Build Your Own i3 REx Gets Loaded to the Tune of $56,025 - Washington Lawmaker Tries to Make i3 REx More Enticing to Buyers in the State

Build Your Own i3 REx Gets Loaded to the Tune of $56,025 - Washington Lawmaker Tries to Make i3 REx More Enticing to Buyers in the State

“We’re smarter than California,” says Washington state representative Chad Magendanz.

BMW i3 With REx Not White Sticker Approved in California

BMW i3 With REx Not White Sticker Approved in California

Magendanz says that Washington will look to take advantage of the guidelines in California that prevent the BMW i3 REx from getting the white HOV sticker (it's still believed that the i3 REx will qualify for California's green sticker, but those green stickers will likely run out by this summer).

Per the press release sent to us by Magendanz' staff:

"The innovative BMW i3 is partly homegrown, with carbon fiber parts for its passenger compartment made in Moses Lake by SGL, a joint venture with BMW Group. Earlier this month the state of California said it wouldn’t offer its coveted “white stickers,” which allow unrestricted HOV-lane use, to people who buy the i3 when equipped with the gas-powered “range extender” (REx) option, despite an earlier agreement to do so. Sales of the i3 in California are expected to be negatively affected as a result, since the range extender is a critical piece to address the “range anxiety” – nervousness drivers feel when electric power gets low – that has substantially slowed adoption of electric vehicles."

The press release continues as follows:

BMW-SGL Facility in Moses Lake, Washington

BMW-SGL Facility in Moses Lake, Washington

Magendanz, R-Issaquah, wanted to make sure Washington state policy would encourage sales of cutting-edge green cars like the i3, especially since the vehicle helped create jobs in-state. He at first assumed Washington’s sales tax exemption for electric vehicles would apply to the i3, but when he checked with the state Department of Revenue it said its interpretation of current law makes the i3 range extender ineligible for the exemption.

Now Magendanz has introduced legislation, House Bill 2671, clarifying the language of the sales tax exemption law. It would replace the current requirement that vehicles be “exclusively powered” by electricity to “directly powered,” to make allowances for the fact that the i3’s optional range extender doesn’t connect to its electric drivetrain. The bill defines “directly powered” as “the direct source of power to a vehicle’s drivetrain.”

A green car enthusiast with two electric motorcycles who’s anxious to purchase an i3 when it hits the market in April, Magendanz said Washington state has every reason in the world to promote the i3: “Washington workers helped build it. It’s good for the environment. And with our state’s growing expertise in carbon fiber production, we can become a hub for this technology of the future.”

The bill has been referred to the House Finance Committee.

*Editor's Note: Magendanz has pledged that if he receives a sales tax exemption for purchasing the BMW i3, then he'll donate his sales tax saving entirely to charity.

But...But...Why Not the Chevy Volt Too Then

Okay, so Washington is pushing to add the i3 REx (and only the i3 REx) to its list of sales tax exempt vehicles.  At this point we'll immediately say that passage of such a bill will rightfully infuriate Chevy Volt owners.

Both the Chevy Volt and i3 REx Could be Driven on Gas Only If One Chose To. So, Why Put an Added Benefit Only on the i3 REx?

Both the Chevy Volt and i3 REx Could be Driven on Gas Only If One Chose To. So, Why Put an Added Benefit Only on the i3 REx?

California's BEVx designation was set up to allow one vehicle, the BMW i3 REx, to get special consideration.  The rules were re-written to include the i3 REx and no other vehicle that's in production now or set to enter production at any point in the near future.

The guidelines were not adjusted to include the Chevy Volt (which has a range extender that can connect to the electric drivetrain).

We see a problem here.

Both the Chevy Volt and BMW i3 REx could be driven cross country without ever plugging in.  In theory, both vehicles could be driven indefinitely without ever being recharged.

We're not saying that owners of either vehicle will ever drive them in such a way, but the possibility does exist (as it does for PHEVs, too).

New Jersey Takes the Lead

Meanwhile, over in New Jersey, the decision has been finalized.  The BMW i3 REx is exempt from sales tax.  The i3 REx joins all of the pure electric vehicles as being sales tax exempt in New Jersey, location of BMW's North American headquarters.

Hmm... Wonder Wat Will Happen If I Never Charge This Again

Hmm... Wonder Wat Will Happen If I Never Charge This Again

For i3 REx buyers in New Jersey, the sales tax exemption is certainly welcome, but again there's bound to be complaints from non i3 REx buyers.

My Take

As I'm sure you're already aware from the tone of this article, I'm not thrilled by this tax exemption being awarded to a single vehicle.  Yes, the operation of the i3 REx is slightly different than the Chevy Volt, but theoretically both could be driven for hundreds of thousands of miles without being charged (so too could all the PHEVs out there).

Sales tax exemptions should be awarded to zero-emissions vehicles, those that can never emit CO2 pollution.  Or, to put it more precisely, BEVs.