BMW i3 REx One Year Review

JUN 29 2015 BY TOM MOLOUGHNEY 75

Me With A BMW i3

Me With A BMW i3

Well that went by fast. After waiting patiently for years for BMW to bring the “Megacity” car, their first production electric vehicle to market, my first year of ownership really flew by quickly. On May 21st of last year I was the first i3 REx delivery in the US. My one year review is about a month late, but that has only given me some more time to gather my thoughts about it.

About a month into ownership last year, I authored two posts dedicated to my initial likes and dislikes. Many of those initial thoughts still hold true, but I’ve also had some changes of opinion as well as discovering new annoyances and new attributes which I appreciate.

One of the few pictures I have of my car in its real color; Laurel Grey. I wrapped it red the first week I had it

One of the few pictures I have of my car in its real color; Laurel Grey. I wrapped it red the first week I had it

Overall I’m very happy with my i3 and there isn’t another car I’d prefer to have. It really suits my needs while offering the perfect balance of performance, utility, comfort and efficiency that I desire. I managed to pile up a little over 25,000 miles by my first year anniversary (I’m up to about 27k now) with 23,700 miles on battery alone and 1,300 miles with the REx engine running. That equates to about 95% all electric miles. I’m sure some will question whether I needed the range extender option at all since I only used it for about 5% of my driving and that’s a valid question. I guess I didn’t really need it, but I definitely don’t regret spending the additional $3,850 for it and I’ll explain why.

The REx performed perfectly on my road trip from New Jersey to Vermont. I drove 111 miles on battery and 351on the REx, needing a little under 10 gallons of gas for the trip. I’ll gladly replace gassing up on long trips with a couple 30 minute quick charge stops once the infrastructure matures, but for now the REx is my best option for the occasional long trip.

The REx performed perfectly on my road trip from New Jersey to Vermont. I drove 111 miles on battery and 351on the REx, needing a little under 10 gallons of gas for the trip. I’ll gladly replace gassing up on long trips with a couple 30 minute quick charge stops once the infrastructure matures, but for now the REx is my best option for the occasional long trip.

First and foremost, the range extender allowed me to take the car every day without even thinking twice about whether I had enough range or whether or not I would have the opportunity to plug in during the day. Back when I did my initial likes and dislikes, the first thing I pointed out was that I think BMW missed an opportunity to separate themselves a bit from the pack of “80 mile EVs” out there. The 81 mile EPA range rating for the BEV i3 was just a little too low for me so I went for the REx. As it turns out, there weren’t too many days which I needed the REx, but having it there allowed me to take the car on days I may not have because I wasn’t sure how far I might need to drive that day.

So in reality, the range extender allowed me to drive more electric miles than if I didn’t have it. I’d say I probably only needed the REx about two or three times a month on average, and even then it was usually for less than twenty miles. There were a couple long road trips which accounted for the majority of miles, and a few times I needed it for 30 to 50 additional miles.

When I first got the car I took it to get wrapped and the shop was about 130 miles from my house. The drive back was nearly all on the range extender. I took a couple 150 to 200 mile round trips, my wife took the car on a business trip to Pennsylvania and I also made a 462 mile round trip to Vermont. It’s true I could have managed without the REx, but having it there increased the utility of the vehicle immensely and if I had it to do all over, I would definitely get the REx again. However, if BMW had optioned it with a 28-29kWh battery pack (33% larger), I would definitely choose that over the REx.

Interior

Interior

The car is holding up well and there are no squeaks or rattles to report. My interior still looks brand new, even with heavy use and high mileage for one year. I’m pointing that out because I have heard a few i3 owners report their leather seats showed premature wear, and even a couple people say the eucalyptus wood dash panels developing cracks (which BMW replaced under warranty). I have nothing negative or unusual to report on this though. Since I wrapped the car shortly after getting it, I can’t really comment on how the exterior painted surfaces are fairing.  Since this is the first BMW with all plastic body panels, and since BMW developed an entirely new way of painting the panels which uses 70 percent less water and 50 percent less energy than painting systems employed for their steel body panels, I think it’s fair to wonder how well the painted panels will hold up over time.

I have had a few people ask me how the wrap is doing and I can say that after a year of driving in New Jersey (including a harsh winter with a lot of snow and ice) the wrap is beginning to show signs of wear and even peeling on some of the corners. You really have to be looking at it hard to find the problem spots, but small issues are surfacing which I’m sure will only get worse. I really only intended to keep it wrapped for a year or so, so I’m not concerned. I figured this would happen after about a year. Just keep this in mind if you are planning to do a vehicle wrap.

The wrap is bubbling a bit on the side mirrors

The wrap is bubbling a bit on the side mirrors

Wheel well beginning to peel

Wheel well beginning to peel

Over the year I had a couple of maintenance issues which needed service. The good thing was my dealer, JMK BMW, has i3s in their loaner fleet so I was able to drive an i3 even when my car was in for service, which amounted to a total of 14 days. The first issue was one that all the early i3’s had, a blown onboard charger, or as BMW calls it, a KLE (Komfortladeelektronik or Comfort Charging Electronics in English). One good thing about the way BMW engineered the onboard charging is that there are two 3.7kW on board chargers, one in the main EME (Electrical Machine Electronics) and the other, the KLE, is installed separately from the EME. So if you do have a KLE failure, you can still charge the car, albeit at half speed. I can’t give BMW a pass on this issue though.

The redesigned fuel sensor

The redesigned fuel sensor

They had five years of field testing with the MINI-E and ActiveE, and to come out of the gate with a faulty on board charger is inexcusable in my opinion. To their credit, they quickly resolved the issue by re-engineering the KLE, and installing it in the existing i3 fleet. I’ve had the new KLE in my car for 10 months now, and it’s been working fine.

