First Batch Of BMW i3s In US Will Come Equipped With Range Extenders, Will Go On Sale In Late 2013

MAR 29 2013 BY JAY COLE 46

BMW i3 Concept On Display In London In 2012

BMW i3 Concept On Display In London In 2012

We imagine for most would be early buyers of the BMW i3 this is good news.  For some others, not so much.

BMW North America CEO, Ludwig Willisch, has told Automotive News that BMW’s first shipment of i3 plug-in electric vehicles will all be equipped with the optional extended range feature included.

BMW USA CEO Ludwig Willisch Says Original Batch Of i3s Will Come With Range Extender Option

BMW USA CEO Ludwig Willisch Says Original Batch Of i3s Will Come With Range Extender Option

What is definitely good news for all interested buyers, is the fact the i3 has been confirmed the i3 to go on sale in the US late in 2013, although BMW doesn’t expect much inventory depth at dealerships until early 2014.  The very first deliveries are scheduled to take place on November 16th, 2013 in Europe.

As strictly an electric vehicle (without the gas extender option) the i3 is expected to have an US-EPA rated range of about 90 to 95 miles, but with the addition of a 2 cylinder, 35 bhp motorcycle engine, functioning as a generator, the i3 will have a total usable range of up to 200 miles.

The BMW North America CEO notes that, “All it does is charge the battery, and it typically kicks in only if the  battery is discharged.”

First Glimpse Of A Production-Ready i3 Caught In The Wild Recently

First Glimpse Of A Production-Ready i3 Caught In The Wild Recently

Obviously at 35bhp, and acting strictly as a generator (no direct drive), the performance of the i3 will be significantly reduced in this operating mode.  And while David Buchko, a BMW communications guy, has already pointed out, “it is not intended for daily use,”  Mr. Willisch further adds:

“All it does is charge the battery and it typically kicks in only if the battery  is discharged…the car will not be as agile.  It will not have full  power when it runs on the combination.”

Even with the limitations of such a small on board generator, the BMW exec expects more than “80 percent” will purchase the i3 with this option, which is expected to add around $4,000 to the MSRP.   Currently, BMW has 64 dealers equipped to sell and service the i3.

As a reminder, in all electric mode, the i3 takes full advantage of its 22 kWh lithium battery via a 125 kW (170 hp) motor, and sprints from a standstill to 60 mph in a BMW reported 7.2 seconds.  Pricing is estimated to start in the mid $40,000 dollar range.

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46 Comments on "First Batch Of BMW i3s In US Will Come Equipped With Range Extenders, Will Go On Sale In Late 2013"

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I hope the range extender is less than $4,000 considering it’s more of an insurance policy against getting stuck somewhere than it is like a Volt. Now that we’re hearing multiple BMW execs say “it’s not for daily use” and “performance will be noticeably lower with the REx working” it’s clear this isn’t going to be something you would drive 80 highway miles with. What it will do is let people fully exhaust their battery without worry of being stuck somewhere, and give you the piece of mind that if you get detoured, or need to run an unplanned errand, etc you can still do what you need to and get home without stressing over finding a public charger.
I think about $3,000 would be more reasonable for this type of option. I still expect a lot of people to get it, just for piece of mind.

Yes, I look at the REx as mostly a piece of mind thing…obviously BMW does by estimating a 80% adoption rate.

Only thing that leads me to believe the REx will not be as cheap as we might like, is that options like a rear sunshade and rear distance cam is $1,200-odd on a 3 series, and navigation is still like $2,100.

Hard to believe they would put a engine in the back and integrate/certify that whole system for $3,000. That proposition seems like a screaming deal as an option, and that is not really something Bimmer (or any auto maker for that matter) is known for…value options.

I don’t know about the price. I doubt it’s as little as $3,000-$4,000, but I really have no idea. I’m guessing at least $5,000. Your description of the need for this product (unplanned events) is 100% accurate, in my view.

“it typically kicks in only if the battery is discharged.”

This statement offers a glimmer of hope. He did say “typically”, implying there are cases where it could turn on earlier than that, if you know you’re going to need it. Since it cannot provide full power for the car, you would want it to come on earlier so that you preserve full power for longer.

Still yes it would be nice of BMW to give the driver some control of the ReX engine, for instance you have not used it in months and you need to burn old fuel or just to keep the engine parts lubricated similar to the Volt’s maintenance mode. I am sure the service dept will have means of starting/stopping for maintenance (oil changes & tune-ups)

we had this conversation at GM-Volt forum. Part of the deal with Carb is that the REx can ONLY come on after the battery is depleted. The tank size is also part of the CARB spec.

Well, that’s frustrating

Forget about it. The government says “no” and that means “no.”

Hmmm … I thought the lobbyists who write all the legislation put various loopholes. So No means Yes, if you know how to. Or have we suddenly become a democracy ?

I think this option would be perfect for any EV and i am glad someone is doing it. I don’t understand why they are talking about diminised performance. OK – I have run out of battery and now I can’t drive at 80 miles per hour up a long hill into a wind.

I think that they are scared of how successful this option will be, and I can’t understand why.

