BMW i3 US Sales/Production By The Numbers: REx To BEV Ratio

BMW i3


BMW i3 BEV Production Tracking

BMW i3 BEV Production Tracking

When we reported first US sales of the BMW i3 at 336 units in May, our hope was that BMW would break out the i3 REx and i3 BEV sales separately.

That didn’t happen and likely never will (at least not at the BMW corporate level), but that hasn’t stopped us from securing the numbers we’re all looking for.

With assistance from InsideEVs contributor (and BMW i3 REx owner) George Betak, we’ve nailed down the closest i3 sales breakdown you’ll find anywhere in the world.

The numbers to your right show our tracking methods, but since they’re confusing as all heck, we’ll just jump right into the numbers you all are waiting for.

Total US BMW i3 production to date is now just over 2,000 units, so that means that a load of unsold i3s are either in transit, at the port, at dealerships awaiting delivery or at dealerships as demo vehicles.

BMW i3 REx Production Tracking

BMW i3 REx Production Tracking

We predict BMW i3 sales could soar to perhaps 1,000 units next month, given that all this inventory has made it out of production.

The Ratio

The REx to BEV ratio is the talk of the town.  Those numbers show a dramatic change since we last reported on the situation.

The old i3 REx to BEV ratio was ~ 4:3 in favor of the REx.

The new ratio is ~ 9:5 in favor of the REx.

Even more interesting is that the ratio appears to be climbing in favor of the REx, meaning that if we report on this again soon, it’s likely that the REx to BEV ratio will be 2:1 or even more in favor of the REx.


Americans prefer the added security that the REx offers or they’re uncomfortable with the lower-than-expected range rating (81 miles) for the BEV version.  Or the $3,850 optional REx is priced low enough that the majority of buyers just tick the box for that just in case moment.  Or dealers are doing a remarkable job at upselling.  Or…

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45 Comments on "BMW i3 US Sales/Production By The Numbers: REx To BEV Ratio"

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It would be interesting if the world had 100 mile BEVs, 150 mile BEVs, and 200 mile BEVs, all with the option of a range extenders. And we could compare those #’s.

At what point does the range extender become pointless, or at least, not desirable?

at around 200 miles.

The higher the AER the more minimal the RE. That’s why i3 RE is smaller than the Volt.
At 200 miles the size goes to zero.

I have wondered the same thing. But I think it is hard to answer because the numbers would likely vary a lot by geographical location and by how much fast-charging infrastructure there is in a particular area.

With the bare-minimum infrastructure we have right now, I’d say even 200 miles isn’t really enough range for most people because they’ll want to drive between major cities that may be double that range.

While, at the same time, I would say that if there was a QC station on every street corner like we have with gas stations, most people would be fine with the 80-ish miles offered by the current generation of BEVs for all but the longest of roadtrips.

I really wish Nissan would add an option for a small range extender to the next generation Leaf. Even if the Leaf has 150 miles of battery range. I bet more than half of all customers would still pay the extra for that option.

I still like the idea of a hitch mounted range extender. Attach it for the rare times you’re taking a long trip. Normally remove it. No need to carry around the extra weight and take up the interior space.

I’m the opposite. I am hoping that they’ll learn to build smaller and smaller range extenders (especially as the all-electric range gets larger and larger.) Eventually, if they can move to a microturbine or something like that, it may take up an inconsequential amount of space in the car.

That is the same for me, I would also like to have a shoebox sized rex. If it can provide 20 KW to keep the car going at an average speed of 75 mph, that is fine. Of course you would still need a decent fuel tank of about 10 gallons, but you can leave it almost empty when you don’t expect a long trip. To achieve that super small size a turbine is a possibility or a direct free piston generator like the ones from Pempek, Toyota or DLR, would be another possibility.

Unfortunately, the free piston generator is a long way from reality, and microturbines are less efficient than ICEs (nor is a 30kW one very small).

Tiny engines are our best bet, and they let you use a much smaller battery, I don’t think room is necessarily a problem.

I suggest, you just carry a portable generator in your trunk for long distances where the range gets iffy. Find some sweet spot, and just charge it up again.

