BMW i3 w/Range Extender Vs. Chevrolet Volt

JUL 31 2013 BY JAY COLE 58

The BMW i3 With Range Extender Is An Eloquent Solution To Range Anxiety In EVs

The BMW i3 With Range Extender Is An Eloquent Solution To Range Anxiety In EVs

Even though the ink on the BMW press release for the i3 has yet to dry, the first comparison of the Bimmer with range extender vs the Chevrolet Volt is now underway.

Chevrolet Volt Leads The EREV Revolution

Chevrolet Volt Leads The EREV Revolution

Now to preface this report, it is not so much how the BMW i3 REx drives vs the Chevrolet Volt, but rather will the BMW i3 with the range extender option added on compete with the Chevrolet Volt.

We’d love to have a test drive comparo of the two – however, even though as a group we own (or have driven extensively) every model year of the Chevrolet Volt here at InsideEVs, BMW has yet to allow any journalist any extended time in their extended range BMW i3.  So, we will work with what we know.

Pricing

  • The Chevrolet Volt currently starts at $39,145
  • The BMW i3 begins at $41,350 for the pure EV, the REx option adds $3,850 for a starting price of $45,200

Using our Grade 3 math skills, there is a base difference of $6,055 between the two…$6,130 if you want to get picky and in the extra $75 in destination fees on the BMW.

In reality, the Chevy is actually much less, as it is currently in its 4th calendar year on the market in the US – so discounting is wide spread, while the BMW i3 which comes on the market in Q2 of 2014 will likely not be discounted until it has been on the market for quite some time.

BMW Gets "Artsy" With The Stock Photos Of The i3

BMW Gets “Artsy” With The Stock Photos Of The i3

Handling

Once again, we can’t tell you how the BMW i3 REx handles, but we can tell you that everyone seems fairly satisfied with the all electric version.

That being said, questions remain:  How well does the i3 transition to extended range mode?  How much interior noise is added during the operation of the 2 cylinder motorcycle engine?  Is the 34 hp/55 lb-ft motor really capable of sustaining a charge level in the i3’s 22-kWh battery under extended amounts of distressed driving?  Who knows.

As for the Volt , it went through years of R&D, has had 3+ years of real-world proofing,  and clearly has a more capable/exotic extended drive architecture. We feel that most likely the Volt will offer a more refined ride, despite its underdog Chevrolet vs BMW badging on the front.

And darn you BMW for those 155/70 19″ tires up front on the i3…we get you are looking for efficiency, but c’mon.

A Closer Look At BMW's 34 hp Extended Range Generator's Location Behind The Rear Seats

A Closer Look At BMW’s 34 hp Extended Range Generator’s Location Behind The Rear Seats

Performance And Weight

The Chevrolet Volt is heavy with a capital H compared to the i3 REx, and there is no way around the effects of that on the performance numbers.

The Volt tips the scales at 3,781 lbs to the i3’s 2,899lbs (2,634 without the REx).  882 lbs is too much for the Volt’s 111 kW/273lb-ft of torque motor to make up against the i3’s 125 kW/184 lb-ft power plant.

0-60 MPH

  • Chevrolet Volt: 8.7 seconds
  • BMW i3 REx: 7.8 seconds* (7.0 seconds all-electric)

0-40 MPH

  • Chevrolet Volt: 4.5 seconds
  • BMW i3 REx: 4.1 seconds* (3.9 seconds all-electric)

50-75 MPH

  • Chevrolet Volt: 7.6 seconds
  • BMW i3 REx: 5.5 seconds* (4.9 seconds all-electric)
BMW i3 And Chevrolet Volt Interiors

BMW i3 And Chevrolet Volt Interiors

Interior Aesthetics And Comfort

Again, until we get to spend 4-5 hours in a BMW i3, no comparison can be made.  We can say that we have no complaints inside the Volt, other than it is perhaps a little cramped in relation to its price-point and status as a family sedan/people mover.   The BMW i3 dimensionally is much shorter in length than the Volt (although 6″ taller), but interior front head and legroom are very similar.

If The Most All-Electric Range Under $40,000* Is Your Thing, The BMW i3 Is Probably For You

If The Most All-Electric Range Under $40,000* Is Your Thing, The BMW i3 Is Probably For You

Range (All Electric)

Like the next segment will be easy to call for the Chevrolet Volt, this one is all BMW i3 REx.