There was another issue that all i3’s with the range extender had, which was a faulty fuel pressure sensor. Almost immediately after the i3 launched, REx owners were getting a Check Engine light, even if they never fired up the REx. It turned out a fuel pressure sensor was getting corroded by the gasoline used in the US. Evidently the mixture is different from the gas used in Europe where the i3 had launched 6 months earlier without this issue, and the additives in the US gas were creating havoc with the sensor. Again BMW quickly made a new fuel pressure sensor, this one actually has gold plated connectors to resist corrosion.

My battery pack dropped from the car. The heating element is inside, below the battery modules

My battery pack dropped from the car. The heating element is inside, below the battery modules

I also had a flaky voltage regulator for the battery heating element which was occasionally sending an error message. I don’t think BMW was sure if the sensor was bad or if the regulator was bad so they just replaced both. That required removing my entire pack to replace the regulator. I was surprised that this major service was accomplished by my dealer in less than two days.

The only other issues I had were flat tires; four of them to be exact. It’s difficult for me to really assess blame on this, since flat tires are usually the fault of the driver for running over debris or adverse road conditions, but four flats in one year is a little troublesome. Could it be related to the rubber compound Bridgestone used to make these unique tires, or related to how tall and thin they are? The two main problems I have with this are the fact that since the i3 doesn’t have a spare, you are left stranded unless the mobility kit (an air compressor and tire sealant) can temporarily seal the hole and allow you to drive home or to a repair shop.

Secondly, the tall thin tires are unique to the i3, so they aren’t always in stock at the dealer. One time I had to wait four days for the dealer to get one.

With no spare tire onboard, a flat means you’re getting towed

With no spare tire onboard, a flat means you’re getting towed

At least with a sidewall bubble you can drive to the dealer, but you still need to buy a new tire and hope it's in stock

At least with a sidewall bubble you can drive to the dealer, but you still need to buy a new tire and hope it’s in stock

Three of the four flats I had were caused by sidewall bubbles, which happen when the inner liner of the tire is damaged. Sidewall bubbles typically happen when you hit a pothole, curb or road debris. In all three cases when I had this happen, I hit a good sized pothole and immediately figured I’d have a problem. Pulling over once it was safe confirmed what I had expected. The other flat I had was caused by a large metal screw. In that case I was actually only a couple blocks from a BMW dealer who actually had the tire in stock and I was able to wait there and drive off about an hour later.

A few years back I had a Porsche Boxster with low profile Pirelli tires and had sidewall bubble issues with that car also, so I know this is something that is common with low profile tires. The difference was the car had a spare tire and the Pirellis were available everywhere. If I could go back in time I probably wouldn’t have gotten the $1,300 optional 20″ sport wheels and I certainly would have paid the $1,000 for the tire and wheel insurance. I definitely like the look of the 20″ wheels, but they are lower profile than the 19″ stock wheels, and that makes them more susceptible to bubbling.

91 miles on a charge is my personal best to date

91 miles on a charge is my personal best to date

As for the range, in warm weather (over 65 degrees) I can usually beat the EPA rated range of 72 miles per charge. In fact, I average about 78 miles per charge in these favorable conditions. The cold weather takes its toll and the worst range I ever got was 48 miles on a full charge before the REx turned on. This happened back in January when the temperature was below zero with ice covered roads and I didn’t precondition the cabin or battery. I actually wanted to see just how bad the range could be in those conditions. However most of the winter when temperatures were under 30 degrees I averaged about 58 to 60 miles per charge. The furthest I ever drove before the REx kicked in was 91 miles, which I did shortly after taking delivery.

I’ll now list the top ten things I either find annoying, would like to see corrected or added features to future i3s.

1) Configurable regenerative braking. I’d like to select how aggressive or weak the regenerative braking is. Other manufacturers offer this and the owners I’ve spoken with appreciate having control over their regen. The i3’s regen does increase in strength when in Eco Pro and Eco Pro+ modes, but I’d prefer the ability to manually adjust it.

2) The car needs an extension flaps on the sun visors. There is a huge gap between the visors and early morning drives can be difficult when heading East.

3) The charging connector needs to unlock from the vehicle when the charging session ends. BMW had said this would be part of the March 2015 software update (which I have) but it still doesn’t work.

The large gap between the visors allows the blinding sun to get through. Visor extension flaps would be appreciated.

The large gap between the visors allows the blinding sun to get through. Visor extension flaps would be appreciated.

4) The front storage compartment (frunk) should be waterproof. If that is problematic then install a snap-on or hinged cover to keep dirt and water spray out.
The current configuration allows leaves, water and dirt to get into the frunk storage compartment. Anything stored up there gets dirty and wet. A cover would solve the issue.

The current configuration allows leaves, water and dirt to get into the frunk storage compartment. Anything stored up there gets dirty and wet. A cover would solve the issue.

The current configuration allows leaves, water and dirt to get into the frunk storage compartment. Anything stored up there gets dirty and wet. A cover would solve the issue.

5) Remove the annoying disclaimers and seat belt gong every time you turn the car on. The seat belt warning should give you ten or twenty seconds to buckle up before it sounds the alarm. I might code my car just to remove these.

6) Fix the windshield wiper. It currently pulls water back into the drivers view when it changes direction. During heavy rains there is a significant obstruction to the drivers view of the left side of the windshield.

The wiper leaves a line of water on the windshield, and actually pulls it back into the drivers line of vision when it changes direction.

The wiper leaves a line of water on the windshield, and actually pulls it back into the drivers line of vision when it changes direction.

7) Add a battery temperature readout. BMW can bury it in iDrive if they don’t want it on the main display screen, but put it somewhere. Many experienced electric vehicle drivers want to see their battery temperature.

8) Add a heated steering wheel. In my opinion heated seats and steering wheel should be standard on all EVs, especially ones from premium brands. I would have really appreciated it last winter.

9) Include an AM radio. Other EV manufacturers have figured out how to reduce the interference and offer it in their vehicles. I’m sure BMW can figure this out too, even if the reception isn’t perfect.

When the ACC disengages, you get this warning. The problem is by then it’s already disengaged and the car is applying the regenerative braking.

When the ACC disengages, you get this warning. The problem is by then it’s already disengaged and the car is applying the regenerative braking.

