Video: Wall Street Journal Says BMW i3 Will Enter No Man’s Land in Electric Vehicle Market


With the official unveiling of the BMW i3 taking place yesterday, the comparisons are starting to pour in.

I3 to Rival Tesla?

i3 to Rival Tesla?

Will the i3 compete with the Tesla Model S?

Is BMW’s first production electric vehicle set to capture sales from the Chevy Volt?

Or will the i3’s size put it in competition with some of the other subcompact/compact electrics out there?

Well, the Wall Street Journal says that, given the i3’s price tag (figure $50,000-ish when reasonably well equipped), BMW’s electric slots in where no competition exists.

In this way, the i3 is in “no man’s land,” which means that the i3 will have no real competitors when it launches in the US in the second quarter of 2014.

Do you believe that the i3 will enter uncharted territory when it hits US shores in 2014?



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26 Comments on "Video: Wall Street Journal Says BMW i3 Will Enter No Man’s Land in Electric Vehicle Market"

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It’s going to be tough to predict the i3s success until real world reviews begin to trickle out. With REX it’s a direct competitor to the Volt, without it a competitor to other sub 200 mile BEVs. BMW was smart to make REX an option. I like that fact it has modes that give it the potential for 3 digit AER but I don’t like the bulky exterior look or the retro interior center console. I prefer the Volts modern center console any day. If the 2014 Volt MSRP drops or its AER increases or both, the i3 will have a harder time taking Volt sales away.
Any vehicle with sub 200 mile AER is definitely is not a Model S competitor.


It will be interesting, to say the least. The ratio of EV vs. REx models sold will provide substantial clues as to what the market considers the i3 to be competing against. I assume that the REx would compete with the other plug-ins, like the Volt and Ford Energi models, while the EV model is a pricey competitor with the Leaf and Spark EV. If the i3 performance/handling is sound, then they could win sales from all the above, though vehicles like the Spark EV get good ratings and is substantially cheaper, as is the Leaf. Availability is going to be significant in terms of competition – the Fiat 500e is considered one of the best/most fun compact EVs to drive, but the vehicle is deliberately limited by units produced and regions sold, and since Fiat continues to drag their feet on the issue of EVs, then I do not expect this to change any time soon. I assume that the i3 will be available nationwide. The Leaf is obviously nationwide. GM appears to want to expand the Spark EV market nationwide in 2014, which would coincide with the i3 availability. The Ford Focus EV might be nationwide, but I’m… Read more »

Actually, for one, I would like a Tesla Gen III without a Frunk but with a Rex.

Question: is it a 4-seater? Visited the BMW i3 home page, and this rather basic detail is obscured by a zillion empty words, popping images, etc. etc. Par for the course of car salesmanship.

The interior diagrams and pics seem to suggest it’s a 4-seater. Does anyone know?

Yes, it’s a 4-seater, approximately the same size as a Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Yes, really.

Interesting comparison. I was going to say, ‘but all the amazing lightweighting tech and radical drive section modularization” but then I looked it up and the iMiev has a curb weight of 2450lbs [1], while the i3 is 2630lbs [2]. Maybe the i3 has a lot more room. Probably not. Looking more like meh. Better battery and range, sure, but for $12k more.


The i3 has nearly the exact same height and width like the LEAF, but it’s a bit shorter. It’s a pity that it’s not a 5-seater, but it might have been tight in the back, with the suicide doors and all. The ActiveE is a 4-seater as well, and does not have rear doors.

To be fair, a lot more performance. And now that I think about it, the i3 has 4-5kwh more battery. That makes for more than the 140lb weight difference. So, the lightweighting was effective, but how much? What does 4-5kwh marginal battery usually add? It’s definitely got more than 50% more range, and way more punch. Is it worth $12k? Maybe for the cross section of EV fanatics and BMW-lovers.