  • The BMW i3 pure electric version has a BMW touted “80 to 100” miles of range.  We feel that an EPA rating of about 93 miles is a reasonable expectation.  That being said, the REx is going to take a penalty of about 10% due to extra weight and a little more Cd (.30 vs .29)…for arguments sake, we are going with about 83 miles in REx trim.
  • The Chevrolet Volt (2013 edition) is rated at 38 miles
Even When The BMW i3 Hits The US Market, No One Does Extended Range Motoring Like Chevrolet

Even When The BMW i3 Hits The US Market, No One Does Extended Range Motoring Like Chevrolet

Range/Efficiency (Extended Mode)

  • The Chevrolet Volt can travel an additional 341 miles on gas alone via a 1.4L engine and a 9.3 gallon tank, good for 37 MPG
  • The BMW i3 can travel up to an additional 87 miles* over the pure electric version via a 650cc 2 cylinder engine and 2.3 gallon tank, good for 38 MPG*

It is worth noting at this juncture that like the electric range on the i3 that has yet to be vetted by EPA standards, the same can be said of the extended range and MPG figures.

Additionally, if BMW’s addition 87 mile range estimate is proven accurate, the MPG figure will actually be higher than 38 MPG due to the all-electric range penalty of the REx edition.

ie) the REx is estimated to travel 10 miles less than the all-electric i3, yet will travel up to 87 miles further overall, so the net increase is 97 miles on the same 2.3 gallon capacity tank, or 42 MPG.

Conclusions

The BMW i3 will have little to any effect on the Chevrolet Volt’s acceptance and sales in the US.  And the Chevy will continue to be the extended range king for North America.

But why you ask?  And how can you be so sure?  Because a lot of the numbers we just went over seem to favor the BMW i3 REx. 

And that is true enough – however, mere statistics alone are not what sells plug-in cars in the United States – for the most part pricing, rebates and federal credits in conjunction with the stats sell the cars.

If Anything, Most Of BMW's Future Plug-In Battles Will Come From The Likes Of Tesla, Audi and Mercedes Benz

If Anything, Most Of BMW’s Future Plug-In Battles Will Come From The Likes Of Tesla, Audi and Mercedes Benz

The hard reality is that plug-in vehicles are not priced for ‘everyday‘ Americans; everyday Americans can’t afford them.  But through the federal government’s $7,500 credit, and the magic of leasing, everyday Americans are getting into cars they really could not otherwise afford.

More than 80% of plug-ins (without a Tesla badge on the front) are leased in the United States…and that is real reason the BMW i3 REx poses no threat to the Chevrolet Volt, or Nissan LEAF, or Ford C-MAX Energi, etc.  But perhaps to the 60 kWh Tesla Model S, or future offerings from Audi, Mercedes-Benz and the upcoming limited-run Cadillac ELR.

The 2013 Chevrolet Volt starts at $39,995 (incl dest).  However, factoring in all the rebates/incentives and the $7,500 federal credit, the national lease offer starts at $269/month with $2,399 due at signing.  Many are finding deals even better.

Conversely, the BMW i3 REx from $46,125 (incl. est $925 dest), even if leased at a better-than-industry rate of 45% residual value, with discounted financing and minimal acquisition fees is likely to net out around $500/month after the $7,500 federal rebate is applied, with a deposit of some significance to get the deal going.

In fact an example of this can already be found in the UK, where the base BMW i3 lease rate has been set at £369 or $565 US dollars, for a vehicle priced at £30,680 ($46,700 USD) before incentive of  £5,000 ($7,620 USD) is applied.  A £2,995 ($4,550 USD) deposit is also required to get the deal.

While the BMW i3 REx may be superior in many ways to the Chevrolet Volt, to many US customers who are considering the extended range Chevy, they simply can’t afford to look at the i3 REx…and to the rest who are only considering leases, the Bimmer is twice as much.  And the BMW i3 is just not twice as good.

Categories: BMW, Chevrolet

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58 Comments on "BMW i3 w/Range Extender Vs. Chevrolet Volt"

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David Murray

Indeed. I’d probably give the i3 a look when my lease is up next year. But I suspect despite all of the options available now for plug-in cars, I’ll be going with another Volt. The sad part is, we can’t even afford to buy our own Volt at the end of the lease because the residual is too high.

Spec

Well, instead of buying your Volt at the end of the lease, you can probably pick up a used Volt being sold off by a leasing company for a rate lower than the residual. I suspect the residual rate may be too high due to many more EV & PHEV offerings then.

Mark H

Nice article. The i3 is going to perform well as most would expect from a BMW. And the i3 is going to outperform the Volt, but the comparison really makes one realize just how “well” both of these EVs perform. The Volt is a lot more sporty than most of the entry level EVs. In addition to the sport, I wish the Volt had the 6″ head room that the sporty i3 offers.

What intrigues me most is that the author of this piece is opting for the REx. Would love to hear more about that choice. Also interested in which version Tom Moloughney is opting for and the reasoning. Jay? Tom?

