BMW i3 REx Lawsuit: How’d This Happen & Who’s at Fault

JUN 3 2016 BY TOM MOLOUGHNEY 102

Recently news has spread of a class action lawsuit filed in the state of California by MLG Automotive Law alleging that the BMW i3 REx is dangerous and “can result in a catastrophic situation for all those on the road.”

Tom Moloughney In His 2014 BMW i3 REx (pre-wrap)

Tom Moloughney In His 2014 BMW i3 REx (pre-wrap)

This, in my opinion, is grossly misleading. However in fairness, to say the vehicle can be driven like any other car while the range extender is in use is also grossly misleading. To understand the juxtaposition of those two statements takes some explanation.

The truth is, the plaintiffs aren’t making this up. What they are describing in the lawsuit is called “Reduced Power Mode” and it can happen under certain strenuous circumstances when the vehicle continues, for a prolonged period, to consume more power than the range extender can provide. In this post I’m going to attempt to explain why and when this can happen, how this became an issue, and what could have been done to prevent it from getting to the point of a lawsuit.

*Editor’s note: This post also appears on Tom’s blog. Check it out here.

Far and away the most misunderstood aspect of the BMW i3 is its range extender. Ever since early February 2011, when BMW’s Financial Officer Frederick Eichinerto announced that the i3 (then known as the Megacity Vehicle) would have an optional gasoline motor to extend the vehicle’s range, there have been questions. I remember early adopter electric vehicle enthusiasts speculating over the potential efficiency and power output of the motor on numerous online forums and EV news sites. I was in fact, one of them.

The 650cc two cylinder range extender sits next to the electric motor over the rear axle.

The 650cc two cylinder range extender sits next to the electric motor over the rear axle.

Fast forward to 2016, two and a half years after the i3 launched and most people still don’t really understand the i3’s range extender. That’s because it’s different than anything on any other car sold. No other OEM before or after has offered an optional range extender on an electric vehicle, allowing the customer to decide which form (BEV or extended range PHEV) better suits their personal driving needs. BMW designed the vehicle with as small, as efficient, and as light weight a range extender as they could, while still delivering the power necessary to perform its task. The problem is, it’s unclear to many owners what exactly its task is, and therein lies the rub.

BMW i3 REx at a Motorway Charging Stattion

BMW i3 REx at a Motorway Charging Stattion

If you ask BMW, they’ll tell you the range extender is an APU (auxiliary power unit), and its primary function is to extend the range of the vehicle, in order to get the driver home safely or to the next charge point, without worrying about being stranded with a depleted battery. The range extender is not a fully capable large engine, as found in series-hybrid type vehicles such as the Chevy Volt.

Vehicles like the Volt can run indefinitely without the need to ever actually plug it in to charge it, while the i3 REx, cannot. However it’s unclear if the majority of i3 REx customers actually realize that. It seems many believe the i3’s range extender is supposed to operate like the Volt’s range extender, to power the vehicle as long as necessary and under any circumstance needed, and that’s simply not the way BMW engineered this vehicle.

BMW i3 product manager Jose Guerrero once said he viewed the range extender as being “almost like training wheels for the BEV.” I’ve spoken to Guerrero extensively about this, and he’s consistently referred to the range extender as a backup system which is meant to keep the driver from having range anxiety, and worrying whether or not they’ll make it home.

The i3 was the first, and still is the only vehicle that is classified by the California Air Resource Board (CARB) as a “BEVx” vehicle.  According to CARB, a BEVx vehicle is,”a relatively high-electric range battery-electric vehicle (BEV) to which an APU is added.” Additionally, the vehicle must meet the following criteria:

  • The vehicle must have a rated all-electric range of at least 75 miles
  • The auxiliary power unit must provide range less than, or at most equal to, that of the battery range
  • The APU must not be capable of switching on until the battery charge has been depleted
  • The vehicle must meet “super ultra low emission vehicle” (SULEV) requirements
  • The APU and all associated fuel systems must comply with zero evaporative emissions requirements

I highlighted the third line because this is really the crux of the issue which has caused this class action lawsuit. BMW designed the software on the i3 to allow the customer to manually turn on the range extender once the state of charge was below 75%, recognizing the occasional need to hold back extra energy in the battery pack for later in the journey when they would need it.

By selecting this “Hold Mode”, the range extender will turn on and hold the state of charge at that level, or close to it, depending on the current power draw. The Chevrolet Volt has a similar feature to accomplish the same result which is to reserve electric power for later in the journey when the driver expects they may need it.  Because of this, a Volt can climb any mountain road in North America without issue, as long as the driver properly uses this feature.

There it is! 85.5% state of charge - only US customers don't get to see it!

There it is! 85.5% state of charge – only US customers don’t get to see it!

However, if BMW allowed the i3 REx customers in California to have access to a REx hold mode, the vehicle wouldn’t qualify as a BEVx vehicle. It would then be classified as a plug in hybrid (PHEV) in the Transitional Zero Emission Vehicle (TZEV) class. In that case, BMW would lose thousands of dollars in zero emission vehicle credits for every vehicle sold, because BEVx vehicles are treated as pure battery electric cars, and thus get the maximum ZEV credits.

Of course BMW could have placed the restrictions only on the cars they sold in California and other CARB states to qualify as a BEVx, and sold the car everywhere else with a hold mode as they do in Europe, but it was explained to me that they didn’t believe selling the car which operated differently in different states in the same country was prudent.

So in order to comply with the BEVx rules, BMW modified the software on all cars sold in the US. This modification eliminated the hold mode option. The range extender therefore only turns on when the state of charge is 6.5%, and the driver has no control over it. They also had to limit the amount of gasoline available from 2.4 gallons to 1.9 gallons to make sure that the all electric range was less than the range while running on gasoline, another criteria of the BEVx classification.

BMW i3 REx Gas Tank Location

BMW i3 REx Gas Tank Location

So even though the gas tank could hold 2.4 gallons, only 1.9 gallons is available to the driver. This modification caused the delay of releasing the range extended i3 to the US customers back in 2014. I was one of the customers whose car was held up at the port so BMW could modify the software, and print the Monroney label for the window.

Even though the range extender turns on at such a low SOC, the little 34hp motor can keep up with the power demand under most conditions. I’ve driven my i3 REx on quite a few trips which covered hundreds of miles without any issue, even though it wasn’t ideally designed for that type of use.

It’s been my experience that I can set the cruise control for 70 mph and the range extender can supply the needed power to allow me to drive indefinitely on relatively flat terrain, even climbing a few hundred of feet in elevation from time to time. However, I’ve noticed if I drive faster than 70mph after a while the state of charge will erode, and the possibility of the car entering reduced power mode is introduced.

For that reason, whenever I’m driving long distance on the range extender I keep an eye on the SOC, and slow down a little when I begin a long, sustained climb. For me, the beauty of the range extender is it means I never have to worry about coming up short on range. If I pull up to a public charging station and it’s broken or being used, I can still continue driving without having to drastically alter my plans.

Where I live and drive the terrain is relatively flat, and as such a hold mode isn’t really as necessary. However driving in areas that have long sustained climbs, especially where the vehicle will be traveling at highway speeds, the operator could certainly benefit from a hold mode. This would allow the driver to engage the range extender at a higher state of charge, reserving the extra energy needed to complete the climb.

Despite calls from some armchair engineers, in my opinion the i3 doesn’t need a larger engine. Doing so would add weight and reduce efficiency. The 650cc engine is fine for just about any use, the only exceptions being prolonged high speed (over 70mph) driving, and long, sustained hill climbs which are many miles long at highway speeds. European i3 owners don’t seem to have any issues because they can switch the range extender on early if they believe they will need the extra battery reserve at a later time in their journey.

So what can US i3 owners do to alleviate the problem? Many have resorted to coding their car which will restore the hold mode. It’s a relatively simple procedure, but one that can possibly void the vehicle’s warranty. Although whether or not doing so can void a new vehicle warranty has been disputed by some in the vehicle coding community. Coding the car not only restores the hold mode, but can also allow full use of the car’s 2.4 gallon gas tank.

