kWh and then the soap-dish on wheels will have 40 miles range.

I wonder the Renault Zoe would be. That car is super efficient and would probably contest the BMW I3 for first.

I would argue that those numbers are EPA or whatever testing, not real world. And a good chunk of the reason for good efficiency is thin thin tires. They are not loved by many.

Of course weight helps but I’d like to see a test where you take a Model S and put the smallest safe tires on. Maybe 175s. Then run the S and i3 on a 50 mile trip at 70 mph.

I’m betting the difference in electron usage is very very small.

Heck even the EPA has them at 10% difference on the highway. Change the methodology and change the tires and that 10% goes away.

I get that city efficiency is important but not at the expense of handling/consumer expectations with those tires. Get people into compelling or at least inexpensive EVs first then worry about 20% efficiency gains.

Two biggest thinks that affect fuel economy.
-Rolling Resistance

Thinner tires help both.
The BMW i3 was built to, accelerate, handle, and ride like a BMW PLUS have Maximum Efficiency.

It’s like an Engineer designed it or something.

Yup, people don’t understand that the 20″ wheels are actually pretty heavy for how skinny they are. However, the large radius gives a decent size contact patch, and helps to smooth out the ride. The skinny cross section helps with aerodynamics. So yes, it sounds like an engineer actually understood this to be a crucial part of the design philosophy.

Standard on the i3 are 19″ tires (at least in US). You pay extra for 20″ as for many attractive features. Not that I have any idea how much better 20″ traction is compared to 19″.

Around town, light weigh is absolutely crucial to high efficiency. Consumer reports just did a real life MPGe test comparison. The Tesla was mid 60’s, compared to the i3 being over 135MPGe. Of roughly DOUBLE!

I doubt really think skinny tires on a Tesla would make up that difference. Of course, at higher speeds, aerodynamics plays a larger role, unless you are going up hill.

DavidCary said:

“I’m betting the difference in electron usage is very very small.

“Heck even the EPA has them at 10% difference on the highway. Change the methodology and change the tires and that 10% goes away.”

The Tesla Model S is a large, heavy, high performance car. The BMW i3 is a smaller, significantly lighter car with more modest performance.

The i3 is noticeably more energy efficient, period. The type of tires doesn’t have that much to do with it.

And about those EPA ratings: The range ratings seem to be pretty close to the real-world reality. But the EPA’s MPGe ratings seem to be assigned at random, useless for comparisons and having little relationship to real-world driving.

I was able to get 96 miles on a single charge using 17.4 kWh in my 2014 spark EV. I happen to also own a 2014 i3 BEV. I think it’s possible to achieve this also in the i3, but would require consistent driving at 55 MPH. It seems that not being able to coast on declines in the i3 is an issue. I can go for miles sometimes at a time in the spark using very little energy consumption and being able to regen, but in the i3 the regen is so strong that I’m forced to stay on the accelerator pedal just to keep from slowing down. The spark EV is the most bang for your buck EV you can lease or purchase.

There is a “middle” position in the accelerator where you’re coasting before you’re regenning.

No, I can’t lease or purchase a Spark EV.

Why should anyone need to continuously adjust their foot in a “middle position” and look at the instrument cluster to do something simple such as coast down a hill?
Regen should be an optional thing. I find myself putting the car in neutral going down a grade to replicate this feature which is common among other EV’s. I love it other than this issue.

BMW way makes single pedal driving much easier (and you can use the neutral if you really need to coast a long way). If you are the type that is used to part throttle application, it’s not a big deal to keep the middle position (assuming BMW pedal has good mapping, which may not necessarily be the case).

For some people though, the throttle pedal is more similar to “on-off” so it makes less sense to have regen on the accelerator pedal.

Adding the Rex during the cold winter months kills the efficiency – in fact it just has to be the most INEFFICIENT car then, at least as far as cabin heating goes.

The curious thing is that I’m not aware of a SINGLE performance nor mileage test with the heater on high and the engine running in cold weather, something which would surely happen around here, and prospective buyers would want to know what kind of mileage they’d get out of that miniscule fuel take with the heater running on high.

Do I3 owners just absolutely refuse to do the test or something? Its one of the first things I would do.