The carbon fiber construction will impact both the weight and the handling of the vehicle, which is traditionally a priority for BMW. The optional REx is pretty clever. The only thing missing is an optional larger battery.

oh the salesmen, they never change. Whether it’s bubblegum or a car, they always try to hide away the less convenient details 🙂

They said the interior room is the same as a 3 series. So it should not be a tiny car inside. Also, even the base series has Nav, backup warning, etc.

Regarding the gen3 Tesla, it’s not fair to say that car will have a 200 mile range and the i3 won’t. Three years from now BMW will be well along into the gen 1 i3’s lif cycle and I am confident they will be able to match or exceed the battery tech that will be offrd by Tesla. In summary, in three years it is also probable (especially if Tesla does it) that BMW will have a 200 mile range i3.
In the meantime, it’s a nifty trick to have the 4K range extender.

I’ll be getting the electric only version of the i3.

85,000 sunhine powered miles.

Highly unlikely. Panasonic is already making the modified 18650 cells Telsa needs for a $40k mid-sized sedan with 200+ miles of range. All evidence suggests that the price Tesla Motors is paying for these 4.0Ah cells is already under $200/kWh, making such a car profitable (see an excellent article from Green Car Reports posted on that topic this past June).

Everyone else, including BMW, continue to experiment with custom, large-format cells that are significantly more expensive, that are lagging in energy density, and that are harder to maintain thermal control (Boeing, anyone?).

Tesla’s “Beowulf” approach, as I call it (brute-force method using thousands of modified commercial cells per battery pack) has availabiltiy, cost and thermal management advantages over all competition, and it is continuing to pay off by maintaining a staggering lead over the competition.

Given the fact that there are no announced production-intent prototypes yet, it is clear to me that no manufacturer, except Tesla Motors, will be selling a 200+ mile EV in 2017 at any price, never mind selling at a profit with a starting price of $40k.

I agree Tom. Tesla is in an island of their own right now and nobody seems keen to chase them. They are not building cell phones. There will not be a Model S copycat at 20k+ annual production popping up in time for Xmas.

I do want to point out that Tesla paying < $200 kWh does not mean their battery pack costs < $200 kWh. Cells are only a portion of the battery pack cost. Especially non-Nissan packs that have active thermal management systems.

I read a credible reference recently (sorry, can't find/remember the paper), that stated cells were roughly 60% of the cost on an EV battery. I would not be surprised if Tesla's vertical integration allowed them to beat that figure though.

Oh, yes, I wasn’t clear on that…the article suggested that their final pack costs, based on the 4.0Ah cells, are estimated to be in the vicinity of $210/kWh. The cost estimate for the cells was between $176 and $193 per kWh, with the caveat that it could be substantially lower depending on the size of the bulk order and whether Panasonic cuts them a special deal since Panasonic is part owner of Tesla Motors (I forget if it’s $10M in stock or $50M).

The article from Green Car Reports did briefly address that Tesla’s vertical integration and (presumably) mostly automated assembly of the battery packs helps control their costs to the point that the cell costs are likely to be 75% or more of the assembled pack cost.

In case BMW makes a 200 EV miles i3 with Rex it will be interesting compared to a Gen III 200 miles without Rex.

In case BMW makes a 200 EV miles i5 (with touring option), it will be more interesting compared to a Gen III 200 miles without Rex.

In case Tesla makes a Gen III with 300 miles EV range, it will be more interesting than an i3 200 miles but at pair or slightly less interesting then an i5 BMW makes a 200 EV miles i5 (with touring option).

Note: I know the BMW i5 doesn’t exist yet but it could be short notice if BMW really wants.

BEV i3 will compete with Leaf SL as it’s only a 6K difference. I also see it as dominating in the hotter climates where the Leaf is getting bad press due to battery degradation.

Rex i3 wil compete against Volt & Ford Energi models assuming the drivers application is primarily local driving, not cross country.

Rex i3 may also be a consolation prize option for those folks (like me) saving up for a Tesla Model X.