Even though the car actually has a 2.4 gallon gas tank, BMW restricted the amount of gas available to 1.9 gallons through software. Had they left the entire 2.4 gallons accessible, the range on gasoline would be slightly greater than the electric range, and therefore not qualify for the BEVx designation.

Even though the car actually has a 2.4 gallon gas tank, BMW restricted the amount of gas available to 1.9 gallons through software. Had they left the entire 2.4 gallons accessible, the range on gasoline would be slightly greater than the electric range, and therefore not qualify for the BEVx designation.

I’ve never coded my i3, because I’ve never had the problem of the car going into reduced power mode. I understand the limitations of the range extender, I watch my state of charge and if I see it getting dangerously low I simply slow down a little. That said, I do understand that many owners don’t know how the REx works, and expect it to be able to do anything, under any condition, which it cannot.

The APU isn’t a large engine that one would expect to find in a car. It’s actually a BMW scooter engine which was modified to act as a generator for the i3. That said, with the proper use of a hold mode, the vehicle is capable of climbing any mountain road in North America, as proven by i3 owner and engineer John Higham, when he set out to prove just that by climbing 7,228 feet to Donner Summit in Lake Tahoe last year. John proved the i3’s engine is robust enough to power the car up any incline at highway speeds, as long as the operator had access to, and properly used a hold mode.

So what’s the problem? Why doesn’t BMW just sell the car in the US as they do in Europe, and allow the hold mode and solve the problem. They may eventually have to if the lawsuit is successful, but until they are forced to as mentioned before, it’s all about the extremely valuable CARB credits. BMW (along with Chrysler and Volkswagen) lobbied hard to convince CARB to create the BEVx class in the first place. GM was right there with them, but was unsuccessful in trying to convince CARB to relax the criteria enough to allow the Volt to also qualify.

The difference between being classified a BEVx vehicle as compared to a PZEV may be as high as $10,000 per vehicle, although that’s only an estimate I got from someone familiar with the CARB credit valuation. I don’t personally know the exact amount, but I do believe it’s many thousands of dollars per vehicle. When you consider BMW has sold nearly 15,000 i3’s with the range extender in the US already, you can see how the BEVx qualification may have netted BMW over $100,000,000 already.

It’s clear people are buying these cars without really understanding how they work and what the limitations may be, and this lawsuit only further proves that point. I highly doubt many i3 owners in the US even know BMW purposely restricted software that the car has which allows for manual operation of the range extender, and I’m sure the people behind the lawsuit had no idea the car could enter a reduced power mode under certain conditions when they bought it.

There’s a clear disconnect between BMW and the customer with regards to how the range extender functions, and what its purpose is. Is it an APU designed to keep you from being stranded with a flat battery, or is it a dual-fuel system which allows you the freedom to go wherever you want and at any desired speed? There’s really nothing else on the market quite like the i3’s range extender, so it’s really important that the customer has access to the information necessary to understand how it works. This lack of understanding has been simmering for two years and it’s now come to boil in the form of this class action lawsuit.

So is it all BMW’s fault? Is this simply a case of a greedy manufacturer putting their customer’s lives at risk in order to line their pockets cash? I don’t think describing it that way does the whole situation justice. BMW obviously has to take the majority of blame for this resulting in a lawsuit, but to say it’s all their fault isn’t correct. There’s plenty of blame to spread around if you really want to be fair. Here’s how I see it:

BMW HQ

BMW HQ

BMW

It’s clear the majority of blame has to fall on BMW’s shoulders. They built an electric vehicle that was really unlike any other. They included software to allow the operator to turn the range extender on early if they felt they needed to. However, for the US market they disabled that software in order to comply with the California Air Resources Board’s strict BEVx criteria. BEVx is a category of electric vehicle that BMW lobbied CARB to create in the first place, and gives the manufacturer full ZEV credits, even though the vehicle burns gasoline in some conditions. It’s the only vehicle in the US that is capable of burning gasoline, but is still treated as a pure ZEV by the California Air Resource Board.

An audible warning and this visual alert comes on when the state of charge drops below 3%, warning the driver that reduced power is possible. You can also see the SOC display in the top left corner. That was also added to help the driver avoid reduced power mode. These warnings were added in 2015, slightly less than a year after the i3 launched in the US.

An audible warning and this visual alert comes on when the state of charge drops below 3%, warning the driver that reduced power is possible. You can also see the SOC display in the top left corner. That was also added to help the driver avoid reduced power mode. These warnings were added in 2015, slightly less than a year after the i3 launched in the US.

When the i3 REx was first released, the driver had no warning before the vehicle went into reduced power mode. One minute you’d be cruising along at highway speed, and suddenly it would slow down drastically because the range extender couldn’t keep up with the power consumption. Less than a year after the i3 launched in the US, BMW made a software modification to help warn the driver before the car went into reduced power by adding audible and visual alerts.

BMW has provided their dealer network literature to help them understand how the REx works. They have also held BMW i certification training programs, which were deep-dive, extremely informative training sessions for the i3 & i8. The information is there, but does it reach the customer? In most cases I’m afraid it doesn’t. BMW’s share of the blame: 50%

CARB

CARB created the BEVx classification with the hopes of increasing the amount of miles driven on electricity. They view the BEVx vehicle as one that fits a category between plug in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) like the Chevy Volt, and pure battery electric vehicles (BEVs). The goal for BEVx was to increase the amount of miles driven on electricity from 80% (that of an average PHEV) to over 90% and be a “Transitional Vehicle” between ICE and pure BEV. John Higham went deep into CARBs BEVx classification reasoning in an audible warning and this visual alert comes on when the state of charge drops to 3.5%, warning the driver that reduced power is possible%2C and giving them time to alter their driving to avoid it.

However in doing so, they created criteria so onerous that no manufacturer other than BMW has made a vehicle that fits the stringent rules of the classification. In fact, in order for the i3 to qualify for this category BMW had to disable features that actually prevent i3 owners from using the car more often! The restrictions, and the fear of the vehicle possibly going into reduced power mode actually forces some i3 owners from taking the vehicle on certain days, instead electing to drive their ICE vehicle that day. This is counter productive and acts exactly the opposite of what BEVx was trying to accomplish, which was to facilitate MORE electric miles driven. If CARB needs to feel like they’re getting something in return for removing the restrictions on manual control over turning on the APU, then I suggest they raise the all electric range from 75 miles per charge to 100 miles per charge.

I want CARB to make it difficult. I want CARB to continuously increase the electric range which vehicles need to provide in order to qualify for credits, and I want automakers to be forced to innovate to come up with solutions to CARBs mandates. However I also want the criteria to be attainable. The BEVx category has the potential to deliver over 90% electric miles and simultaneously allow the manufacturer to build in software to allow the driver to manually turn the APU on if they feel they need to. CARB may argue that doing so will result in drivers turning on the APU needlessly, and burning gasoline they didn’t need to. That may happen on a very small percentage of case, but I contend the net result will indeed mean more all electric miles driven because more BEVx vehicles will be sold, and their owners will use the vehicle for journeys they currently don’t for fear of reduced power occurring.

People who buy electric cars don’t want to burn gasoline unless they really believe they need to, and they aren’t going to just turn on the APU for the fun of it. Owner’s have paid more money up front to own and drive an EV, to think they would then fire up the gasoline range extender when it isn’t needed is nonsensical. CARB’s share of the blame: 25%

BMW Dealer

BMW Dealer

BMW Dealerships

Whatever transpired behind the scenes with BMW & CARB, once the cars landed into the showrooms it became the dealers’ job to make sure the customers understood how the vehicle worked before they drove home with it. 

I know for a fact that early on, when the car first launched BMW dealerships did not have the information or training necessary to explain how the i3 worked. Many client advisers sought help from online forums and i3 enthusiast groups. Through my i3 blog I had dozens of client advisors reach out to me with questions, many of which centered around the range extender. However a few months after the launch BMW caught up and started offering i3 & i8 training programs, along with instructional literature that helped the client advisers immensely. Still, comprehensive electric vehicle information is rarely available at dealers. This isn’t a BMW specific problem, though. Most manufacturers selling EVs have struggled to provide information about the cars needed at the dealer level.