Hi Mark. I haven’t decided yet. If the EPA range rating in less than 90 then there is no decision, I’m in for the range extender. However if it is something like 93-95 miles I really don’t need it – but still may get it. I have driven the MINI-E and ActiveE over 130,000 combined miles the past 4 years and they both had 90-100 mile ranges so I can live with that just fine. The question is do I want the i3 to cover 100% of my driving needs or the 95% or so my previous EV’s have. Decisions, decisions. I do like having choices though and even if someone doesn’t like the i3’s looks, price or whatever, they should be celebrating that another OEM is making a serious attempt to bring a volume produced electric vehicle to market and not just another greenwashing compliance car.

James
Hey Tom – What are you guys gonna do when you get a fender bender? How much do you think bodywork will cost on a plastic-composite bodyshell? Also, after years with the BMW driving dynamics of the ActiveE, how will you adjust to skinny tires and golf cart dynamics of i3? Folks are blinded by the BMW badge, but miss the verbiage of BMW execs at i3’s NA reveal. They talked A LOT about how the “I” series is an answer to European and U.S. regulations. They said their EV strategy is i3 and i8. i3 is a city car that has oddball styling and a mini CUV/ soccer mom profile – i8 is a 2 seat, $150,000+, 1–18 mile AER playtoy that can’t match 85kwh Tesla’s practicality, efficiency nor performance or utility – what do you get for $50,000 more? – sports car looks? ( remember, the black panels and butterfly doors were scrapped ). BMW’s i3 works for folks in Europe. They’re totally in line with Euro no-emission or high tax city zones. I don’t see the anemic MPV model working here AT ALL! Folks are stretching to compare i3 with anything here. Volt costs much less –… Read more »
James
i3 rEX can limp to a plug. BMW says in rEX mode the car’s performance lags behind it’s EV performance. We’ll have to wait a bit to understand just how much that performance lags behind. At this reduced state – you’re putt-putting with your 2 cyl. to get to the next plug where you’ll have to stop for 3 hours. Hmmmm… Not so much the ICE replacement… The Volt, on the other hand, will just fill-up with liquid fuel and do what current cars can do, and take you anywhere you want to go – anytime. With i3, like LEAF – you still need that 2nd car. How does BMW respond? – A loaner car at the dealer setup. How much will that service cost you? How near is your closest BMW dealer? Will you want to drive over there to pick up that long-distance ICE loaner? It’s all very impractical. So odds are that you’ll still need two cars at home – just like the current LEAF owner. So where’s the big advantage to own the spendy i3 that may cost you your first child if it needs body repairs? Surely, Mack down at Acme Crash Repair isn’t gonna… Read more »
Mark

Interesting to see the Rex penalize performance and EV range.

I think BMW would dominate with 150 mile EV range for us large city folk

-Mark
Chicago

vdiv

The interior comparison does not do the Volt justice. Why not pick one less drab that shows the beige seats/dashboard or one with the white center display info cluster, or one with the screens illuminated (i.e. http://tinyurl.com/kupm36u)?

The only way to really tell at the end of the day is to just drive the two. Until then a measured pat on BMW’s back is deserved for trying. A much stronger pat for not trying harder.

Schmeltz

Good synopsis Jay. I also wonder whom BMW is targeting as customers of the i3? I would assume current BMW customers with a personal leaning towards alternative propulsion drivetrains. The current group of BMW customers of their gas driven cars isn’t enormous. So we are looking at a niche part of a niche already—not a big group. The Volt crew at GM have nothing to worry about with the i3, IMHO.

Cescatcho

In the US, maybe, but in Europe, the i3 will decimate the Volt sales. First tests in the German car magazines have nothing but praises for the i3, with exceptional handling, range, low noise and technical wizardry, whilst the Volt is considered a lame duck here, especially because it is quite expensive (the Ampera doesn’t enjoy massive subsidies like the Volt does).

Bennyd

Still have high hopes for the Bimmer, but pricing, especially lease, is a bit much compared to what’s out there. I’ll give it 2 years. Time on the market always sorts things out. I’m really glad we actually have more choices now!

elmoll

For leasing, won’t the BMW also have the $7,500 rolled into the lease? thus making the estimated payment of $565 much lower?

CJ

One question about the extended range option.

If you stop for more gas will that keep the car going?

It has a 2.3 gallon tank, if on a road trip you keep adding fuel could you drive the i3 500 miles?

Yes you can continue driving as long as you aren’t consistently using more energy than the REx can deliver with is 25kW. Occasionally you can use more for bursts of speed and going up hills, but you’ll have an issue if you need to drive 30 miles up a mountain. On relatively flat terrain you can drive as long as you want by refueling.

Question is, how far will the RE charge the battery? Someone will have to hook up a dashdaq once these are on the road.