What would you rather do – spend 3 k on a fast charger at home or a 4k range extender. I would get the range extender and just charge on 110 at home.

They have to make sure people know it’s not a “do everything” range extender like the Volt set-up. There are people that do want to drive uphill at 80mph into a headwind after driving the first 100 or so miles. This wouldn’t work for them. However like you, I agree it will be very useful. Just knowing you won’t ever be stranded if you push your range a bit more than you should of is worth it alone. Plus for the few days you need to drive 140 or 150 miles you could as long as you understand those last 30 or 40 miles will probable be at speeds under 70 mph. I think BMW wants to make it clear if you need to frequently drive more than 120 or 130 miles without stopping than this probably isn’t the best choice for you. Occasionally sure, but frequently probably not.

Here is the link to the CARB rtequirements for the REx
Basically, they get full credit as a BEV from CARB (unlimited white stickers, bigger rebate, and more credit for the manufacturer towards their sales requirements,) but they have some restrictions:

Can’t go further on fuel than on the battery.

Can’t turn on engine until the CS threshold is reached.

Minimum 80 miles electric range.

Can’t go further on fuel than on battery is a real puzzel to me.
Can’t turn on engine until CS threshold is reached means CARB denies the interest of advance starting ahead of a super long trip. Also a mistake.

If those are your requirements then a Volt would be a better choice. Consider the i3 as an EV with EMERGENCY range extender NOT a cross country touring machine.

They could simply install different engine control firmware on cars for selling in California. Doesn’t mean the rest of the world had to stick to the same limitations.

I for one will be very interested in how the car performs in CS mode. In NYS, the highest speed limit you’ll see is 65mph. Will the car be able to sustain 65mph up a steep incline in the Catskills? Or will it really be a “limp home” mode, like 50mph on flat ground?

Will the car be able to sustain 65mph up a steep incline in the Catskills?

No Brian. If you are worried about going slow up a hill then you should probably pull over and let the REx charge the battery.

The exact capabilities is unclear Brian. I suspect it’s somewhere between the two situations you mention. I’m sure the car could climb hills at highway speeds as there will be a buffer of battery charge there in reserve, but not long steep hills for miles at a time. Of course in battery mode it could, but if your asking if it can climb a 5 mile long steep mountain grade AFTER depleting the battery than no, it won’t be able to.

However it also isn’t a limp home mode either(of course that depends on your definition of limp) I’m certain it can maintain highway speeds on flat terrain, even for a long distance. I think the main thing here is it will get you where you need to go, without any fear of being stranded. That is a big concern for many first time EV buyers. The i3 is still an EV, even with the REx, you shouldn’t look at it like you do a Volt as it doesn’t have the long range-drive anywhere capability. It’s meant for people that really want to use it for 100-130 miles trips and occasionally a bit more, but that’s all.

I have mixed feelings about this design. Part of my disappointment is that this design would be a terrible fit for me. I’m probably more in the “Just-Buy-A-Volt” crowd, but that’s starting to sound a lot like the “Just-Take-The-Prius” tagline we hear too often on the Leaf forum 😉

In the end, though, I’m thrilled that there’s another option which is unique in its trade-offs rather than another 80ish mile BEV like the Leaf, FFE, SparkEV, FitEV…

🙂 RE: photograph-

It is nice to see Ludwig has joined the cast of Dancing With The Stars!

what a lucky guy 🙂

Do you know where these qualified dealers will be?? Any in Arizona???

The 65 dealers that are already capable are the ones that have been servicing the ActiveE’s. Most if not all BMW dealers will carry the i brand and will be able to service them. You won’t have difficulty getting the car serviced in Arizona

Hey George,

Right now they are in California, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut. But like Tom said, they are going to be widespread fairly soon after launch.

anyone know if this car has a liquid cooled pack???

Yes George, The thermal management system is liquid-based

Thx Tom,
What is your guess on the price?

George, I honestly have zero inside info in this, but I still maintain I believe the base i3 will have a MSRP less than 45k. Many others have stated they believe it will be closer to 50k, but I do not. After taking the $7,500 federal tax credit into consideration, I definitely think you can get one for well below $40k. That is obviously without the REx option.

I hope you are right on the price. This is the most interesting EV to come out so far. I love my Volt and have 2 more years on my lease. The i3 is a definite contender as a replacement.

In the Netherlands it will start around €37k. Stated by the head of BMW I in NL. For comparisons sake my BMW 116i with some option packages costed €34k

The i3 sounds perfect. One of the best ways to reduce CO2, right now, is drive 55 mph. I didn’t drive over 55 mph for years, when that was the limit. Haven’t driven over 55 mph for several years again since deciding I want to leave a world for my kids.

Is it just me or is the BMW i3 incredibly ugly? Yes, it looks futuristic but I don’t think that’s a good thing at all!
Also, is this a 5 seater?

It is just you. I definitely don’t find it “incredibly ugly”.

That CARB regulation about having to drive the battery to empty first before the IC engine can turn on is stupid. If the car had a “battery hold” mode like the Volt you could for instance get out of your own city on electrcity only, do a long freeway drive on combined IC and electric power and then get to your destination in the next city only on electricity again. Cities are where IC engines are at their worst and electric drives at their best. It is also where IC exhaust and noise are most noticed and unwelcome.

