First BMW i3 Electric Car Test Ride, 2.3 Gallon Range Extender Option To Cost About $4,000

FEB 26 2013 BY JAY COLE 24

BMW i3 Gets Its First Journalist Test Drives In Swededn (via Car)

BMW i3 Gets Its First Journalist Test Drives In Sweden (via Car)

BMW’s highly anticipated i3 is edging closer and closer to public availability.  Quantifiable proof of this is that the German auto maker is giving out the first ever, journalist test rides today in Sweden.  First in line to test out the fully electric BMW, with available range extender option, was Autocar and Car magazine (both UK outfits).

A Snowy Day To Take The 4 Seat, i3 Out For A Spin (via car)

A Snowy Day To Take The 4 Seat, i3 Out For A Spin (via car)

The first BMW i3s will be delivered to the public in November of this year (the 16th of November if you want to be precise and mark the date on your calendars).

Reportedly, the standard, fully electric version i3 will cost around €40,000, that is about $52,000 US dollars (and yes, that is at the higher end  of previous estimates).

BMW pegs the i3’s all-electric range at 140 miles on the old LA4 US standard, which translates to about 90-95 miles on the US EPA rating system.

“When you push her really hard, you will have to find a charge point after about 80 miles. But when you go with the flow, 100 miles are a realistic target. On the [US urban driving test cycle], the car recorded an even more impressive if somewhat theoretical 140 miles.” – Ulrich Kranz, BMW i project leader said to Car magazine.

What sets the i3 apart from all the other plug-in vehicles currently on sale, is that for roughly an additional €3000 ($4,000USD), customers can add a range extended gas engine.  To us, $4,000 to give drivers the confidence to more than double their fully electric range (up to 200 miles) is well worth the added price, and also lets BMW i3 drivers do something other BEV owners never get to do…namely, use their entire battery.

BMW i3 Coupe Concept Shown Here With 20" Wheels

BMW i3 Coupe Concept Shown Here With 20″ Wheels

The range extender is a 35 bhp two-cylinder engine borrowed from a one of their motorcycles (C650 GT).   This engine, which is mounted under the boot in the rear that acts as a generator for the i3’s 125 kW (170 hp) motor.   The fuel tank is approximately 9 liters (2.37 US gallons) in size and is near the front axle.  0 to 60 mph is accomplished in a BMW reported 7.2 seconds.

Original Concept Interior

Original Concept Interior

Other newly released specifications on the BMW i3:

  • weight: 1,250 kg (2,750lbs – almost 500lb lighter than a Nissan LEAF)
  • currently has a electronically limited top speed in concept form of 93 mph, but will increase to “more than 100 mph” in production
  • 125 kw motor – 170 hp, 250 Nm
  • Standard (but narrow) 19-inch wheel -155/70s up front and 175/65 in the rear, optional 20″tires will be available
  • 37-75mph acceleration in 6.0 seconds, 0-60 mph in 7.2
  • 6.5-inch driver display (digital speedometer, the charge and range indicators and eco-meter)
  • 8.8-inch center stack screen

For ride impressions, we will leave that to those who actually got to take a trip in the i3 today (while we patiently wait for our own turn).

Check out Car’s full driving report here (test drive photos also via

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24 Comments on "First BMW i3 Electric Car Test Ride, 2.3 Gallon Range Extender Option To Cost About $4,000"

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If that is the production version, it appears to have lost all of the curves and style that made the concept so cool.

Don’t let the test car lighting disguises fool you David, most of the concept design/style will be passed along to the production car.

The production car will be nearly identical to the concept coupe you see pictures above except it has the rear coach doors and some very minor modifications.

Even at $52k, this is still a very interesting entry into the market. I can’t wait to read more about driving impressions – sounds like a peppy little car.

The most interesting thing to watch will be how many of these are sold with the REx option over time. I think I recall BMW predicting that at first they will sell mostly with REx, but over time more people will realize they don’t need it and opt out.


It’s important to note that these are UK pricing estimates as these were UK journalists. New car prices in the UK is usually 25% or so higher than the US, I suppose due to taxes. The fully electric version of the i3 will NOT start at $52,000 in the US, it will be much less. I suspect the range extender option will be considerably less than $4,000 (my guess is about 3K, but I really don’t have any proof of that because BMW has been very tight lipped).

I believe you’ll be able to get a pretty loaded i3 with a range extender for $50-52K(before any tax incentives).