However, BMW had a particularly difficult task with the i3 REx since the range extender is complex. Because of the software limitations there are tasks that the vehicle cannot do, but how do you explain that? Can it climb a 5% grade at 65 mph for 5 miles? How about 3% grade at 75 mph for 10 miles? That’s just impossible to explain to customers even if the dealer actually knew. I think the best solution given the current circumstances would be to develop a simple “range extender 101” guide that dealers could give to potential customers. I know this may scare some customers away, but isn’t the goal to put the client in the vehicle that suits them best? I feel a little bad blaming dealers for this because they have so many vehicles to sell that they can’t possibly know everything about every vehicle. However if they did a better job explaining that the range extender does have limits, there might not be a lawsuit pending today. Dealership responsibility: 15%

Bart-Simpson-frivolous-lawsuits

The Customers

Two words: Caveat emptor. So much has been written about the i3’s range extender and it’s inability to perform certain tasks that I find it impossible not to place some blame on the customers filing the lawsuit. A simple Google search of “BMW i3 range extender” yields nearly half a million responses, many of which detail the limitations of the range extender. Refine the search to “BMW i3 range extender problems” and there are over 90,000 results that all, in one way or another, speak of the limitations or potential problems it has. I find it very hard to believe that people today buy a $50,000 car without doing even limited internet research, especially when that vehicle is unlike any vehicle they have ever purchased before. If the people in this class action suit had spent even 15 minutes doing some research before they bought the vehicle than perhaps they would have realized the range extender had limitations. I can’t help but look at this as another example of “it’s not my fault” syndrome, and a clear reminder of how litigious a society the US has become. Customer responsibility: 10%

Summary

It will be very interesting to see how this lawsuit plays out. I fully expect BMW to rigorously defend themselves, and I’m sure CARB is also watching this closely. I know it wouldn’t hold up legally because nobody forced BMW to comply to CARB’s requirements, but I’d love it if somehow CARB could have been named in the suit because I absolutely find them complicit to the root cause of this issue. Whatever the outcome I do expect this issue with the i3’s range extender to go away soon. The 2017 i3 will be available in a few months and has a 50% larger battery. I suspect BMW will build a much larger battery buffer into the low end of the i3 REx usable battery capacity. Therefore even without a hold mode the car may very well have so much energy stored in the battery buffer that it will be able to sustain prolonged climbs at highway speeds. It may not be able to climb Pikes Peak at 70mph, but it should be able to just about anything short of that. Of course if BMW loses this suit, and is somehow forced to restore the hold mode on all i3’s, then the larger battery buffer in the 2017 i3 wouldn’t be necessary.

I have over 50,000 miles on my i3 REx and as mentioned I’ve never had an issue with the vehicle going into reduced power mode. However as noted, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a real problem because it does happen to others. The heart of the issue is the question of what’s really the purpose of range extender? Is it what BMW designed it to be, what CARB wants it to be, what the dealers sold it as, or what the customers thought it would be? In my opinion everybody involved had a narrow vision of what it was, and saw only what they wanted to see. BMW should have done more to prepare the dealers to sell this unique vehicle. The dealers should make sure their clients know what they’re buying before the leave the lot. CARB should have realized the BEVx restrictions are actually hurting EV adoption, and if the plaintiffs in the suit had done even minimal research before they bought the car they would have realized the car has limitations.

Should issue this have ended up in court? Whatever side you’re on I think we can all agree it’s very unfortunate that it’s come to this. The BMW i3 REx is a wonderfully unique vehicle, too bad it’s so misunderstood.

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102 Comments on "BMW i3 REx Lawsuit: How’d This Happen & Who’s at Fault"

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Mark C
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Mark C

Well done, Tom. I felt like I was watching a BMW verssion of the movie “Who Killed the Electric Car,” with the wide range of contributions to the problem(?), such as it is.
I like the i3, I’d like to own one and I’ve known about how the REx works for a long time. I don’t see it as a big deal, and I’ve met me, I’d do the coding thing and take my chances on the warranty. Or, I’d save $15k and buy a Volt.

Larry
Guest
Larry

Agree and agree!

disappointed
Guest
disappointed

I WILL NEVER FILE A FRIVOLOUS DEFENSE FOR THE i3 REX AGAIN !

While invoking reason and supporting your own driving experience, you lost me with:
“whenever I’m driving long distance on the range extender I keep an eye on the SOC, and slow down a little when I begin a long, sustained climb. For me, the beauty of the range extender is it means I never have to worry about coming up short on range.”

No one is driving long distance on this 35HP,running on 1.9 gallons of gas.
The “REX” is a joke and the law suit is a fitting Karmic kick in the ass to the greedy folks at BMW who misled buyers and hoodwinked regulators.

3laine
Guest
3laine

“No one is driving long distance on this 35HP,running on 1.9 gallons of gas.”

Actually, they are. For instance, a lady on the i3 FB group did a 2,000+ mile trip primarily using REx. I wouldn’t recommend it, and it’s nowhere near ideal, but it’s possible if you understand its limitations.

Terawatt
Guest
Terawatt

I have the complete opposite reaction. BMW is 50% to blame? Customers just 10%?!?

I’m European and I haven’t seen exactly how BMW has promoted the REx in the US. But it is quite obvious that the customers were quite happy to just make assumptions without inquiring or reading the manual – and then sue when it turns out their assumptions were incorrect. How infantile is that!

My distribution of blame, highly scientific of course:

70% customers
15% CARB
15% BMW/dealership

GSP
Guest
GSP

‘”How infantile is that?”

Welcome to the US, where the customer is always right. Also naïve and uninformed.

It comes down to what does the car in front of them look like, and what is the monthly payment. They assume all cars work the same, and even the lowest cost ones can keep up with traffic.

GSP

ModernMarvelFan
Guest
ModernMarvelFan

I think it is a good summary.

However, I fully blame BMW for this. Because it owns the responsibility of properly marketing the car and it has the control of whether to take the credit or not.

GM didn’t find the BEVx rule acceptable and chose to take the lesser credit on the Volt with only PZEV instead of BEVx. BMW can do the same but it choose NOT to.

Now, the interesting part is that with a larger battery, BMW should be technically able to hold a bigger buffer. I think 20% is sufficient. If that is the case, why didn’t BMW launch the car with a bigger battery to start with so it won’t have this problem?

Now, as far as i3 REx goes, it is a great car and I agree that it is unique. With a full functional “hold/mountain” mode and DCFC charging option, it will be far more useful in saving gas than the new Volt.

Tom Moloughney
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Tom Moloughney

Thanks, MMF. I do want to point out that it wasn’t that GM didn’t find the BEVx rule acceptable, it was that they couldn’t convince CARB to relax the regulations to allow the Volt to comply. You can read the minutes of the ARB’s meetings, GM had their representative there and wanted the BEVx classification to be passed, along with BMW, Chrysler and VW. Once it was clear that CARB was going to create the classification, they were arguing why the Volt should be also included. If GM only needed to make a minor software change to qualify, don’t think for a minute they wouldn’t have grabbed the money as BMW did 😉

Spider-Dan
Guest
Spider-Dan

There are two other factors that complicate that assessment:

1) The Volt was already on the market before BEVx was finalized

2) The Volt is much more capable than the i3 REx when running on gas

Had BMW put a beefier engine in the U.S.-spec i3 REx (instead of simply detuning the software of the Euro-spec version), this wouldn’t be an issue. In fact, given that BMW had to artificially limit the fuel tank because the REx was too fuel-efficient and had too long of a range on 2.4gal, BMW could have killed two birds with one stone by putting in a more powerful engine that used a bit more fuel.

wavelet
Guest
wavelet

Not really a realistic solution.
This isn’t a normal ICE car, where you can fit a variety of engines in the engine bay.
Here there’s a limited amount of space/weight to devote to the engine, which has to be very efficient. Not many candidate engines for that; the i3 is already a small-volume vehicle, like most EVs, REx is just 50%-60% of that (and BMW had expected ~25%, IIRC). The US isn’t the be-all and end-all market — EVs are far below 0.5%, vs. >1% in the major Euro markets.