Spec

I like the small ICE range-extender idea but I’d like to see it offered by someone else with a lower price. Hopefully Toyota, Nissan, Honda, GM, or someone else will attempt such a EVx car.

I posted this diagram the other day on the Volt website, and it doesn’t have the i3 in it. But if it did, it would also be in the very center next to the Volt. It would be placed higher on the price & EV range, and lower on the overall range.

These are the 3 main criteria I use for evaluating plug-in cars, as a 1-car household.

Tom A.

Very interesting graphic. I like it.

David

Very telling that you don’t include the top selling BEV, the Nissan Leaf.
Is that graphic supposed to imply that the $40,000 base price Volt is low priced compared to a $27000 Spark or $28800 Leaf?

Puzzlegal

Nice graphic, but I’d like to see the Leaf and the Tesla, at least, added to it. And ideally, the Prius, too.

EV

volt is the best, nicest ev out other than the model s

Erik

anybody got a set of (4) pictures for the same person in the front and rear seats of the Volt and i3? I think I saw Tom in front and rear of the i3 recently – got any like that in the volt?

Darius

Jey,
Very nice article. I think BMW i3 REx will exceed your expectations.

I am kind of getting ichy and think I would start considering – whether it is possible to modify fuel tank. Those California regulationa on zero emissions looks crazy. I understand all possible consequencies such illegal modifocation could have. It worth start asking BMW about fuel tank options for Canada or Europe.

David

Whats going to happen with all these Volts and LEAFs coming off lease?

If the residual was propped up to make the lease cheaper, what will happen when these cars can’t sell for anywhere near the residual? Fire sale? Will they sweaten the lease terms to encourage current lessees to extend?

Puzzlegal

My guess is fire sale.

Spec

Lemme know when it happens because I’d like to pick one up.

GeorgeS

sorry I missed the party.
I was going to say that there was no way the RE would get 38 MPG……

but when you look at the weight difference between the i3 and the Volt you see it possibly could equal the Volt.

the i3 weighs 23% less than the Volt. That should improve MPG by around 17% which should offset the conversion losses.

Just goes to show the influence that weight has.
I don’t like the fact that 0-60 goes to 7.9 w/ the wt of the RE.

I own a Volt.

My next EV WON’T have a RE.

There are a couple of glaring omissions/errors in this article with respect to charge sustaining (range extended) fuel economy analysis and an “apples to apples” comparison between these 2 cars. To be fair, one simply cannot compare a reported “maximum” range (and extrapolated mpg) to a “composite average” mpg EPA What the recently released BMW data clearly states is that the range extender utilizes its onboard fuel supply (2.3gal) to travel UP TO an additional 87 miles MAXIMUM. Based on this one can extrapolate 38 mpg MAXIMUM. Meanwhile the Volt’s MAXIMUM additional range is actually an additional 372 miles (9.3 gallons @40mpg EPA highway) NOT 341 miles as listed in the article. As such GM advertises over 400 miles of total electric + full tank range during highway trips Being an EREV, the i3 should also be able to travel 400 miles – WITH A MINIMUM OF THREE REFUELING STOPS! (@38mpg) But I suspect it will be even more stops as it will be quite interesting to see how the BMW fares during the more grueling and transient EPA city/hwy test sequences as compared to the relatively “tame” Euro NEDC test sequence. Having some experience in these tests I can… Read more »
GeorgeS

Oh and my prediction is that Tom M DOESN’T get the RE.

Priusmaniac

The real winner would be a Volt sized vehicle with an i3 battery and A1 e-Tron type rex running on E85 and a decent tank size.

On the other hand I think the i3 could become a block buster with the feminine drivers. It is really all they like. Fashion brand, pocket size and yet fun to drive. I guess a Louis Vuiton version would be Lady Gaga’s choice…

Dan Frederiksen

Jay, narrow tires is a good thing. Don’t be ignorant. You might as well ask for a dumb V8

Peter Gerard

The list price of the Volt was reduced by $4,000 for then 2013 models and by $5,000 on the 2012 models. This happened several weeks before this article was published.

Ian P

I can’t for the life of me understand why the i3Rex has only a 2.3gal gas tank. If a gallon of gas only weighs 12.2lbs, plus a factor for tanking it, doubling the size is only going to add maybe 30lbs to the overall GVM. For the sake of really good range, why this tank is this small has gotten me beat. Any ideas?

Unquestionably consider that that you stated. Your favorite reason appeared to be on the net the easiest factor to keep in mind of. I say to you, I certainly get annoyed while other folks think about concerns that they plainly don’t recognize about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and also defined out the whole thing without having side effect , other folks can take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thank you

Bob

The BMW doesn’t have to have lower TCO than the Volt, that is never been what BMW has been about. All it has to do to justify the relatively modest price differential is provide a really nice driving experience. We will see…