Op-Ed: Is The BMW i3 The Most Technological Vehicle Yet?

JAN 28 2014 BY DSCHURIG 21

BMW i3 Outdoor Test Drives At LA Auto Show In November

BMW i3 Outdoor Test Drives At LA Auto Show In November

My brother and I were at the Los Angeles Auto Show this past November mostly to drive one of the fleet of i3s BMW shipped to the convention center, but also to survey the other EV offerings available.

As California is the biggest EV market in the country, there were many to see including some that will not be for sale until later this year. We looked at the Honda Fit EV, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Ford Focus EV, Smart Fortwo Electric Drive, Nissan LEAF, Fiat 500e, Cadillac ELR, Mercedes Benz B-Class Electric Drive, Chevy Spark EV, VIA Motors trucks and more.

A Demo BMW i3 Waits To Be Taken For A Spin!

A Demo BMW i3 Waits To Be Taken For A Spin!

Rather than help us make a decision, seeing all of the choices left us with EV model overload. A few that really struck a chord with us were the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and the Chevy Spark EV. They were so inexpensive and yet they seemed ostensibly like they could do the job of transporting us and our families efficiently and safely to work and soccer and tee ball. The Spark really through us for a loop with its 400 lb.-ft of torque, reasonable range and even more reasonable price.

Making An Informed Decision

I came home determined to figure out how I could justify paying $15k-$20k more for an i3 when these other vehicles were available (in California). So I entered the vehicles side by side in a spreadsheet and began entering all of the standard and optional features of each, excluding chassis design and material technology which the i3 wins handily.

When I got to the i3, the list became long quickly, very long. And it was loaded with acronyms and features I was not familiar with like CBC, DBC and Brake Drying. I haven’t owned a BMW since my M3 in 2004 and I realized I was going to have to identify all of these features to be able to make an informed decision.

To make a long story short, I searched the web extensively including BMW sites, forums and blogs and automotive magazines. The BMW Technology Guide was the most informational. I found and defined each feature, investing much more time than I thought I would. The current BMW guys probably recognize most of them but for the uninitiated or reinitiated like myself, I present the index here (at the bottom of the story). In the end, I was amazed at the volume of vehicle control and safety functionality in the car. No other EV has this amount of technology available, not even the mighty, technology stacked Tesla Model S – the Bavarians put it all in there. In fact, you won’t find this amount of technology on any car at any price.

Cutaway Of Upcoming BMW i3 Showing Battery Housing

Cutaway Of Upcoming BMW i3 Showing Battery Housing

The Technology

The technology presents itself in many forms. In terms of safety technology, the list is long. The car has throttle control and braking control of all four wheels independently and by monitoring lateral acceleration, steering wheel position and accelerator and brake pedal motion it can mitigate various conflicting input conditions to prevent skids and slides and even enhance traction. It can predict imminent collision situations with other vehicles and pedestrians and warn and intervene. It compensates for brake fade, keep its brakes dry in the rain and preconditions the brakes prior to emergency maneuvers to reduce response time. And more.

As for information and convenience technology, it is “online” with its own SIM card and provides a spectacular amount of trip information including a 3D street map, a dynamic range map with charging station locations, real time traffic data and most efficient route guidance. It provides access to Google local search and email and contacts. It has theft prevention and recovery features, it can parallel park itself and assume part of the driving input on the freeway. And it provides several entertainment options including SiriusXM and HD radio. And more.

I felt good that my wife would have such safety and convenience on her daily commute, especially safety. Needless to say my decision to choose the i3 was on solid ground.

(Links to the i3 features and technology list and the Technology Guide follow can be found here and here)

Categories: BMW


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21 Comments on "Op-Ed: Is The BMW i3 The Most Technological Vehicle Yet?"

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And 4 stars crash rating of 5

I would be scared in this thing if an SUV approch me from any angle!


BMW definitely has some of the most advanced technological features. Along with companies like Mercedes, BMW has many innovative features to their credit.