Therefore, fragmenting an already small volume wouldn’t have made sense.

That aside, I’m pretty sure i3 engineering was finalized well before the BEVx discussions took place.

Besides,
— it’s

Terawatt
Guest
Terawatt

The whole point with a BEVx classification is to distinguish it from other plugin hybrids.

Just look at some of the PHEVs – for example BMW’s. An X5 PHEV is extremely underpowered in all-electric and has severely limited all-electric range even on a sunny summer day with tailwind. Its a car with a much bigger footprint than many ICE vehicles, and still it gets a lot of advantages from badly designed incentive systems everywhere…

Making it a requirement for BEVx classification that the “APU” is just auxiliary, not able to provide normal “full power”, makes a lot of sense. It creates the opposite incentives to the above X5 case – the car is underpowered when operating only on fossil fuels.

There’s much to criticize in the regs. A Volt, which has access to full power in all-electric mode and an all-electric range that really means the car can drive almost exclusively on electricity, ought to be treated very differently from the aforementioned X5. Sadly rational solutions – like a carbon tax! – are apparently off the table, due to cowardly politicians and voters’ knee-jerk reactions to words like “tax”.

ModernMarvelFan
Guest
ModernMarvelFan

“If GM only needed to make a minor software change to qualify, don’t think for a minute they wouldn’t have grabbed the money as BMW did ?”

They could by eliminating the Hold/Mountain mode and then SW shrinking the gas tank to 1.1 gallon.

That would make the car “useless” which in GM’s view isn’t acceptable.

GM always proclaims the Volt is a car you can drive far if you want to, NOT a megacity car like the i3 REx.

GM did argue for Volt’s case and I saw the minutes. It clearly shows that CARB intent was to penalize anyone driving on gas (as I agree and should). But that intention is creating a category that makes a perfectly good design “useless” for long trips…

Pushmi-Pullyu
Guest
Pushmi-Pullyu

Yes, CARB did come up with ridiculous, counter-productive limits for the REx category; limits that put unreasonable limits on the operation of such a car.

But the problem here is that BMW decided to go ahead and cripple the i3 REx so that it could conform to those regulations. BMW didn’t do that to make a car which was good for consumers; it did that to maximize the amount of carbon credits it could earn from selling the car.

I don’t give BMW a pass on that. The proper response would have been for BMW to shrug and say “Oh well, we tried.” As it is, the signal they sent was pretty clearly “We care more about earning carbon credits than we do about the convenience, or even in some conditions the safety, of our customers.”

Seems like a legitimate case for a lawsuit, to me.

But again, that’s just my opinion, and perhaps I don’t have all the relevant facts.

Michael
Guest
Michael

BMW’s fault, 100%.

Anything suggesting anyone else is at fault is simply an attempt to excuse the fact that BMW knew the rules in place and still chose to sell a product that could suddenly become unsafe when driven normally by ordinary customers.

I like the i3. I wish I had one with the REx. But even with a hold mode, the car is 100% defective if any loss of power in any software controlled situation is not gradual, unless there is a catastrophic failure that will result from not implementing a sudden power loss. Catastrophic being defined as hazardous to life and limb of the occupants or any other persons in the vicinity, and specifically not including possibly damaging the vehicle itself.

I think a lawsuit against BMW everywhere the i3 REx is sold is justified and appropriate.

pjwood1
Guest
pjwood1

I haven’t joined the Class, with our TDI, but will probably not opt out of the VW settlement. I’d hate to be in this position with BMW, but most of us who were here then, like we’re here now, knew the BMW would have this minor(?) issue. I didn’t know when VW said it would fix my muffler for $5,500, that they were going to use parts that didn’t even work.

3laine
Guest
3laine

With the current version of the software, the driver is warned in advance that there will be a loss of power if they don’t change speed/HVAC/etc.

Additionally, for those that understand how it works, you can see the SOC going down and make changes before you even see the warning (as Tom describes).

I’m not saying there’s no issue, but there’s a common misconception that people are driving around and all of a sudden they have reduced power with no prior indication that it might occur. With the current version of software (and most versions other than the very early one(s)), there are multiple ways to know in advance that you are on your way to reduced power.

Michael
Guest
Michael

It doesn’t matter what warnings the car provided if the power loss is sudden, sizable, and in any way unexpected.

Everything I’ve read about this issue says that the power drops significantly and suddenly. Even if there were warnings flashing the whole console red, it’s still not appropriate for an otherwise functioning car to drop into go kart mode because the software isn’t programmed intelligently enough to avoid it.

If the car breaks down, bets are off. But an intentional shutdown, every a partial intentional shutdown, must be gradual, every if done to avoid permanently damaging the car. Because a sudden drop off could easily permanently damage the driver and occupants.

3laine
Guest
3laine

I disagree that power should *never* drop off suddenly and that it can be called “suddenly” if you’ve been warned and had information telling you it was coming.

My main point, however, is that many people don’t realize that there is now a warning AND other even earlier indications that you’re headed for power loss.

Nix
Guest
Nix

Micheal — There actually already are multiple levels of reduced power for the i3. You go into limited power mode before dropping into limp mode.

Terawatt
Guest
Terawatt

Look, a car does not become “unsafe” because it loses power if you run out of fuel. How much warning is needed and how exactly it must be given is perhaps possible to debate, but the basic premise here is LUDICROUS.

ONLY in the US could anyone sue a car maker for the car stopping when it runs out!

bro1999
Guest
bro1999

BMW decided to put CARB credits ahead of their customers in a pure $$$ play.

Now they will likely pay for it (and then some), as I don’t see them winning the lawsuit.

vdiv
Guest
vdiv

We will all pay as this broadly hurts the cause for EVs, not just BMW and their customers. In a way it clarifies it, the ICE is not a good solution to a “limited” EV, a better EV and an available charging infrastructure are the answer.

Spider-Dan
Guest
Spider-Dan

This was a surprisingly thorough and well-written article; going in, I expected a more apologetic stance from Tom. Well done.

I think BMW shares more of the blame than is stated in the article. While CARB did ultimately define the BEVx standard, there is no part of the BEVx regulation that requires the APU to be underpowered. That was entirely BMW’s design decision, be it for weight savings or to be able to claim better MPG on gas.

I have a hard time blaming customers or the dealerships for failing to fully understand complicated new technology. Our position as EV enthusiasts gives us a skewed perspective on what buyers “should” know.

I think both salesmen and customers expect the car to Just Work, which was one of GM’s primary goals with the Volt. BMW bet their money on a different strategy (maximizing ZEV credits), and it blew up in their face.

kdawg
Guest
kdawg

There; I fixed it.

Tom Moloughney
Guest
Tom Moloughney

I put one of those on my 86′ CRX si. I used to drive around looking for 5.0 Mustangs or Z28’s to embarrass. It was a rocket up to about 85 mph and then the V8’s would start to catch up and eventually pass me. 😉

SparkEV
Guest

You’ve been a naughty boy, haven’t you? 😉

wavelet
Guest
wavelet

(-:
You always crack me up. When I see your user handle above a non-pure-text comment, I know a smile is a few seconds away…

Terawatt
Guest
Terawatt

Sounds like you’re in love.

Nix
Guest
Nix

“Can it climb a 5% grade at 65 mph for 5 miles? How about 3% grade at 75 mph for 10 miles? That’s just impossible to explain to customers even if the dealer actually knew.”

Unfortunately, there is no single answer to those questions, because they greatly over-simplify reality.

First off, how far it could go at a certain grade and speed would change greatly depending upon what altitude you are at. A 5% grade starting a sea level would be completely different than a 5% grade starting in Santa Fe or Denver, because gas engines lose power at higher altitudes.

Next, it is very rare that a road actually stays at a constant 5% or 3%. Any point where the road levels out or dips back down into a valley, you get more range back.