I also get warm and fuzzies with BMW backing up the technology rather than a startup manufacturer. And I believe BMWs still come with 3 yrs/36k complimentary maintenance (which should be minimal in an EV). I’m thinking that’ll only include wipers, brake fluid and a cabin filter during that time. Rex motor maintenance may be an issue.

$6k ? You mean $14k ,.. right ?

No, he tucked a “SL” in there ($34,850 vs $41,350 all-electric i3)

Although it brings up an interesting point of what the i3 could do to the high end LEAF business….same goes for the everyday Volt business if GM stands pat for 2014 ($45,200 vs $39,145) – $6,055.

I think most buyers, provided they are aware of the i3 and are considering the BMW as an available brand to them (not all do) would at least pause somewhat before making a purchase of the other/current choices.

I will say, after owning a BMW or two in my day (recently a Z4), the maintenance factor/repair is a huge extra component.

ie) I blew through my share of run-flats in my day (only replaced the first time at BMW), and I’m pretty sure there is no such thing as a replacement set of 155/65/R19s you can pick up at your local tire store right now.

The more I think about the 6k difference, the more obvious it becomes to purchase an i3. I own a 2013 Leaf SV

BMW Advantage:
1) Thermal Management System on the battery
2) Recharging 7.7 kw vs 6.6 OBC on the Leaf (3hr vs 4hr recharge time)
3) Performance and handling
4) Complimentary Service
5) BMW loaner car program (when i3 is under repair)
6) Spaciousness? Seems the cabin is larger than a Leafs
7) Ride Height? Seems to have a higher view

of course we’re a good year away from seeing the i3 in the US. In the meantime we’ll have more competition and the Leaf could drop further in price.

Er, well, the Leaf SL is fully loaded whereas the base Bimmers are traditionally anything but, so it’s not a very valid comparison.
Regardless, in fairness, Leaf advantages:
1) Quick-charge port (plus, it can actually be used)
2) 5 seats
3) Leather throughout
4) Bose sound system
5) Slightly larger battery
6) Available now

On-board charger is 30A vs 32A 240V, so no significant difference really (many L2s max out at 30A max anyway)… and did I mention that the Leaf quick-charges anyway?
I wouldn’t bet on the i3 being more spacious than the Leaf, esp trunk space; the BMW is actually slightly shorter, so it might well turn out smaller inside also.
Also, if the reported reliability difference between the Leaf and ActiveE end up being relevant for the i3… should the promise of a loaner car be considered a plus or a minus?

While one can surely kit an i3 to more or less match a Leaf SL, unsurprisingly the price difference will then be lot more than 6k$… maybe roughly the 14k$ Leaf S vs base i3 evnow mentioned?

No one considering purchasing a Tesla, even the model 60, will take a second look the the bimmer. There is no comparison with the exception of 4 wheels.

Spot on. There is nothing game changing about the i3 (or the coming i8 either).

i3 is too small (4 seat), to short (range), too ugly (toy car design).

Definitely – if you are in the market for an EV, if you can afford it, and if you are willing to commit the funds, then it’s going to be the Model S. Not only is everything about the car awesome, but also you’re buying into an exclusive national high-speed charging network, cost-effective battery swapping capabilities, and industry-leading service.

If the i3 performs as well as one expects a BMW to do, then it could replace the Leaf and the Volt as the “Model S consolation EV” in the eyes of many.

I think the Model S looks like an impala or an old Buick (thats a compliment) and the I3 looks like a sonic (thats an insult).

The thing I worry about is BMW had so much trouble with splines, in the Active E, that I wonder if they have a competent test/design dept.

If they want to compete with the model S they are going to have to have something 50% bigger.

And Bmw’s advertising videos and home charging dock installation videos regarding the “7.4 kw” charger (works only if your “Grid is Optimized” ???!!!)
had several mistakes made by the electrician (the nissan electrician with a new beard).

BMW will have their hands full in 2017 when they don’t have a 200+ mile EV out yet while Telsa will be selling their GenIII sedan (cargo room to burn) at a price at or under whatever the i3 will be then.