10) Fix the Adaptive Cruise Control and Parking Assistant. These are really great features, and this kind of technology is expected in a car like the i3. The problem is the ACC disengages suddenly and doesn’t recognize certain vehicles because of their tail light configuration. The car will drive right into the rear of a Dodge Charger for instance, because the Charger’s taillights (which extend across the entire rear of the vehicle) for some reason confuse the ACC. Direct sunlight and sometimes overpasses also cause the system to shut off without warning. I dedicated a post to this issue a few months ago. The Parking Assistant is an automated parking feature which does an incredible job of parking the i3 in very tiny parking spots. It only needs an opening which is 22 inches longer than the car to park it. The problem is, I’ve had numerous people report to me that the car rubbed the curb during the automated parking, scratching the rims. I’ve had enough people tell me this happened to believe it wasn’t just a couple cars malfunctioning. I believe there is an inherent flaw in this feature which needs to be fixed, so for now I recommend not using the Parking Assistant until we get word that the issue had been corrected.

OK, so by now you must be thinking I must really hate the i3, considering all these things I’ve pointed out that I don’t like. That wouldn’t be correct. I actually love the car and wouldn’t trade it for anything, but nothing’s perfect, and BMW can definitely make adjustments which would improve the i3 in my opinion. Now I’ll dive into my top ten i3 likes.

1) Spacious interior. For a car that is only 13 feel long, it has a lot of interior room. It actually has nearly the same interior volume as a 3-Series which is more than two feet longer than the i3.

Spacious, comfortable and well laid out. The i3’s interior is definitely one of its strong points

Spacious, comfortable and well laid out. The i3’s interior is definitely one of its strong points

2) Beautiful interior. In my opinion the i3’s interior is stunning and laid out perfectly. The seats are very comfortable and the outward vision is excellent.

3) It’s incredibly fun to drive. The instant torque, combined with the light weight make the i3 the most fun to drive electric vehicle this side of a Tesla P85D. The low end acceleration (under 60mph) is fantastic and it’s actually the fastest one of the fastest BMWs from 0-30mph. Somehow the tall, thin tires do their job and keep the car under control in hard turns. While it doesn’t corner like an M3, it really does just fine when it needs to. I’ve let dozens of friends and family members drive it and they all walk away with an ear to ear grin. It’s really a blast to drive.

4) Futuristic, sustainable construction. I love the fact that I’m driving the only volume production to ever be constructed with a passenger compartment primarily made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic, an all aluminum frame and thermoplastic body panels. There is absolutely nothing else like it on the road today. Plus, every stage of manufacturing and assembly was developed with sustainability in mind.100% of the electricity used in the Leipzig assembly plant is derived from the wind farm BMW installed on the site. It actually generates so much excess electricity that BMW sells the excess to the Volkswagen AG. Even the carbon fiber plant in Moses Lake, Washington where the CF is made is powered 100% by renewable hydro-power.

BMW’s Leipzig plant where the i3 is made. The on site wind turbines produce more energy than the plant uses.

BMW’s Leipzig plant where the i3 is made. The on site wind turbines produce more energy than the plant uses.

5) The charging rate. I can consistently pull 7.2kW at home (30 amps @ 240v) and now that there are finally some CCS DC fast Chargers being installed I can look forward to fast charging on the go. I’ll soon be installing a 24kW CCS DC Fast charger at my restaurant so I’ll have access to it every day. One of the advantages of having a relatively small battery is it charges quickly! I can fully recharge in a little under four hours while charging level 2, and I can be at 90% in about three hours. Tesla is the only EV manufacturer in the US making on board charging equipment which can deliver more than 7.2kW from a level 2 (240v) source.

6) The efficiency. According to the EPA, the i3 is currently the most efficient car sold in America. Over the entire year I averaged 3.9 miles per kWh. In the warmer weather I’m usually around 4.5 mi/kWh and in the winter I was averaging about 3.5 mi/kWh. I should note that I don’t drive the car softly, and I’m certain many other i3 owners see much better consumption figures. It’s way too much fun to drive it like it was a Prius. Averaging 4 mi/kWh the i3 would cost the average American about $400 per year to drive 15,000 electric miles.

I needed to drive over 200 miles on the range extender when I drove it to Vermont last winter. I set the cruise control to 70 mph and the REx was able to sustain the charge level the entire trip without any issue, even with needing to make a few elevation climbs.

I needed to drive over 200 miles on the range extender when I drove it to Vermont last winter. I set the cruise control to 70 mph and the REx was able to sustain the charge level the entire trip without any issue, even with needing to make a few elevation climbs.

7) The range extender. I know above I said I’d prefer a larger battery over the REx, but that just isn’t an option at this time. As far as range extenders go, I like how BMW set this one up. It’s truly an auxiliary power unit, one that has no physical connection with the wheels and cannot drive the wheels under any condition. It’s sole purpose is to maintain the battery state of charge and allow the driver to continue along until they have the opportunity to plug in.

You’d never buy an i3 REx and not charge it, simply driving on gas all the time. It’s not meant to drive just as well on gas as it is on electric and I like that. It’s an electric car with a secondary power source meant for occasional use, and in that vein it works perfectly – well for me at least. In all of my REx-ing, I never had the vehicle go into reduced power mode which can happen if you are using more energy than the 650cc engine can deliver. This can happen under long sustained hill climbing at highway speeds. BMW is currently working on a solution which will allow for more robust range extender use. This feature will be called Hill Climb Assist and will be available in the Fall. All current REx cars will get the update.

There is another option which some owners have done, and that’s coding the car to allow REx-on-demand. I have not done that to my car because the range extender has been able to do anything I’ve called for it to do so far, and I’ve found that as long as I set the cruise control for 70 mph or lower, I can drive indefinitely, provided I keep refueling every 60 miles or so. Probably the best thing I can say about the range extender is it’s allowed me to never even think about my range anymore, I just get in the car everyday and drive.