Well a generator in the trunk could be an Assurance not to be left along the road, but it is not appropriate. First, if you have to stop along the road to run it and charge your vehicle you are still standing still. Not really a difference with waiting at a supercharger except that you will wait much longer since your generator is probably not charging at 90 KW. Second, putting a generator in your trunk is not easy to do because mobile generators that can provide some power in the 10 or 15KW are rather heavy. And it is heavy to put it in your trunk but also to take it out to run it as well, especially if you are likely to be alone then. You also have to put it back in your trunk afterwards. Third, if you drive with a generator in your trunk, you are going to have a gasoline smell in your cabin, not really desirable. Fourth, an on board rex is at contrary perfectly integrated in the car and has his own direct connections. It can also be optimized for that particular use and of course will run while driving so you don’t… Read more »

Compared to automaker engines, portable generators have poor emissions control, mediocre reliability, and poor thermal efficiency. On top of that, you can’t charge your car while it’s running, which is the most important benefit.

A REx is a far better solution. BMW is charging $4k because it’s BMW.

Personally, I’d never buy a sub 200-mile BEV. This is because I only own 1 car. That means this car needs to do it all. With cold Michigan winters, I need more AER to make those trips to the next town. Even if there were quick-chargers on every corner, I’m not going to want to stop every 45 minutes to recharge. Basically Tesla’s 85kWh setup is my min for a BEV. Hopefully the specs for the Gen3 are close. If I had 2 cars, I’d own a Spark EV/Leaf easily as my main commuter, no range-extender needed.

So I guess my point was, it really depends on the function of the car and how many cars are in the household.

Why don’t you get married. Then you could have two yes two cars for the price of one. 🙂

No, then I couldn’t afford any new cars 🙂
(would probably have to sell my motorcycle too)

Well, apparently you need a new job 😉

Wouldn’t matter. What hers is hers and what’s yours is hers. 😛

IMO at 300 miles electric range the ICE becomes obsolete.

I currently own a Volt and if i had to replace it with another electric car it would have to have a REX unless the electric range is 200+ in cold weather.

300 miles is still short, I rather say starting at 400 miles. But then again a rex is not only a range extender it is also a joker in the sense that it will keep your car going if you happen to be in a place where you can’t recharge, or if you have a blackout. If a rex becomes shoebox sized, it will be just a kind of accessory like a fridge, a spare tire or a tow hook. It is an extra but it becomes small enough to not really matter if you add it or not. So you are left with only the advantages it can bring you. Therefore I would not be surprise to see EV in the year 2050 having 1000 miles of EV range but still equipped with a shoebox sized generator.

I will repeat my golden advice here 🙂 Carry a portable generator in the trunk, to charge up in emergencies.

See GM DID have a good idea!!
Frank Webber put an interesting twist on it.

Definitely. GM and Ford have concluded ICE ramge equivalency is essential in North America for both 1 car families and 2 car families (one of the two cars, at least), hence their focus on hybrids, with or without plugs. GM went about as far as it could on the plug-in hybrid front with the 40 mile AER Volt, which can double as a BEV for most of the time.

Sub-100 mile BEVs can only really be second cars in North America, with some urban exceptions.

The i3 REx is in an odd space, however. The North American version is crippled with a micro tank and no hold/mountain modes, so it really can’t fulfill a PHEV role, like a Volt. It’s more like a sub-100 mile BEV fulfilling a second car role, but with an anxiety reducing limp home capability for emergencies.

This is an excerpt of what i3 REX owner and BMW i3 blogger Tom Moloughney wrote on greencarreports: “I drove for about 35 miles with the REx running before I left the highway to test the BMW i3 on secondary roads. I carried my speed from 65 mph to 80 mph, and the car never flinched. Running on the range extender, it felt about 85 percent as powerful as it did in full electric mode–and, crucially, it was easily capable of accelerating and passing even at those speeds.” So please stop with the limp-home nonsense. European i3 REX users report that after 3000-4000 miles their REX-mode usage amounts to 5-7%. 93-95% in pure EV mode. On flat grounds the REX-mode can sustain 75-80 mph, when climbing a long grade the speeds may drop a bit but not by very much. On youtube you find vidoes of the i3 REX on the germany highway going uphill at max speed with an empty battery where the speed temporarily drops to around 55-60 mph which is still respectable and far from limping home. So what’s the probability that the battery is completely empty, and you need to climb a long grade? Then multiply… Read more »

John, you might want to join the i3 owners Facebook page where at least two new rex owners took their cars on journeys where they had to climb a hill on rex…both indicated speeds dropped below 50 mph…one well below. It is what it is…

That could be the case with a standard gasoline car as well if the slope is really strong. So no one will be surprise by your car if it slows down in such a strong slope. On flat grounds it would be a surprise to see your car at 50 but apparently it can keep 75 so there doesn’t seem to be a problem there expect for someone that would want to rocket up a slope, even if it is a 20% one, knowing his battery is empty and the rex mode is on.