Still 4 starts of 5

i think one of the main problems was not having a rear seat belt warning sensor or something like that. The body structure held up remarkably well.
Watch the crash videos. Plastic door panels came loose, but the body structure was very strong.

Correct ELROY, see Tom’s article here for the detail

The Spark EV would be 10x better if GM used the Sonic body. Other than that, it’s a great BEV. GM should be selling it nationwide.

I’m glad I’m not the only one that thought that the Sonic would’ve been a better choice for electrification. I would say the Cruze would be an even better choice, but then it would eat into the Volt’s market.

The Sonic would have a much better aesthetic choice…

Frank Weber, original chief engineer for the Chevy Volt – possibly the best engineered EV on the planet – was recruited away from GM/Opel by BMW in 2011. If he does with BMW what he did at GM while targeting a more discriminating market, BMW’s engineering will continue to be cutting-edge world-class, even with their first EV.

Practically any person can go through the machinations to justify purchasing a car he or she really wants. Congratulations on demonstrating the proper method for justifying the purchase of a $50,000 electric vehicle. (Although I think there are quite a few Model S owners who will give you a run for your money in justifying an $80,000 electric vehicle.)

Thanks Unplugged 🙂

You know how sometimes it’s irritating when we overthink things? Or when we have buyer’s remorse because we bought something with all these gadgets and abilities that we never end up using? We’ve all been there – done this. Darren, while it’s very respectable that you deemed the i3’s price justifiable due to your wife driving the car so much and your family’s safety and all – we get that – and it’s great. At the end of the day though – you really have to buy into these gadget features truly playing out to real experienced safety on the road. I think Darren followed a lot of forums and BMW fans and got mesmerized by acronyms. It happens. In the end, a Nissan LEAF does what the i3 does in a much more sensible way. I don’t deem the LEAF an unsafe car, and I bet Darren doesn’t either. To compare i3 with iMiev or SparkEV isn’t really realistic. One is a tinny, economy-priced EV city car, and the other is tiny and available in 2 states. I believe it’s admirable if BMW is truly going to push the i Series cars and back them up considerably. It doesn’t… Read more »

It’s one thing when we buy the TV with picture-in-picture, a remote that
cooks your breakfast and all that- you spend a grand or so more, and in
hindsight you never ever EVER used those features.

It’s another thing when you pay twice as much for a car that goes 80
miles on a charge when so many others do the same without the
pricey composite-plastic or BMW costs.

I say all of this – but I’m happy BMW is making the i. I’m happy when
ANY major automaker is making EVs that they’ll sell all over.

If Euros buy it ( and I think there is the best market for i3 ) – good,
good good! If people buy it just because it’s a BMW, I guess that is
OK. I think people that buy any EV are winners and visionaries.

These cars selling means other carmakers are watching, and
it means other EVs will be made.

So don’t think I’m NEGATIVE NANCY on the whole BMW i thing…
I just don’t think the i3 makes much sense for people who
think rationally.

As another example of remarkable technology, the i3 Range Assistant is far ahead of any other ranging feature available.


I certainly respect your opinion. Your family would have been safer in the i3 because its technology mitigates the risk of an accident occurring in the first place, it effectively works to prevent accidents. Airbags and crush zones reduce the risk of injury when an accident happens. Prevention is always better than protection.

Do you believe your family is safer by having ABS brakes? We all do. Extrapolate ABS brakes to the next level with intelligent control monitoring and mitigation and you safer again. Have you ever experienced dimished braking in the rain when your rotors are wet? I have. the BMW drys its brakes. you read the list, there is much more, all designed to add a higher level of safety.

There were 34,000 traffic fatalities in 2012. That’s allot of deaths but the fatality rate has been steadily decreasing since 1970 with the advent of ABS, air bags, crumple zones etc. Active control technology is the next level and it will prove to reduce it further.

Worth the money for me. And that is not counting all of the fantastic trip assistance and range features that will make the driving so much more convenient.

***mod edit*** comment removed due to language/personal attack ***mod edit***