Yes, it is still very much a price estimate game that is happening for the US. The article is simply doing the straight “currency conversion math.” Hopefully the online pre-order/reservation thing will answer the pricing riddle soon. I will note we have moved quite aways from the original estimates that were being thrown about ($35,000i-$40,000) when the car was first getting promoted for its Frankfurt Auto Show debut in 2011. A mid 40s price may still be in the cards, but that is where I would guess the very low end of US pricing could be. I think the other thing that illustrates that the i3 will not be priced near 40K (or with a range extender under 45K) is that BMW is planning for an upper production volume run at Leipzig, Germany of about 30,000 units now (with the capacity to someday move to 50k). If BMW comes anywhere close to the Volt’s 40kish pricepoint, US sales alone would eat up almost all their production. Who is going to buy a Volt, if there is a 90+ mile EREV with a BMW badge on the front at the same price? To say nothing of eating everyone else’s lunch too.… Read more »

Dimensions are smaller than a Volt, slightly larger than a mini cooper.

How small are EV buyers willing to go for a $50k car?

taser: Yes the outside dimensions are small, but the interior dimensions are huge for a car of this size. There will most likely have more interior volume than a Volt. BMW has said the interior volume will be just about as much as a 3-Series due to the life-drive architecture employed. A 3-Series has 99 cu-ft of interior volume and a Volt has 90 cu-ft. So while the car is smaller than a Volt, it will probably have the same if not slightly more interior space.


How is the space compared to the LEAF? Do four adults fit comfortably like the LEAF? Similar trunk space?

That test drive sounded very impressive. This may actually be a better fit for me than I originally thought.

Josh, the LEAF has 98 cu-ft of interior volume so that should be very close to what the i3 offers. The trunk space is less on the i3 though there will be an additional small ‘frunk’ in the front that will hold about one grocery store sized bad.
Four adults fit comfortably. I am actually surprised BMW didn’t make it a 5 passenger car because looking at it, it appears to have plenty of room for three in the back. The concept width dimensions are actually wider than a LEAF, though I’m not sure they are the real production dimensions.

“Hopefully the online pre-order/reservation thing will answer the pricing riddle soon.”

I would like that too, but I don’t think it will happen (hope I’m wrong!). I think BMW is playing this well even though it’s been frustrating not to get any details, but they are definitely getting people talking and debating over it. I don’t think we’ll get all the details and pricing till Frankfurt, but we’ll see…

Wow I am very excited about this car. Especially if it comes in closer to what Tom is saying. It would be perfect for my 70 mile route I currently run in the Volt. I could run all electric plus have the RE backup PLUS another second less 0-60 time……but for another 14K$

They got the tires right. Tall and skinny is efficient, just like the 2CV. Except the 2CV was lighter, and a lot cheaper. Aah! Progress!

Is that a 2CV.? It looks more like a roadster version.

My bad! I thought it was a Hoffman roadster conversion of a 2CV. Turns out it is a rare 1947 Fiat.

Nice pics thx. Loved the engine compartment shots w/ the backwards radiator. My first car was a 58 Fiat 500. It had a backwards radiator too.

How much does it cost for new tires?
How does it perform in RE mode?
Does it have a 6.6kW charger (or better)?

@52K I think I’d buy an ELR, but have to see all the official #’s.

Kdawg: I’d likely consider an ELR at $52K also, but I doubt you will even come close to getting one for $52K. The prices I heard kicking around NAIAS was $60 -$65K for the ELR. It will have 6.6kW charging and DC quick charge (CCS) The other questions remain to be seen.

The $50k Toyota Rav4 EV is just not selling, and it has TONS of interior room, oodles of torque (273 ft/lbs), 0-60mph in 7 seconds, 100-140 mile range and a Tesla pedigree.

Just a few hundred sold since Sept 2012. Toyota has now upped the incentive cash to $10k, 0% finance for 60 months, $2500 California rebate still applies in California, plus the $7500 federal tax credit AND some dealers are knocking $4000 off.

That’s almost half price… and they still don’t sell.

Mr Williams what dealers are the ones knocking the extra $4000 dollars off from the rav4 im really interested in obtening one. thank you

It’s a motorcycle engine add on. They better make a 4 gallon + sized gas tank or this car will be doomed with a 200 mile total range…. How hard would it be to turn the 2.3 gallon into 4 or 5 gallons? Jay?


…you’d need about 1.7 to 2.7 more gallons


As mentioned above you cannot convert the Euro and expect the price to be that high. For example, see the pricing below of a BMW X3 as an example.

German Euro Price:
BMW X3 xDrive28i E46,700
BMW X3 xDrive35i E53,000
BMW 335i Coupe E48,850

US Dollar Price:
BMW X3 xDrive28i $40,300
BMW X3 xDrive35i $45,400
BMW 335i Coupe $46,000

So even worst case scenario, I think i3 will be priced in the VERY low $40,000. Take out the tax credit and your at $35,000 or less.

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