Wind is another huge factor, with it being even more of a factor the faster you go.

If the Dealers had said the car can go up a 5% grade at 65 mph for 5 miles, or a 3% grade at 75 mph for 10 miles, they would be leaving out these factors, and they would get sued.

3laine
Guest
3laine

Exactly… Way too many variables to say for sure.

Honestly, it was probably a bad design for a country that loves lawsuits and hates personal responsibility.

Personally, I think it’s an awesome design because I rarely use it, I know what its limits are when I do use it, and I only have to carry around a tiny engine for the 95% of the time I’m driving all electric.

Nix
Guest
Nix

3laine,

It sounds like you were the consumer that they designed this car for. It is good that it works correctly as designed for their target consumer.

3laine
Guest
3laine

It helps that I live where it’s mostly flat, but I’ve even used it on a 700-mile road trip, 50 miles at a time to get me to the next DCFC, so it’s served me very well. An extra 10-15hp wouldn’t hurt for extra buffer, but I’ve never experienced any reduced performance whatsoever.

Terawatt
Guest
Terawatt
What are you on about? The entire thing is a farce from beginning to finish and there is nothing complicated to explain! The car has a little range extending motor that makes 38 hp. This is used to charge the battery, with some loss of power. Anyone who then thinks it is possible to use more power than the small engine produces, for sustained periods of time, and after the battery is depleted, is a MORON that nothing CAN be explained to. The car is dangerous because it stops if you run out of fuel! It’s clearly the CUSTOMERS who are primarily at fault here. Why were they surprised by the cars behavior? Because of incorrect information from BMW? No! Because their ASSUMPTIONS about how it worked turned out to be invalid. Does BMW deserve blame? Sure, some. They could have done more to ensure at least some of the non-moron but too-lazy-to-think-or-ask clients actually understood what the APU is. CARB? Yeah, the rule preventing user-controlled hold is unhelpful. But do customers have any responsibility at all to learn about the car before they buy, and read the fucking manual? OF COURSE!! It’s blindingly obvious that the main cause of… Read more »
Pushmi-Pullyu
Guest
Pushmi-Pullyu

Terawatt said:

“The car is dangerous because it stops if you run out of fuel!”

Uh, no. That’s not even remotely what the problem is.

Did you even bother to read the article before posting? Heck, did you even bother to read the first paragraph?

Doug Bostrom
Guest
Doug Bostrom

If only everybody were as thoughtful as the author there would be far fewer lawsuits of this kind.

Takeaway for me I’d not previously known: $50K is a stunning amount of money for this particular car and its features. I’d assumed BMW was going for an entry-level slot here.

But that’s off-topic. Great article!

pjwood1
Guest
pjwood1

“but it was explained to me that they didn’t believe selling the car which operated differently in different states in the same country was prudent.”

I hope this still doesn’t make any more sense to you, than it does me, Tom. The U.S. is a pretty big place, and despite “CARB state” growth, the BEVx part isn’t in any other state policy I know of.

I wondered if you wouldn’t want to “code” your car, so you can be more flexible with your fuel stops?

Tom Moloughney
Guest
Tom Moloughney

Yeah, I would have preferred if they sold it without the restrictions in non-CARB states, but think of the complaints the owners in the CARB states would have. BTW, the 17 CARB states probably account to 75% of the i3’s sold in the US.

Honestly, I just never needed to code it. I wouldn’t hesitate a minute if it improved the utility for me, but it just never was a problem. I have 50,000 miles on my i3 and only about 1,750 of that on the REx, I mostly use it for the final 5 or so miles on a particular day, not long distance driving. I’ve taken a couple long trips, and I didn’t mind stopping every hour for a quick refuel. If I did that frequently, then I’d probably code.

Terawatt
Guest
Terawatt

I doubt the CARB-state buyers would complain if the car was priced to reflect its BEVx classification or lack of such – since this amounts to thousands of dollars and perhaps as much as $10k.

Nix
Guest
Nix

When it comes to assigning blame for allowing this design flaw to become “a catastrophic situation for all those on the road”, the answer is clear and absolute.

It is 100% the fault of the driver who ignored the warning light, the warning chime, and the battery display. Just like a gas car that loses power after running out of gas after the gas gauge reaches empty, and the gas light comes on.

It is ALWAYS 100% the responsibility of the driver to pay attention to any warning lights on the dash, and to take appropriate action to keep an annoying situation for the driver from degrading into a “catastrophic situation for all those on the road.”

A driver having to pull over before going into limp mode due to a design flaw is just an annoying situation for the driver.

A driver continuing to drive at 70 mph despite multiple warnings until they go into limp mode and cause an accident is ENTIRELY the driver’s fault. Just like ignoring the gas gauge and running out of gas in the middle of the interstate and causing a wreck is the fault of the ICE car driver.

zzzzzzzzzz
Guest
zzzzzzzzzz

Does it show warning about limp mode in advance and what kind of warning is it?

Nix
Guest
Nix

Did you even bother reading the article?

Nix
Guest
Nix

zzzzzzzzzzz — Did you even bother looking at the pictures in the article, and reading the subtitles, comic book style?

zzzzzzzzzz
Guest
zzzzzzzzzz

Sorry I missed that photo with “Power reduction possible”. Is it the only warning? “Possible” doesn’t look good enough. They should had added more explicit warning about speed going below highway low limit and should had issued some recall.

Nix
Guest
Nix

Wow, it is like you are intentionally trying as hard as possible to prove you never read the article, and don’t know what you are talking about.

Here is a “Where’s Waldo” challenge for you. There are 4 distinct and different warnings to signal that the battery is almost depleted. All are either pictured or mentioned in the article.

List them.

[Just like Where’s Waldo, this challenge is appropriate for Age Range: 5 – 9 years. It should be no challenge to anybody older than this range.]

Terawatt
Guest
Terawatt
I agree, but you seem to forget that the warnings were added a year later. Anyone who rear-ends the car in front simply because it reduces power (doesn’t even brake!!) is 100% at fault. In fact, the Highway Code is extremely clear, and anyone who crashes into someone else merely because they brake unexpectedly is at fault. We are supposed to be able to stop completely at all times and keep enough distance that we can stop even if the vehicle in front suddenly applies maximum brakes, for whatever reason. In practice I agree it’s possible to create dangerous situations even if you wouldn’t be considered at fault in a crash, and suddenly braking hard on a highway certainly is one example. But merely lifting off the throttle is ONLY ever dangerous on a race track – in traffic it shouldn’t ever cause a problem. And in this case we’re not even speaking of taking ones foot off the throttle, but merely of reducing power. In short, calling it dangerous is ridiculous. And expecting 38 hp to behave exactly like 200 hp is ridiculous. The people behind this class action should be ashamed and I hope they get trounced in… Read more »
Pushmi-Pullyu
Guest
Pushmi-Pullyu

Terawatt said:

“But merely lifting off the throttle is ONLY ever dangerous on a race track – in traffic it shouldn’t ever cause a problem. And in this case we’re not even speaking of taking ones foot off the throttle, but merely of reducing power.”

If you think driving significantly slower than everybody else on a highway isn’t dangerous, then it would appear you have very little experience with driving. Also, apparently you’re entirely unfamiliar with American highways which have a minimum speed posted.

Furthermore, if you were to drive at 25 MPH on a mountain highway, where sharp curves often drastically limit the distance you can see ahead, this would indeed be quite dangerous, especially if you are overtaken by a heavy freight truck.

Nix
Guest
Nix

Terawatt — I would agree with your post in all situations except on roads where there are minimum speed limits. Then a driver’s failure to maintain minimum speed limits would make him/her legally liable for accidents caused by their violation of minimum speed laws.

Since we are talking about longer road trips, and are exclusively talking about the US model, and since the vast majority of 70+ mph longer road trips are done on interstates in the US with minimum speed limits, that is the situation most i3 drivers would be in when losing power.

Nix
Guest
Nix

Terawatt — had there been any accidents during the time that BMW didn’t have a warning, it indeed would have been BMW’s fault had that happened.