Resting at home. You can see the winter tire/wheel combo on the rack above the car. The Bridgestone Blizzak tires were excellent in the snow. I suspect this was an instance where the tall, thin tires actually improved the traction.

Resting at home. You can see the winter tire/wheel combo on the rack above the car. The Bridgestone Blizzak tires were excellent in the snow. I suspect this was an instance where the tall, thin tires actually improved the traction.

8) The attention. Everywhere I go people stop and ask me about the car. I understand many people might not like that, but I do like talking about it and having a discussion about why they should consider driving electric too. I know there are people who think the i3 is ugly, but the response I get from the majority of people is they think it’s cool. I don’t think the i3 is the best looking car on the road, but I definitely don’t see it as ugly and neither do most of the people who stop me to ask about it. When I’m working I can see it through the windows in the parking lot. Every day people walk up to it, look inside and many take pictures of it. Like it or not, it generates a lot of interest.

9) Battery management system & preconditioning. The i3 has a sophisticated thermal management system which works with the preconditioning feature to keep the batteries within the optimum operating temperatures. Which, for the Samsung cells used by BMW is 67 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. When the batteries are much cooler than 67 degrees, you begin to lose range and when the battery temperature is above 104 degrees the cells degrade and begin to lose capacity.

Excessive heat can be one of the biggest enemies for prolonging lithium ion battery life so a good thermal management system will help extend the battery’s life. The i3 uses R134a refrigerant which not only works very well, but also is extremely safe in the event of an accident. Liquid based thermal management systems have an elevated risk of fire in the event of a battery module rupture. In many of these systems it’s possible for the liquid to act as an accelerant, and intensify the fire. R134a is an inert gas and simply dissipates in the event of a ruptured pack or fire. It’s actually the same refrigerant used in most car air conditioning systems. I’m not saying I think liquid thermal management systems aren’t safe, because that’s not the case. I just believe using an inert gas is better, and the i3 is the only EV to employ this technology so it’s worth noting. It’s just another aspect of the car which demonstrates how far outside the box BMW went when engineering the i3, and a perfect example of why the i3 has been called “The most advanced vehicle on the planet”.

The i3’s navigation “spider map” offers a pretty accurate visual display on the cars current range in the different driving modes.

The i3’s navigation “spider map” offers a pretty accurate visual display on the cars current range in the different driving modes.

10) A lot of small things add up to really enhance the ownership experience. Besides the usual attributes expected in all electric vehicles like the quiet cabin and the smooth linear acceleration with instant torque, the i3 has some extras that really seem to make the whole car exceed the sum of its parts.

I love the hill hold feature which keeps it from rolling like many other EVs do while stopped. The absence of artificial creep is a welcomed “addition” that some other EV manufacturers just don’t seem to get. I’ve done more than one poll on this topic and the vast majority of people say they don’t want artificial creep in their electric vehicle and BMW got this right. I love how the aggressive regen really allows “one pedal driving”.

While I did mention above that I wish the regen was adjustable, the level it’s set at now is just about perfect for me in most driving conditions. Adjustable would be better, but as is the regen level is very good, probably the best of any electric vehicle in my opinion. The soft speed limiter helps to coach you to drive more efficiently if you want to, and the three different driving modes (Comfort, Eco Pro & Eco Pro+) gives the driver the ability to extend their range significantly.

The “spider map” display in the navigation system shows how far the car can go in each driving mode, and alerts the driver if their selected destination is beyond the range, pointing them to possible charging stations along the desired route.

The brake assist will sound an audible alert if it senses the car is rapidly approaching the vehicle in front of it and it will even apply the brakes automatically if you are going under 30 mph and it determines you are about to have a possible collision. I also really appreciate that most BMW dealerships now have i3s as loaner cars so i3 owners can continue to drive electric even if their car is in for service. Finally, the large center display screen is as crisp and clear as any I’ve seen. It is positioned so there is almost no glare issues and the HD rear view camera is television-quality clear.

The “Secret Service Menu” shows I have 19.1 kWh available when fully charged

The “Secret Service Menu” shows I have 19.1 kWh available when fully charged

So that pretty much sums up my thoughts after one year of ownership. I listed ten positives and ten negatives and hope the information above helps to paint a picture of what I believe are the i3’s strengths and weaknesses.

One more topic I’d like to touch on though is battery degradation. There are a lot of people curious about how well the battery is holding up over time and use. I’m going to be doing a more comprehensive post on this soon, but I’d like to at least mention what I’ve observed after 13 months and 27,000 miles. Fortunately, the i3 has a “secret service menu” in the OBC which allows the battery capacity to be displayed.

While BMW officially states the i3 has a usable 18.8 kWh of the 21.6 kWh total battery pack, the service menu indicates we get a little more to access. An entire kWh more in fact. When new, the service menu shows approximately 19.8 kWh available. I’ve had others report seeing slightly less, but the majority of people who know how to access this info have told me the highest capacity figure they’ve seen was 19.8 kWh. I have been checking my capacity and watching it slowly decrease. It’s currently showing that I have 19.1 kWh available, which would mean I’ve lost about 3.5% of my capacity in 13 months and 27,000 miles. I’ve plugged about 700 times during the year and virtually always charge to 100%. I’ll be keeping an eye on this and will report back on the capacity loss here from time to time.

I have an 8.8kW solar array on my home in Chester, NJ. It generates most of the electricity I use for the house and charging needs.

I have an 8.8kW solar array on my home in Chester, NJ. It generates most of the electricity I use for the house and charging needs.

I’d like to also point out that during the year, BMW added a numeric state of charge display. This was something I, and many other i3 owners asked for. It might seem like a minor detail, but what’s most encouraging is BMW responded to their customer requests and through a software update added the SOC display. Of course there was always a SOC display there, in the form of a bar graph, but many people wanted to see it displayed more precisely, in a numeric value as well and BMW delivered. Now let’s see if we can get the battery temperature display in year two…

By toggling through the OBC options, you can see the SOC of 47% in the upper left hand corner of the drivers display screen.