When the REX generator is on, the battery still has some charge left (6%?), which can be used for accelerating once in a while. But not for continuously more power delivery, as needed for hill climbing.
OTOH, the micro tank helped i3 REX get the white HOV sticker and $2500 credit in California, which is a big deal for many.
Tank size is not a real issue; just carry an extra 2 gallon tank of gas, or stop by more frequently.

Indeed. This is exactly right.

I thought the Rex got the green sticker (which is not available anymore)?

BMW should have placed a normal 10 gallon tank on all BMW i3 and only a 1.9 Gallon tank on those for California. Now the forced a 1.9 Gallon tank on all the drivers even those that are in other countries.

Is this production rate or sales rate? Sales is more important. The article makes it sound like its production rate comparison.

Since there is a sale backlog a few months deep, all produced cars are essentially sold already. That is, unless the buyer who placed the order backs out when the vehicle arrives.

This is indeed the case, and that’s why these early production numbers offer an interesting insight into customer expectations and behavior.

given the current state of uncertainty on battery capacity / mileage estimate, a range extender provides the ability to use the whole battery. With my LEAF I rarely even approach Low Battery Warning – it just isn’t worth the ‘worry’ – we take the Prius on any trip that even has a hint of taxing the LEAF. If I had a range extender I would use the LEAF much more – but probably not burn much, if any, fuel.

Are all i3s already ordered by customers ?

I don’t think so. Some are “allocated” and then some are ordered by dealers. So, the ratio might reflect BMW/Dealer thinking rather than actual sales.

I’m pretty sure there was an article about six months back regarding customer test drives and a figure or two was discussed about pre-orders. The initial month’s sales indicate someone was interested in buying – and they may do pretty well for a while. I doubt they surpass the Leaf here in the USA in terms of sales per month. But that BMW moniker does have it’s fan base.

Much like with early LEAFs, the vast majority, if not all available vehicles, were built to order. As such, they are reflective of customer demand, and not corporate or dealer uptake projections.

I think a lot of it has to do with the 81 mile range simply not being enough in the luxury market. That’s why Infiniti delayed its EV.

Something that really would be telling is if BMW offered a larger battery option vs the REx.

Some of you might recall that I predicted a year ago that while initially sales might be 50/50 BEV/REx, after the initial wave (say up to a year), REx would rise to 80%-90% of sales. I’m sticking to that. And reminding you. The first batch of enthusiasts contain BEV purists, but then we start dealing with normal people who just don’t have the patience to worry.

Well according to you Volt should be selling a lot more than Leaf 😉

No real surprise – more range is good, for the most part. The possible caveat is that many.most i3 owners find they do not need the REx very often, if ever.

I hope that BMW puts the extra money and space for the REx for a bigger/better battery. And I hope they work hard at improving the range, with lower aero drag, and more efficient heating/cooling, etc.

I still wonder if $4K of more batteries would have been a very popular option had it it been available.

Don’t forget that BMW has always had a high margin on its options. No way does the REx cost them $4k to build, nor would your theoretical $4k option actually give you $4k worth of batteries. It would be +10kWh at the most.

I think the REx option will explode when a manufacture like Tata motors starts cranking out REx units in the hundreds of thousands for $1500 a piece. Remember, they sold a whole 38-hp car for $2500.

An 80-mile EREV will be cheaper to make than a 200-mile pure EV for a long time – at least a decade. Batteries plus packaging will have to be cheaper than $100/kWh.

A 2 to 1 ratio in favor of the Rex would clearly show that it is a winning combination for future cars and that it presently is a better trade off compared to low range or overpriced rex less EV’s or too complicated plug-in hybrids. All that would be required for global market adoption would be a lower key, non luxury, manufacturer like Honda, Toyota, Ford, GM or Nissan.


+1. Think BYD Qin, or BYD Denza ($52K, 200 mile).

“a better trade off compared to low range or overpriced rex less EV or too complicated plug-in hybrids”
It only shows people in this segment don’t want a low ranged EV, but says nothing about a decent ranged EV (as it was not offered as an option) nor “complicated” plug-in hybrids (which also was not offered as an option by BMW and PHEVs from other brands are still handily outselling the i3).

This just proves that GM is right about “Range Anxiety”.

That is exactly what the US version of the REx is design for. Range Anxiety removal…