The new BMW i3

I saw one of these new plug-in electrics today in the parking lot of my supermarket, so–of course–I went over for a closer look. Just then, the owners returned to their car, so I was able to chat with them, and to view the interior.

This little buggy isn’t cheap (~$45k), but it is certainly innovative.
In addition to extensive use of carbon fiber in the interest of lightness, it features a small generator, which is called The Range Extender.

The claimed range on a full charge is 120 miles, but if you are starting to run out of electrical energy, you can active the Range Extender which is–surprise, surprise–a 2-cylinder BMW motorcycle engine connected to a high-capacity generator, and this gives you an additional 60 mile range before the gas tank for the motorcycle engine goes dry.

It certainly doesn’t look like a BMW, but the styling–IMHO–was classy as well as ultra cutting-edge.

The owner had been privileged to drive one of the prototypes for 2 years, and as his reward, the car has a few extra accessories and styling cues that aren’t normally available. When you open the doors, the sill plate displays the word “Electronaut”, as that is what BMW dubbed the drivers of their electric prototypes.

Definitely an interesting little car.

Why not put in a bigger gas tank and give it some real range?

I guess that you would have to pose that question to the BMW folks.
I can’t answer it for you–but I surmise that in their quest for ultra light weight, they made the gas tank as small as possible.

You can get it without the range extender, $4,000 less.

I wonder why Europeans aren’t crazy for EVs - that would seem to be the ideal market.


IIRC, electricity is much more expensive in Europe than it is in The US.

That’s similar to the Volt and ELR. The ELR starts at $75,000 before tax breaks and the Volt at $34,000 before tax breaks. I’m sure they are going after different customer bases.

I just wish it didn’t look so weird. Many buyers will be turned off by the look-at-me! styling. I know I would. The Range Extender is a module that fits in a compartment under the rear of the car. There just isn’t room for a much bigger gas tank. It’s sort of like a spare tire, not for everyday use, but nice if you need it.

I guess 60 miles is good enough for Europe, they would probably be in the neighboring country :slight_smile:

I think having diesels, higher electricity prices and better public transportation, the Europeans are not that eager on EV.

Most of the vehicle fuel cost in Europe is taxes. I think they would be happy to have electric cars for commuters, but long distances for electrics are over the 60 mile range, and most of the time it’s range will be far less when heat, AC, radio, and other accessories drain the battery.

There is a market for EV’s in certain parts of Europe, but when you get outside of some of the big cities like London you need some sort of range extender if the nearest charging point is 10-20 miles further than the EV only range. James May of Top Gear is now and i3 owner and from what i can recall planned to use it mainly around London but also to get him to the airfield where the show is recorded so he can use it like a regular car while charging up when one’s available.

As it is here the problem is having a network of charging points much closer to the one for gas engines, you can find a gas station pretty easily compared to finding where the nearest charging station is.

“the problem is having a network of charging points much closer to the one for gas engines, you can find a gas station pretty easily compared to finding where the nearest charging station is.”

That may be changing in my neck of the woods, due to some policy changes on the part of our electric utility:

A friend of mine has been working on improving access to charge points around here and has managed to get a few spread out around town, one is in the parking lot of the grocery store where I work. A Nissan Leaf owner who commutes from the Seattle area to his job near Shelton paid for the installation of a charger as well as paying for the power so he can charge up at work and then drive home.