By toggling through the OBC options, you can see the SOC of 47% in the upper left hand corner of the drivers display screen.

By toggling through the OBC options, you can see the SOC of 47% in the upper left hand corner of the drivers display screen.

In closing, the i3 pretty much ended up as I expected. It’s far from perfect, but so is every other car I’ve ever driven. I wish it had a larger battery (or a larger battery option), a few monochromatic paint scheme options (like I did with the wrap), offered in a “sport” version with the coilovers that come standard in the Japanese market and a few other sporty upgrades and I think BMW needs to address the issues with the ACC and Parking Assistant features. I don’t mind that the moonroof isn’t available in the US, and the unconventional exterior styling doesn’t bother me. I am much more concerned with the car’s interior since that is what I interact with while driving.

Speaking of driving, for me it really all comes down to that. The i3 delivers more fun than you should legally be allowed to have at 4 miles per kilowatt-hour.

Categories: BMW, Test Drives

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75 Comments on "BMW i3 REx One Year Review"

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kdawg
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“The other flat I had was caused by a large metal screw. In that case I was actually only a couple blocks from a BMW dealer who actually had the tire in stock and I was able to wait there and drive off about an hour later.”
———–

I ran over a screw in my Volt and just had a tire shop remove the screw and plug the hole. No charge and took less than an hour. Is it not as easy to repair the i3 tires?

dan
Guest
dan

All depends on the location of the screw. Closer to the sidewall, and you are going to need to replace that tire.

Low profile tires are more problematic to begin with, and the BMW i3 tires are so narrow, chances of being too close to the sidewall increase significantly.

Tom Moloughney
Guest

As Dan said, it all depends on where you pick up the screw. Mine was too close to the sidewall to plug.

ffbj
Guest
ffbj

I suppose you don’t want to use fix a flat, green slime, or some such product. Not having a new car for years, no worries on flats for me, just a $4 can, and then maybe a new/used tire for $20. Also can’t you just get a spare and toss it in the trunk?

In depth article.

sven
Guest
sven

That’s odd. Why wouldn’t the tire shop charge for fixing a flat tire? That doesn’t sound like a good business model.

Brian
Guest
Brian

Maybe he had road hazard insurance?

See Through
Guest

Why couldn’t the flat tire be fixed with tire sealant and portable tire inflater? Why the need for a flatbed?

ffbj
Guest
ffbj

Some people don’t like using those products, in addition the product is not recommended for sidewall punctures, and this was one such puncture. First thing I thought of too though.
Saved a bundle on tire repairs over the years.
Fix a Flat Faq’s.
http://www.fixaflat.com/faq/

Mutwin Kraus
Guest

The numeric SoC display is not included in the EU software updates, unfortunately it’s US only.

kdawg
Guest

2 more Q’s:

“However, if BMW had optioned it with a 28-29kWh battery pack (33% larger), I would definitely choose that over the REx.”
——
1. If the Bolt was available at the time you bought the i3, would you have gone that route instead, a 200 mile BEV for $37.5k?

2. How do you feel about the charging port being on the passenger side? Would you rather it be on the driver’s side?

David Murray
Guest
David Murray

I don’t know about the OP. But personally, I’d rather have 80 miles of EV range and a range-extender than to have 200 miles of EV range.

GSP
Guest
GSP

Is that the case for the i3, with only 60 extra miles with the range extender before the 1 gallon tank needs to be filled?

I would rather have a 200 mile EV.

In the meantime, the Chevy Volt, with 300+ mile range, and the power to climb any mountain, works great for me.

GSP

Tom Moloughney
Guest

kdawg: Good Q’s

1) Probably, but I’ll want to drive the Bolt first. If it takes 10 seconds to go from 0-60, and feels like I’m driving a cheap econobox than no. However I don’t expect GM to do much better than that with the Bolt. IF the Bolt comes out next year and GM delivers (real 200 mile range for well under 40K)than I’ll probably buy one too and have the i3 REx and the Bolt.

2) I know there are people who complain about this, but it really has never been a concern for me. Not once has it ever inconvenienced me. My ActiveE had the port in the same position so I’ve been charging from the rear passenger side panel since 2012 and it’s a non issue for me.

bro1999
Guest
bro1999

The Spark EV, which is expected to be replaced by the Bolt EV in Chevy’s lineup, has a 0-60 time of 7.6 seconds. I am certain that the Bolt will at least equal that 0-60 time, and may even creep into the 6 second range. After all, how are you going to name a car “Bolt” without it being lightning quick off the line? 😉

Tom Moloughney
Guest

I meant to say “I do expect GM to do much better with the Bolt”

no comment
Guest
no comment

whether a passenger side or driver side charge port is more convenient depends on the orientation of the garage relative to the house (assuming an attached garage). from the photo of your house, i’m not sure it makes much difference. in my house, a driver side charge port is more convenient when i back my car into the garage.

kubel
Guest
kubel

Not speaking for the author, but many BMW owners buy/lease BMW for status rather than practicality. I see very few BMW owners moving to a Chevy bow tie even if it means 3x the range for a cheaper price *AND* a radio that can tune to 535-1605 kHz.

iwatson
Guest
iwatson

The lack of an AM radio in the i3 has been a pet peeve of mine since the car came out! When I test drove one I had to educate the sales staff about this. They were sure it had one. I just learned a few days ago, while reading another article, that the i3 actually does have an AM radio but it is locked out by their software. Those that have upgraded (hacked) their car’s software can receive the AM band. Boy, those Germans sure have some funny ideas! Guess that explains WWII.

dan
Guest
dan

Great update. I’ve always liked the i3 (and even tried to ‘upgrade’ from my LEAF until I found out just how bad the LEAF resale value is), and I think the biggest takeaway for me is that BMW is still adding new features, and upgrading existing vehicles.

Even Nissan won’t do that (they added SoC % to MY 2013, but didn’t upgrade MY 2011-2012), and as Tesla has shown, it’s the way of the future.