However, that never happened, so that is a moot point. It simply has no legal impact at this point. BMW had a legal obligation to fix their vehicles so that they had a warning, and they fulfilled their obligation and cannot be sued for not having had a warning in the past, when nobody suffered any damages before they added the warnings.

SparkEV
Guest

What a mess… Yet another reason hybrids suck!

Nix
Guest
Nix

It isn’t a Hybrid, or even a PHEV. It is a BEVx.

SparkEV
Guest

Call it BEVx or water buffalo, but the fact remains that it is HYBRID of EV + gas engine no matter what you choose to call it.

vdiv
Guest
vdiv

Should probably learn nuance and subtlety. Not all “hybrids” are created equal to the chagrin on the hybrid founding fathers 😉

Nix
Guest
Nix

SparkEV, A water buffalo is a mammal. You are a mammal. Does that make you a water buffalo?

Nothing personal, but your comment is the same as you arguing that you are the same as a water buffalo.

ModernMarvelFan
Guest
ModernMarvelFan

They don’t suck. At least the i3 REx can “limp over” the Donner’s pass where you Spark EV would have to be parked somewhere looking for a charging port. It would run out of charge just before Boreal Ski resort on I-80 assuming both Spark EV and i3 got a full charge at the base of the mountain.

SparkEV
Guest

If I’m going over Donner pass or ski resort, I’ll take my Van. While Volt’s large gas tank is acceptable, at least I don’t have to “limp” like i3REx.

But if I’m going long distance, I’ll need to carry luggage, which means even Volt won’t work. My “tons of room but not so reliable” Chevy Astro van will work far better. If one doesn’t have such wonderful van, even sub-par van or SUV rental will work better than Volt.

Nix
Guest
Nix

This is exactly why BEVx vehicles get the same ZEV credits as pure EV’s. Because excluding Tesla, the vast majority of BEV owners have to own a gas car if they want to take road trips. So EV owners burn gas too, just like BEVx owners.

Bill Howland
Guest
Bill Howland

“…Vehicles like the Volt can run indefinitely without the need to ever actually plug it in to charge it, while the i3 REx, cannot. However it’s unclear if the majority of i3 REx customers actually realize that…”

Well, Tom, you told me exactly the opposite around 6 months ago, when you said the engine may be continually refueled.

So, If a ‘majority’ of I3 Rex customers are now confused, the reason is obvious.

Tom Moloughney
Guest
Tom Moloughney
Yes Bill, I remember that conversation. Let me explain the difference. You can drive a long distance with an i3 REx, and just stop to gas up every 50 miles or so. I’ve done that a few times with trips to Vermont from New Jersey. However the performance is reduced as compared to while it’s in battery only mode. It’s not quite as fast and if you don’t watch the state of charge and drive too fast then it can enter into reduced power mode as this lawsuit claims. You can certainly do it, it’s just not the same driving experience as while it’s on battery alone. The volt is completely different. You can’t even hardly tell the difference between when it’s in charge sustaining mode or charge depleting mode. In fact it’s been documented that some people that have leased Volt (mostly for municipal use) have never even charged the car, and just drove it on gas one hundred percent of the time. It would be physically possible to do that with and i3, but the performance is so much less that no one would ever want to do so. I could have been a little clearer in the… Read more »
3laine
Guest
3laine

FWIW, I’ve never noticed reduced performance when running REx at 4-6% SOC. There may be reduced performance, but if so, I’ve never noticed it.

(Just to be clear, I’m talking about inherent reduced performance. There is definitely reduced performance once you run the battery down to ~2%)

3laine
Guest
3laine

To clarify my post, is there really a significant loss of power when you’re running on REx at 5-6% SOC, Tom? I’ve honestly never noticed. I’m not trying to be disagreeable. Just curious because it’s never been noticeable to me.

Tom Moloughney
Guest
Tom Moloughney

0-60 times are definitely slower. Plus, if you push it hard, or drive over 75-80 mph for a couple minutes, you’ll quickly feel the difference.

If you take it easy – as you really should when the REx is running, you won’t notice my much.

3laine
Guest
3laine

Gotcha. I don’t push it hard when REx is running usually. Not enough to notice a slight change in 0-60, anyway. I’ve cruised at 70mph with no problems, but based on the REx holding at 4-5% (and not going up to 6%), I imagine that’s close to the limit. I watched to make sure SOC wasn’t falling, but I assume 75-80mph would have put me into low power mode eventually.

Bill Howland
Guest
Bill Howland

Specification question:

I realize I’m in a colder locale than you, but my 6000 watt cabin heater in the VOLT is very wimpy (i.e. mediocre). What size is it in the I3 rex, and in cold weather how does it compare with your other BMW’s?

Bret
Guest

I’m glad you weighed in on this Tom, since you obviously have a lot of experience with the i3.

I think CARB should be overruled by the NTSB, since the BEVx rules make the i3 REx unsafe to operate under certain conditions. I believe passenger safety should trump environmental regulations.

An better solution than the Hold Mode would be to crank up the horsepower in the REx. The scooter that engine comes from has 70 horsepower. If BMW cranked it up 10-20 HP, it would probably be enough to sustain the SOC indefinitely, even on an incline.

Nix
Guest
Nix

There is no overlap between CARB and the NTSB regulations.

CARB has exclusive authority over deciding whether a car gets full ZEV credits in CARB states.

NTSB has exclusive authority over deciding whether a car is safe for operation on the highways.

Any individual car can pass or fail each set of regulations separately, there is no one law “overruling” the other.

It is entirely the responsibility of the car manufacturer to ensure that their cars meet ALL state and federal regulations.

GSP
Guest
GSP

Good idea. I think prioritizing safety over the environment would be good policy.

NTSB could protect our naïve car consumers, and others that share the roads with them. They could simply require that all cars sold be able to drive 70 mph on I-70 from Denver to Aspen, regardless of how full the fuel tank and/or battery are.

That should do it.

GSP

zzzzzzzzzz
Guest
zzzzzzzzzz

It would still be not enough in case of front wind and/or higher speed and/or long incline.
But you are writing about car usability. The lawsuit is about safety, not usability. BMW should add advance warning before going into limp mode to allow time to go off highway. As far as I understand car goes into limp mode without warning, and it is really dangerous.

Nix
Guest
Nix

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

The i3 has had a software upgrade that gives early warning before it goes into limp mode for about a year now. So your comment is out of date with the current reality.

Please read the story before posting, because this is clearly detailed (with a picture) in the story.

Nix
Guest
Nix
When it comes to the question of “coding” the ECU “voiding” the warranty, the law is on your side. However, like many legal issues, the path to legal victory is a hard path, and isn’t free. BMW can reject your warranty claim for whatever you need repaired, and you can sue or seek arbitration — saying your coding didn’t cause the failure. They will put on an expert saying it did cause or contribute to the failure, and you have to hire an expert to say it didn’t. If you convince the judge and/or jury and/or arbitrator that you are right, you win and they have to fix your car, and may get legal fees. Meanwhile you either have to pay the repair costs upfront and sue to get your money back, or live with a broken car until you win your case. Nothing stops them from denying your next claim, and them again arguing that your coding caused or contributed to THAT failure. Repeat for every warranty claim. It is legal for them to flag your car as modified in BMW’s dealer-wide service system. And while technically your warranty isn’t “voided”, each dealership may choose to reject your warranty… Read more »
Avishay Setter
Guest
Avishay Setter

Isn’t the Volt quite a slouch when running on ICE, with its 101hp engine (84 in Gen1)?

ModernMarvelFan
Guest
ModernMarvelFan

Only if there are no battery buffer.

Volt has a mountain model since 2011 model and Hold mode since 2013 model.

Those two modes make all the difference…

ClarksonCote
Guest
ClarksonCote

No, the Volt’s system is designed so that it will not be a slouch. Even though the engine has a little less power than the electric drive, the Volt has some amount of battery it can also draw from, unlike the i3.

The result is that the Volt never experiences reduced performance, except on very long steep grades (which are very uncommon). For these uncommon instances, engaging mountain mode in advance provides a larger battery buffer to draw from.