This way you have to exhaust the battery on the freeway and enter the next city running on gas.

So REx is the stand-in because 100 mile EPA battery technology that was supposed to arrive for launch has not shown up yet?

No – because 100 EPA miles are not enough to cure the range anxiety of well-to-do suburban moms.

I don’t know how many well-to-do moms are going to want these cars. It’s on the small side for a family. Ok, by American standards, it’s tiny. Not worth a second glance.

This would be the 4th car in the family garage used for local run-abouts ? Great for green washing ?

I see small cars driven by the demographic I mentioned all around my place all the time.

The problem with REx pricing is – it might cost us way over $4k.

In WA (also NJ ?) we get sales tax exemption for EVs. That means a saving of almost 10%.

i3 without Rex = $45k

i3 with Rex = $45k + $4k + $5K tax = $54k !

Yes, that exemption is sometimes a double-edged sword. It really does what it is intended to by being so iron clad, so hard to complain too much… but it also has some unintended consequences to vehicles like the i3 that really should also get the nod.

Let’s assume that the 35HP engine can get about 80% of its power to the wheels (the path the power has to take is engine-generator-invertor-battery-controller-motor-wheels, and of course there are efficiency loses at every step), which means out of 35HP there is an effective yield of about 28 HP of actual motive force. The i3, like any short high car, is not particularly aerodynamic at highway speeds, and therefore would probably take about the same power to push on level ground at 60mph as a Leaf, which is about 20HP. As for accessory power, if you have the lights on and run the AC at full blast, you are probably using about 4 HP. I’m guessing that for a i3 to go up a steep hill (say, climbing Interstate 80 to Reno) at 60mph would take around 60-80HP. Lastly, with 28HP the i3 would only be able to crawl up that Reno incline at maybe 30MPH — which is of course unacceptably dangerous. In sum, I like the idea of a range extender, but I think the Volt is a necessary way to go, because anything less is only adequate in ideal circumstances, and is dangerous in less-than-ideal circumstances.
The REx was recently quoted with 34 hp, which is about 25 kW of power. What would this translate to in terms of actual vehicle speed? I would expect the i3 to have slightly better aerodynamics than the 2011/2012 LEAF, which had a Cd of 0.29. The outside dimensions should be quite similar. The LEAF owner community amassed an impressive collection of real-world data, and I’ve listed a few representative mph/kW value pairs below. They were derived from Tony Williams’ range chart: mph | kW —- | —- 35 | 5.6 40 | 6.8 45 | 8.7 50 | 10.9 55 | 12.8 60 | 15.4 65 | 18.0 70 | 21.2 75 | 25.0 This data would indicate that the i3 should be capable of traveling up to 75 mph on flat terrain, even if the battery has been depleted. This is pure speculation, but I would think that the generator will recharge the battery, when the driving conditions don’t require full 25 kW of instantaneous power. Obviously, the battery would also get recharged through regenerative braking whenever the car slowed down or stopped as well. This accumulated energy could be used to augment the REx on steep inclines… Read more »
I donot think the i3 would be the vehicle choice To go SF or even Sacramenyo to Reno. We live in Sacramento and I might take the i3 to SF, but that is a might. Given the range, I WOULD consider using it for runs to Chico, Stockton, or the jaunt to the outlets in Vacaville. Further with the EV range and the security of the REx, I would not worry getting to the Galleria in Roseville or across to Folsom Lake. We HAVE now both the Leaf and the Volt, and all these potential jaunts are at the edge of doable without going into fuel burning on the Volt or getting a booster charge on the Leaf. We have owned a 3-series BMW, and it was, IMHO, only OK. However I am quite impressed with the CFRP body shell and other engineering in the i3, and we are planning on replacing our Leaf with this option at the end of the Leaf lease in Feb. 2014. Though I am totally impressed with our Volt, I am self-indulgent enough to be anticipating a beautiful red 85 kW Tesla Model S in our garage around June of this year.

Nice, congrats on the Model S!

Lots of speculation going on here so I want to weigh in. First, we may think it ugly but after it comes out lets start asking the 15-30 year old crowd. I bet it gets high marks. For example, I think the spark is dead ugly but guess what – it is generating big conquest sales in the younger crowd. Second, the i3 has lots of technology packed into it including carbon fiber. It looks futuristic and it is futuristic – that’s cool. Third, I love my Volt but I have taken far more long drives than I expected. If I was doing a 300 mile trip I could increase my percentage of electric driving dramatically with the range extender as I would only use it to get the next charging station. So on many of my 500 mile trips instead of 40 miles electric and 40 mpg in my Volt, with the i3 I bet I could do 200-250 miles electric with a stop or two and the rest on gas off the expressway. This is big plus for me with only one vehicle in the household. The only think that might crimp this is 3.3kw charging. I firmly… Read more »

Oh as for price, I had to pay $45K after tax and rebate for my Volt in Canada so the pricing numbers for the i3 don’t seem so outrageous to me.