I wish I hadn’t given up my multi-day test drive slot to someone else, as the local dealer no longer offers them, but I guess in the end, it would have been too big of a tease.

I would also love to know what kind of efficiency you would get with a Nissan LEAF on some of those typical trips, as that would make it easier to compare just how good/bad the i3 is.

On a side note, how many other EVs do you have that fit in that same garage? Do I see at least 4 EVSEs (at least 3 look like J1772 units) mounted on the wall?

Tom Moloughney
Guest

I currently only have the i3, Dan. I use them when I have guests over and also do some charging tests and reviews/comparisons of different products.

bill howland
Guest
bill howland

Tom I thought in one of your previous articles I saw a Roadster in your garage.

Big Solar
Guest
Big Solar

seal the frunk and give it a 140 mile range and even I will buy a bmw (cringe). I’ll just have to remove the bmw logos somehow. I hate to admit it but i like the i3.

Anon
Guest
Anon

Nicely written, frank review.

Those tires seem like quite a trade off of looks vs durability, handling and safety.

Perhaps the Tesla Model 3 Crossover might woo you over, when it’s available

We can extrapolate from current models:

1. It will handle potholes and ride better, using regular sized tires.

2. No more moist-frunk syndrome.

3. Greater than 200 mile range.

4. Access to SuperCharger Network.

5. No range extender required.

6. You’ll have an AWD option.

CT200H
Guest
CT200H

As a former Leaf owner and current I3 owner the charge port location the Leaf is good, Volt good, I3 poor.
BMW should have put the port on the drivers fender in the USA volt style , opposite the REX fuel cap.

vdiv
Guest
vdiv

Well, by adjustable regen. braking Tom probably means adjustable upper limit. The great thing about regen. braking is allowing one pedal driving, or modulating or dialing the acceleration/braking with a single control. As such I do not understand the fascination with adding separate controls such as steering column paddles (ELR) or a gear shifter (e-Golf).

Brian
Guest
Brian

I poersonally love the e-Golf’s setup. It allows you to select the mode you want, so what’s wrong with that? If someone else wants less max regen, why make them buy a different car? It’s just software.

What I would personally want to switch between is max regen and NO regen (i.e. coasting). The latter is better for efficiency if you are just cruising. It will always be easier to coast in neutral than to try to modulate the accelerator just right to give you zero power / zero regen. My Leaf doesn’t let me do either, btw. To get max regen, I need to actually depress the brake pedal ever so slightly. To get zero regen, I either have to try focus in an trying to find that sweet spot, or literally flip the car into neutral.

Tom Moloughney
Guest

I Agree Brian. I’d like to be able to dial it up more for inner city driving and even turn off the regen for long, highway driving when I’d prefer to coast.

kdawg
Guest

What I do in my Volt is leave it at the highest regen and turn on cruise control whenever possible. (I use it a lot). This gives your foot a rest.

Ideally though, I’d like to have the ELR buttons or Next Gen Volt buttons for regen on demand. I would also like to have “Sport on demand” buttons, for those times you need a little more juice.

vdiv
Guest
vdiv

Once I learned about L-mode driving in my Volt I never went back and never felt I needed less regen. The couple of times I tried to drive in D it felt weird and unpredictable.

kdawg
Guest

Yeah and driving a gasser is scary when you take your foot off the pedal and there’s no regen. It momentarily feels like the car is surging out of control, til you remember you have to hit the brake.

bro1999
Guest
bro1999

I did a 4 day test drive of an i3 REx last fall, and while I liked the fact I could come to a stop using regen only, I missed the ability to simply coast when I wanted to. I ended up actually shifting to N several times so that I could coast during certain stretches. I’m not sure why BMW didn’t allow for a way to coast without having to shift to neutral.

franky_b
Guest
franky_b

Not true, you can coast… If you don’t release the accelerator completely and put the accelerator cursor in the middle, you are coasting.

scoops
Guest
scoops

Sometimes it’s nice to give your foot a rest.

franky_b
Guest
franky_b

I have the ACC for that 🙂

bro1999
Guest
bro1999

My definition of coasting involves taking the foot off the pedal. If you do that in an i3, you’ll come to a stop rather quickly.

franky_b
Guest
franky_b

We clearly don’t have the same definition… For me coasting is wheels a moving freely without break of accelerator involved… so yes you can coast.

scoops
Guest
scoops

I *really* hope my next car has paddles.

Regen is not as efficient as coasting. Depending on the situation I might want heavy regen, light regen or no regen.

Jon
Guest
Jon

There is no coasting! No clutch, no freewheel, no gearbox, just a reduction gear permanently connecting the motor to the wheels. So ‘coasting’ is in fact 0kW regen, and is obtainable by holding your right foot in the correct place.

Brian
Guest
Brian

Thanks for writing this up, Tom. It’s always great to hear from you!

I’m really hoping that CCS starts to spread throughout the country. Didn’t BMW declare 2015 to be the “year of infrastructure”? What ever happened to that? Is it being deployed as planned?

Tom Moloughney
Guest

BMW is currently working with ChargePoint to install the 100 CCS DCQC stations along the East & West Coast “Express Charging Corridors”. They’ll be placed approximately every 40-50 miles. It takes time to identify the locations, work out deals with the property management, get permits and install them. They currently have dozens of the locations selected and are proceeding with the permitting process. You’ll start seeing them pop up on the ChargePoint maps soon.

bro1999
Guest
bro1999

Are they planning on installing any stations rated higher than 24 kW? It’d be disappointed if they don’t install some higher powered stations, especially when the 200 mile EVs start popping up. 24 kW for a 50-60 kWh pack is not very quick at all.

Tom Moloughney
Guest

All of the DCQC stations directly on the Express Charging Corridors will be 50kW units. The 24kW ones will be located in secondary locations. You’ll be able to travel the corridors and charge at 50kW units the whole way.