In reality, the majority of the time that people use mountain mode, it really wasn’t needed. I’ve gone on many steep grades in NH and VT without mountain mode in my Volt, and never had reduced performance.

Pikes Peak, and other long grades in the Midwest, can require mountain mode. But still, not very many percentage wise. 😉

zzzzzzzzzz
Guest
zzzzzzzzzz

“The APU must not be capable of switching on until the battery charge has been depleted” – you should really blame CARB for unreasonable and dangerous requirement, they should have allowed some 30% battery power reserve instead of full deplete. BMW is just following this CARB silliness. BMW should however had added some BIG RED FLASHING WARNING and BEEP: “Your car is about to go in limp mode in 5 minutes! Reduce speed and go off highway.”. They didn’t done it, so they have lawsuit now and it is good lawsuit.

Nix
Guest
Nix

Charge depleted has been defined as 6% of the battery charge remaining. See my post below about how a BEVx could be engineered to operate just fine even with the REx only coming on with 6% of the battery remaining.

Nix
Guest
Nix

BMW already added limp mode warning before it goes into limp mode last year. It is all in the story. Please read before posting.

Nix
Guest
Nix
“CARB’s share of the blame: 25%” This presumes that absolutely no car makers can build any BEVx classification car that will meet the BEVx rules, and still stay out of limp mode during normal operation. We don’t know if that is true or not. Right now we have one data point. One car from one car maker. Their design clearly falls well below the expectations of owners, and can easily go into limited power mode during what owners consider “normal operation”. But does that really mean that it is impossible to build a car that both meets the BEVx classification, and doesn’t go into limp mode at times that owners think it shouldn’t? That’s a bridge too far as far as I’m concerned. I can think of at least 3 different ways that BMW (or any car maker) could build a BEVx vehicle that would satisfy the current regulations and still wouldn’t go into limp mode during normal operation. 1) Keep the REx the same, and install a much bigger battery. The regulations say the REx can’t come on until the battery is depleted to 6%. 6% of an 80 mile range battery is less than 5 miles of range… Read more »
ModernMarvelFan
Guest
ModernMarvelFan

Agreed.

Volt only needs about 3-4 kWh to get it across the hill.

So, 6% would indicate a 67kWh battery.

AT that point, it would be really debatable whether REx is needed or not. But it can be done.

Maybe an i3 with battery size of Bolt and a slightly more powerful REx would easily meet the requirement.

Terawatt
Guest
Terawatt

“the hill”??? Care to be more specific?

ModernMarvelFan
Guest
ModernMarvelFan

The Sierra Nevada…

Yes, in California, we call it “over the hill” when we refer to that mountain range which we need to cross. I know that “hill” is where the tallest peak in the lower 48 is located. =)

3laine
Guest
3laine
I think the regulations CAN be met in the ways you’ve mentioned. I’ve said the same myself, elsewhere. My complaint (one of them, anyway) about the BEVx regulation is that at the time of its inception, battery density was at the point where 80 miles AER was the standard range achievable with a floor full of batteries (Leaf, all the compliance cars, etc.) at a reasonable cost. So, by requiring 75 miles of range before turning on the REx, they’ve effectively required the car to have no battery buffer. Obviously they didn’t FORCE BMW to go for BEVx, but I think 75 miles AER before REx was a bad choice *for the time.* Now, and in the future, sure, battery technology has advanced to where cars will be able to easily have 75 miles AER *and* plenty of buffer, but it was too high a bar at the time, I think. If they made it 65 miles, we might not be having this discussion. Again, not all CARBs fault by any means, but I think for the time period, they should have been a little more lenient. Now, make it 80-100 AER, no problem, but 75 AER back then? Maybe… Read more »
Nix
Guest
Nix

If BMW didn’t have enough cowbell at the time, they shouldn’t have sold it in the US until they did.

BMW has plenty of vehicles they sell only in markets outside the US.

But one thing to keep in mind is that BMW fully expected the i3 REx to get much better range rating than the EPA finally rated it. BMW was talking 100 miles of range when they were building it. And after they finally got their official EPA rating (after sitting at a port on the East Coast for weeks), the i3 REx got rated way lower than they had planned.

3laine
Guest
3laine

Yeah, I’m not saying BMW made the right decision*, but I do think it was a poor decision on CARBs part to set the minimum AER so close to the normal maximum range at the time.

*The right decision, IMO, would be to go ahead with selling it, but make the current warning standard on the original cars AND do a much better job explaining the car’s limitations to the dealers and buyers. It’s a good design for MOST people who have bought it, but there should have been more thorough clarification of its potential limitations up front.

JakeY
Guest
JakeY

It was made 75 miles to exclude the Volt from even running. I’m pretty sure BMW had a hand in that (the whole idea of BEVx was introduced by BMW to CARB with the “megacity” project).

JakeY
Guest
JakeY

I don’t see any reference to the 6% limit as the definition of “fully depleted” in the CARB rules? Can you point to where you see that?

http://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/zevprog/zevregs/1962.2_clean.pdf

It seems BMW can simply set the depleted buffer larger and keep the battery moderately sized (maybe even the same 33kWh as next gen).

The previous constraint was because the battery was too small (same reason why they had to software lock the tank).

georges
Guest
georges

57 comments about:
Who’s at fault.
What’s all the discussion about?
It’s certainly not BMW’s fault.
It’s classic case of stupid homo sapiens.

vdiv
Guest
vdiv

You mean the ones at BMW? 😉

Phr≡d
Guest
Phr≡d

On one hand I agree with MMF, Nix, Blaine and Particularly Tom, regarding blame – and That is the gist of the article, responding to the class-action suit.

On the other hand, BMW provided a CITY car that could go an extra x-miles IF your City-AER ran out. Nothing more. If you wanna Pike’s Peak with a CITY car, we Cannot stop you, but good phargn luck stating that We told you that you Could.

I recall having ONE car (@SparkEV) in my youth, and it was a Beetle. Bill Cosby did a great routine about them “if the fan belt breaks, use a rubber band!”
IF you have ONE car, and you desire to go someplace outa’ the scope of the car you own (Escalade in London, for instance) you Make Allowances. and you adjust. my 2¢.

With no comparison to EU’s proper SOC-engage-REX, and no 2016-morning-quarterbacking.. this seems like a whah,whah – 1st world, what are you thinking? lawsuit.

Phr≡d
Guest
Phr≡d

oops, Tom? OT, how’s the wrap holding, looked on BLOG (if I missed it, but my search abilities are notoriously challenged).

wavelet
Guest
wavelet

Yet more money going pointlessly to lawyers’ pockets. The i3 will not be a mass market vehicle — while its acceleration/handling may be good, and energy efficiency exemplary, it’s much too expensive for what it is.

Price/performance ratio is bad, and it’s far less practical (number of seats, luggage space) than the competition.

I don’t believe many more will be sold, even of the refreshed 33kWh version — there’ll be the comparable e-Golf, Leaf, Zoe competing, and likely a new Ford FFE.

Once the AER range, the whole point is moot, and if the car makes it to a 200mi version (newer gen in 2 years), I wouldn’t be surprised if they leave out a REx option altogether.

GSP
Guest
GSP

Great article Tom.

The new larger battery should help. Even if BMW sticks with 6% SOC threshold to switch to ReX operation, that will be 6% of a larger number of kWh energy. As you pointed out, BMW could also elect to raise the percentage, at the expense of a lower EV range number.

It is also great that the bigger battery now allows BMW to use the full gas tank capacity.

If BMW could also tweak the ReX engine to increase power, that could also help. There is always a way to increase power from a given engine, it has been done for every IC engine ever built.

Lastly, CARB should allow “mountain mode” software for all BEVx cars. Running on gas all the time is not really going to happen for any private customers. GM has plenty of Volt OnStar data to refute this concern. GE company cars, where employees were assigned Chevy Volts and given free gasoline are an exception. Not many assignees charged at home on thier own dime, when they could use free gas instead.