However the charging time isn’t really much slower on the 24kW units (One might expect it takes twice as long on a 24kW unit as it does on a 50kW unit). On “small battery” EVs like the i3, the full charging rate is only realized for about 10 minutes before the unit starts ramping down. For instance, the i3 will charge to about 80% in 20 to 22 minutes on a 50kW DCQC station, and it will do so in about 28-30 minutes on a 24kW unit. Yes, it’s quicker, but not by all that much. You really appreciate the faster charging speed much more when you’re charging a large battery like in the case of the Model S.

bro1999
Guest
bro1999

Ok, that’s good to hear.

I’m really curious what GM’s strategy is with the Bolt EV and charging infrastructure. Assuming GM wants to sell the Bolt EV in all 50 states, it would seem they would need to do something to help build out the charging infrastructure, especially L3 stations. Installing L3 stations at some dealerships isn’t going to cut it.

GSP
Guest
GSP

Tom,

Thanks for your nice report.

When you get a chance, please lobby your BMW contacts to install TWO fast chargers at each location. With two chargers, the chances of one being available when you arrive is MUCH higher. This will give EV drivers much more confidence to take their EV on trips.

Ask them to do the math on this for themselves. Tell then if a Danish mathematician can figure this out in the 19th Century, surely 21st Century Germans can be up to speed on this basic science. Can’t they? 🙂

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agner_Krarup_Erlang

GSP

Loboc
Guest
Loboc

We figured that out back in the day with modems. 2 modems can handle traffic from 7 people whilst 1 modem is serial usage and may only handle one user for hours.

franky_b
Guest
franky_b

Great review Tom… a must read for someone interested in an i3.

I have one and can confirm most of what Tom mentionned. I got a later version of the i3 REX (Fall 2014 build) and didn’t ran into Tom’s listed issues.

In case it was a high power cable that needed to be changed after an extended use of the REX. No problem since they did that.

Oh and Tom, you will fall in love with DCFC 🙂 I just did a round trip of 1059Km, 75% was on electrons and DCFC continue to put up in Quebec.

franky_b
Guest
franky_b

and meant pop up :S

EVer
Guest
EVer

time to get a Tesla

vdiv
Guest
vdiv

BMW won’t let that happen 😉

Tom Moloughney
Guest

I’m very interested in the Model 3, as well as the Bolt. If BMW comes up with something more compelling in a couple years then I’ll consider that also. I don’t really need more than 200 miles of range, 150 to 200 would be more than enough, combined with the DCQC infrastructure that is finally beginning to be installed. I’m not married to BMW, I just really like what they did with the i3. I could definitely see myself in a Tesla in the future, just not one as large as the Model S.

vdiv
Guest
vdiv

The not so secret hope is that battery upgrades with greater range are eventually offered on the existing EV models.

Nix
Guest
Nix

“9) Include an AM radio. Other EV manufacturers have figured out how to reduce the interference and offer it in their vehicles.”

The interference from the electric drivetrain isn’t the problem. The problem is the carbon-fiber body.

On a metal car, the entire frame/chassis is used as the “ground plane” for receiving longer radio waves. Basically every inch of metal is used as part of the antenna.

With a carbon fiber car, that metal just isn’t there, and AM reception will be poor. Likely it was so poor that BMW decided it was better to live with the complaints of “why doesn’t it have an AM radio?” than to have repeated customer complaints at the service department for the AM radio not working properly.

Tom Moloughney
Guest

You may be right about the carbon fiber body – I’m not qualified to really comment on that. The funny thing is that the car has an AM radio, it was just disabled. Many people that have the car coded it to enable the AM radio and they report that it works fine and the interference isn’t all that bad.

vdiv
Guest
vdiv

Well, the European version of the i3 is no different and yet it has the AM radio enabled. Sure it may receive a hell of an interference whiled driving, but when the car is of it works like a charm. It uses a ferrite antenna so a big metal plate for an antenna is not required, just like any portable AM radio.

Loboc
Guest
Loboc

In my ’70 ‘Vette, AM was poor and sometimes downright unusable because of ignition noise. Even with all the factory shielding (wire braiding on the wires, metal enclosure for distributor, etc.).

When I got the car it was ‘hot rodded’ with all shielding removed. I changed everything back to factory. Even then, AM reception was not good.

Grendal
Guest
Grendal

Tom. Excellent review. I appreciate the details of your experience. It gave me a good idea of how I would like or dislike the car. I’d love to read reviews of other cars from your perspective. Thank you.

Tom Moloughney
Guest

Thanks for the kind words. 🙂

mo
Guest
mo

great article Tom. Did you get to drive it in the snow going up hills?

Tom Moloughney
Guest

Yes, quite a bit actually. The 20″ Sport wheels I have only come with summer tires and there are no 20″ winter tire options for this unique size tire – not yet at least. So I bought a set of Rial wheels and the corresponding 19″ Blizzak tires. They worked great. You can see my winter tire/wheel set in the garage above the car in one of the pictures.

Elroy
Guest
Tom, I will probably be getting an i3 at the end of this year. My friend has one. But even he agrees that I will probably be disappointed at how inferior the cluster information display is compared to my Ford Focus. Everytime I get in an i3 and just want to check the battery level, you have to turn on the ignition, and wait and wait, or be charging and unlock the door, or open it. Why not show the level instantly when you push the start button. Why have to wait for a seat belt warning??? And on the Ford you have complete time, temp, compass readouts always there in front of you and on the touch screen. The charge screen shows your percentage, time you started charging, when it will end. The cluster in front shows you how many kwh you have used, and when you recharge, it counts back down to zero. The same screen shows your kwh average, and range etc. It is absolutely ridiculous you have to toggle through the obc to decide on whether you want time, temp, mi/kwh, etc. It is safer to have it ALL displayed in front of you then to… Read more »
Mutwin Kraus
Guest

1. On my EU i3 it takes around a second or two after pressing Start for the battery level to show up, there is also no seatbelt warning. It seems there are other extra warnings like with the ACC too that are not here in EU. You can probably get rid of them with coding the car. (Not entirely sure, as I see no need to do it on a EU BEV).

2. The iDrive system is configurable, so you can put compass, complete time etc. on the iDrive screen. Outside temperature is one of the displays for the driver’s screen that can be selected with the left stalk next to the wheel.

3. To see stuff like energy consumption etc. you can change to the trip monitor, or to the real-time energy display which shows a bar graph for each minute of driving and regen. I have these two set to buttons 1 and 2 of the iDrive system (I also use 8 for navigating home) and it’s very easy to switch between those and other views while driving.

Jeff K
Guest
Jeff K

Tom, thanks for the great review. I did the multi day test and I loved the drive, but it didn’t prove to be an ideal car for a family with 2 kids with the hassle of the suicide doors. Question: what was your rationale for wrapping your car for one year? Is that to protect the exterior for resale? And if you don’t mind, what was the cost of the wrap?

Tom Moloughney
Guest

I really did the wrap to make mt i3 stand out from the crowd and to show everyone what it would look like without the two tone color scheme that BMW used. I also though it would be interesting to see how it look with the rear window dip softened a bit by using a black overlay under the front window. Protecting the real paint underneath was really just a good side effect.

A wrap like this will cost somewhere between $1,500 and $2,500 depending on where you get it done.

Jeff Songster
Guest
Jeff Songster

Nice review… I really enjoyed the i3 when I test drove it. Agree about the seat and wheel heaters and would also add the electric windshield defroster that the eGolf has. Sure wish my 2 LEAFs had that in the winter when you have to get air flowing across it in the cold AM.
Speaking of AM… I too would miss the Medium Wave radio… mostly on long drives when the FM is spotty. Glad to hear that the REX lets you more fully use the battery… to me that is the best reason to carry the complex range extenders. Like the wrap color… how much does something like that cost? Really bugs me how safe and limited the color choices are on most cars these days. Too much white and grey… and worst of all… beige.
Cheers!

no comment
Guest
no comment

would you really want to take a BMW i3 ReX on a long drive? i would think that having to stop every 60 miles to refill would get really old, really fast.

no comment
Guest
no comment
i think many of your criticisms are nitpicks, but i guess you’re trying to be thorough. that said, it seems crazy that BMW didn’t seal the frunk with gaskets to prevent water intrusion. it also seems kind of shaky that the car doesn’t have an AM radio. if you like listening to ball games while driving, many of those programs are carried over AM. i think that configurable regen would be a very good feature. i would think the best way to achieve this is to allow the brake pedal to engage the regen and the friction brake, as is done in the Chevrolet Volt, although some don’t like the feel of the Volt brake pedal action. i’m not a fan of “F1 style” levers on the steering wheel stem; if you’ve got regen on demand through the brake pedal, the levers seem kind of stupid to me. if you’re getting 4.5 mi/kWH while not trying to drive efficiently, that’s doing pretty good. 4.5 to 5 mi/kWH is the best that i get in my Volt when i don’t use the HVAC system. you want a battery temperature reading? are you kidding? what would you do if you had that… Read more »
Loboc
Guest
Loboc

“if you’ve got regen on demand through the brake pedal, the levers seem kind of stupid to me.”

The paddle regen on ELR is pretty good for setting up to turn. Especially on 30mph streets.
– get off the gas (which does some regen)
– hit the paddle (which does more regen)
– turn the corner.

I hardly ever hit the brake pedal any more. Just coming to a complete stop.

Loboc
Guest
Loboc

“how much benefit do you really get from preconditioning?”

A lot if you time it correctly. When pre-conditioning (ELR) while plugged in to L2, the cabin is at the right temp in 15mins. Jump in and start driving. The battery is usually back up to full charge.

I hardly ever have a time where the cabin re-cools/re-heats unless I’m held up for something.

The only thing I wish it had was cooled steering wheel and cooled seats. The heated seats and steering wheel are great!

no comment
Guest
no comment

i have a question about the solar panels. how do you clean those things? it looks like the solar panel array takes up the entire south face of your roof (i’m assuming the photo of your house was taken in the afternoon), which would make it difficult to get up there to clean the panels.

Tom Moloughney
Guest

You don’t have to clean solar panels if you live in an area that gets frequent rain. Here in NJ the panels are fine without any cleaning. About the only time I think I’m losing any production because of this is in the early spring when it’s pollen season. For about two to three weeks the panels have a green tint to them because of all the pollen build up if it doesn’t rain.

The system is over five years old now and the panels still look brand new.

Brian
Guest
Brian

I concur with what Tom said. If it rains every week or two, they stay plenty clean.

In upstate NY, the only thing you’d want to “clean” off the panels is snow. I have discussed this at length with a friend, and come to the conclusion that it just isn’t worth it. It snows multiple times a week during the winter, and even if the panels were clear, the days are short and typically cloudy. The difference would be maybe $1/month/panel. It’s just not worth it.

Ed Gonzalez
Guest
Ed Gonzalez

Hi. I got my I3 last year in June and just got to my one year anniversary recently. Unlike you, however, I only drove a little over 7,000 miles. I’ve been very satisfied with this car and EV driving that I now find it somewhat distasteful whenever I have to drive an ICE car! Quick question – how do I access the “Secret Service Menu”? Let me know. Thanks.

Tom Moloughney
Guest

Ed: I don’t offer instructions to this because I don’t want someone making a mistake and messing up something in their car. That said, if you join the BMW i3 Facebook group there are step by step instructions in the files section which explain how to do it:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/BMWi3/

Can
Guest
Can

Great review Tom, thanks.

I really hope BMW will take this comment of yours into account and focus even more seriously on BEVs; (I’m really disappointed with i8’s EV range)

“if BMW had optioned it with a 28-29kWh battery pack (33% larger), I would definitely choose that over the REx”

B
Guest
B

Quite a good review, although it doesn’t give much information about your driving habits – you seem to get 50 – 80 miles of range depending on the weather but we have no indication of what speed you drive at or if you have aircon on or not. 80 miles is ok at 70mph, not so much at 57Mph.