GSP

Pushmi-Pullyu
Guest
Pushmi-Pullyu
Author Tom Moloughney wrote: “Recently news has spread of a class action lawsuit filed in the state of California by MLG Automotive Law alleging that the BMW i3 REx is dangerous and ‘can result in a catastrophic situation for all those on the road.’ “This, in my opinion, is grossly misleading.” Grossly misleading? Well, that’s one viewpoint. Here is a rather different viewpoint, expressed in a comment to a previous InsideEVs article: ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Ivan October 25, 2015 at 3:40 pm I tested REx up the mountain freeway from Salt Lake City to Park City on I-80. It rapidly slowed down to 35 mph and I barely made the first possible exit. After waiting for a while for the battery to recharge until REx turned off, I followed a loaded semi truck to the next exit. After exit hopping 3 times, I made it to the top, but not without having to stop on the shoulder before the last exit because I was down to 25 mph half way between exits, and even loaded semi truck was going 45-50 mph. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ [end quote] I’d certainly call a car unable to go faster than 25 MPH on a highway, a dangerous situation… Read more »
Nick
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Nick

CARB was trying to prevent the “never plugged in EV” phenomenon which some fleet Volts exhibited. Volt is acquired by fleets to get car pool lane stickers. The Volts are issued to employees along with gas cards. The employees then drive ~40 miles electric followed by 35000 miles on gas.

CARB saw this and wanted to make sure they were not giving BEVx credits to cars that would be used as straight gas cars.

CARB probably should have never made BEVx category, and just given the i3 REX the same credits as the Volt.

Nix
Guest
Nix
Nick — One of the problems is the way the IRS classifies expenses vs. benefits, and receipts. With gas, you can get itemized receipts for just the gasoline you purchased, with an exact dollar number on it. That receipt can easily be classified by a business as a direct expense and used to reduce their yearly income. In effect, the company gets a tax break on paying for your gas. In most cases, you can’t get a separate bill for your electricity consumption when you plug in at home. With no itemized receipt, it is hard for companies to itemize your electricity consumption as an expense. So if a company does pay for your electricity you use to charge at home, most of the time they would have to pay it out as a benefit. In this case, that benefit would have to be taxed the same as wages. So the company would have to pay taxes like payroll, unemployment, state and local, workman’s comp, etc. (Companies have to pay their share of taxes on your wages, then you pay your share on top of that.) Unfortunately, until electric companies start to itemize for charging, or until there is a… Read more »
Nick
Guest
Nick

That’s a great insight.

Thanks!

Bruce
Guest
Bruce

What do you do with the gasoline if you don’t use it? Does the car automatically burn the gas do you have to drain it after one year?

Pushmi-Pullyu
Guest
Pushmi-Pullyu

In the Volt, the car does indeed start the engine to burn off gas before it gets too old. I think I’ve read that it maintains an average age of < 1 year for the gasoline?

Dunno how the i3 handles that situation.

Aaron
Guest
Aaron
Saying this is 10% the customer’s responsibility is ignorant. If it’s not in the owner’s manual (which most people don’t bother reading!) and it wasn’t told to me by my salesperson (who I completely trust 100% to tell me the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth), WHY should I have even an inkling to have to go onto the Internet and research if my car is potentially unsafe? We here on InsideEVs are not the typical buyers. Especially since we’re buying EVs. We DO read the owners manuals (don’t we?!); we do read reviews; we do our homework… but after the car is purchased, how many of us truly delve into the car-specific forums and find this out? How many of us have that kind of time? I put the customer responsibility index at ZERO. BMW intentionally crippled this car for their monetary benefit in CARB credits. In a bad situation, the i3’s power output is reduced, and the car begins to slow (as you perfectly described). On a Texas highway, slowing down on the highway is a very dangerous thing, and could (would?) get you rear-ended by some semi. That is the point of this class… Read more »
cab
Guest
cab

This really smacks of BMW just cheaping out on the engine itself. If I recall, BMW hedged its bets and decided to add a rex a bit later in the car’s development life cycle. They probably didn’t have a “better” engine ready yet so stuck that scooter engine in there (which makes a Gen 1.0 Volt’s gas engine feel like a electric motor in comparison from a NVH perspective).

A number of automakers are releasing tiny, powerful engines… see Ford’s 1.0 liter ecoboost 3 cylinder as an example:
http://jalopnik.com/why-fords-tiny-1-liter-3-cylinder-is-the-future-of-ga-1543662936

JakeY
Guest
JakeY

I posted this in 2014, but it seems relevant again here:
“In the Initial Statement of Reasons (ISOR) published prior to the Board meeting, ARB staff noted that “some manufacturers” proposed this new class of advanced vehicles for separate treatment as part of the ZEV program. (During the public hearing on the ACC rule package, comments from ARB staff and the Board indicated that BMW was particularly interested in this classification.)”
http://www.greencarcongress.com/2012/01/bevx-20120129.html

Basically BMW was the one that proposed the BEVx idea to CARB, it didn’t exist out of a vacuum. From the comments by manufacturers, BMW succeeded in getting the rules designed such that would have the only vehicle that complied (GM lobbied to have rules allow the Volt to be categorized the same, but was rejected).

This is besides from the other points raised by others: BMW made the decision to design a car in this category, and it is possible to design a vehicle that would fit the rule but not have the same hill problems by having a larger/more powerful pack and/or a larger engine.

So I would put CARB’s share of the blame to almost zero.

ken
Guest
ken
Tom, Thats a very good and balanced article on the issue. I live in London and have driven i3 for more than 40,000 miles. I always make sure the SOC is atleast 20% on long journies. Before I learnt how to handle i3 on long drives, I did have a sudden loss of power and the car did slow down drastically to almost to complete halt. It was so dramatic and frightening, indeed. Luckily I did not have any big lorries behind me on that day on the highway. If there was any vehicle closely behind then it would have been a crash. Since then I learnt not to drive long distance on just 5% SOC. 10% is good enough but 20% is ideal for the job. I drive once a week 300miles every week for my work commitments and never had a problem since as I make sure SOC is always at least 20%. i3 is so smooth, so cool, so elegant, so efficient and so lovely a car, I will miss it for ever if they can not repair my i3 after the accident I had 2 weeks ago on highway pile up involving several cars hitting each… Read more »
Former BMW Owner
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Former BMW Owner
I used to own a 2008 BMW 535i. Not a plug in. Not a BEV. Just a pure ICE. At around 65,000 miles, the water pump went out while I was driving in the left-most lane on the highway, moving briskly along with traffic. A bunch of warning lights came on and freaked me out, distracting me from monitoring traffic while I tried to understand what they were telling me. Shortly afterwards (seconds, not minutes), the car went into some sort of limp mode and behaved like it had lost 90% of power. I was able to move over three lanes of traffic and onto the shoulder of the road without causing an accident. But the experience was frightening and I would certainly call it dangerous. In this case, the car may have saved itself from a catastrophic case of over heating, but I feel it put itself and its driver at serious risk of a catastrophic failure due to a collision. I can’t say how closely my experience came to the ones that i3 drivers are experiencing, but that experience was a major contributor to my ditching BMW as a brand. Perhaps the car’s self-preservation features worked as designed… Read more »
raidertripp
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raidertripp
I recently purchased an i3 and drove it from Kansas City to Minneapolis. Here are my observations, including notes on REX power loss: I drove about 540 miles and it took about 9 hours driving time. I had to fill up 7 times. Based on expected range, I used Google Maps to find the next gas station on my route and every single fill-up was with less than 10 miles of expected range. 2 fill-ups were with 1 mile to go! It was kind of fun and I was able to increase my range by slowing down, switching driving modes and turning off the AC whenever I was cutting it close. 1. The BMW Nav system was pretty worthless for identifying gas stations – Google Maps is the way to go. 2. I also used the PlugShare app to find charging stations at a couple Nissan dealers along the route and charged for free while I ate lunch in Ames, IA and took a work call in Mason City, IA. This bought me 20 or so electric miles at each stop. 3. I got about 60 miles of range on the Rex doing about 73 mph. 4. I did experience… Read more »