Is The BMW i3 Worth $41,350?

BMW i, Featured Posts | July 24th, 2013 by 16
bmw-i-connecteddrive-06

Now that BMW has finally answered the question people have been asking for over two years now since the Megacity vehicle was first announced, some …

Now that BMW has finally answered the question people have been asking for over two years now since the Megacity vehicle was first announced, some may be wondering if this small “city car” is worth it?

Full disclosure: I’ve been in BMW’s e-mobility trial lease program for over four years now and have been driving BMW’s electric test cars (MINI-E and ActiveE) – and paying BMW for the privilege to do so. I have also been maintaining a BMW i3 blog (http://bmwi3.blogspot.com) and keeping it fresh with every morsel of BMW i3 news that was available. So while I may not be the most impartial reviewer, I am intimately knowledgeable with most aspects of the car and the materials used and even the manufacturing process BMW will be employing.

So is the price tag of $41,350 worth it? Yes, absolutely and here are the reasons why:

Is The BMW i3 Worth $41,350?

Superior, futuristic construction

The BMW i3 really isn’t like any other car on the road. It’s the world’s first volume passenger car that makes such extensive use of aluminum and a passenger cell made entirely from carbon. The Life-Drive architecture is made up of the drive module which is nearly all aluminum and uses no subframes as the electric motor is bolted directly to the chassis. The Life (passenger) module is made up of  a CFRP passenger shell with injection-molded thermoplastic panels for the outer skin. These panels will resist damage, dents and will never rust.

In fact with an all aluminum frame, CFRP body and thermoplastic body panels the i3 will likely last much longer than a conventionally produced vehicle. The two modules are bolted and glued together and create an extremely stiff structure. The CFRP body is so strong BMW was able to eliminate the need for a B-pillar and still have excellent crash test results. All this makes the i3 an incredibly light 2,630lbs and with a perfect 50/50 weight distribution and a 168hp, 184 lb-ft electric motor powering the rear wheels, the i3 should be as fun as it is efficient. Let’s face it, if it’s not fun to drive then it’s just not a BMW.

Is The BMW i3 Worth $41,350?

No comparable competition

The i3 hasn’t had its official EPA range rating yet, but BMW has been saying it will have 80-100 miles of range in normal driving and you can add up to an additional 24 miles by using the Eco Pro+ driving mode. If true, the i3 will have the best all electric range of any series production electric car available other than the Tesla Model S.

However the least expensive Model S has a starting price that’s nearly $30,000 more than an i3 ($71,070) so these cars aren’t in the same class shouldn’t be compared. If the i3’s range isn’t sufficient for you BMW will offer an optional gasoline range extender which will likely be very popular, especially with first time EV buyers. All this means the i3 will not only have the longest electric range of any EV in its class, but it will also be the only EV on the market with an optional range extender. Its 0-60 time of seven seconds flat will also make it the fastest EV in the class.

Is The BMW i3 Worth $41,350?

Next Generation Electronics

The i3 will have a “Driving Range Assistant” which will alert the driver if the destination they have selected in the navigation system is beyond the vehicle’s range. If so it will suggest switching to ECO PRO or ECO PRO+ mode to extend the cars range. If that’s not enough, it will find a more efficient alternative route for the driver to take. If that still isn’t enough and the battery has to be recharged, it will display all of the public charging stations that are within reach, and route you to the one of your choice. The estimated range display will take into consideration variables like the driving style, amount of electric accessories being used, the selected driving mode, the route’s topography, current traffic levels and the outside temperature.

These factors are all very important and influence an electric vehicles range. There are no other electric vehicles available that use all this information to calculate the vehicles range. If this system works as advertised, it will be an extraordinary advantage for the i3. One of the most criticized features of today’s electric cars is the range estimator, which is frequently not very accurate and is even called the “Guess-o-Meter” on many EVs. The i3 will also offer options like:

Active Cruise Control: Adaptive cruise, including a Stop & Go function that can brake at up to the car’s full braking force, down to 0 mph and back up to highway speed.

Traffic Jam Assistant: This lets the car pull away from a stop, steer itself, and apply the brake in speeds under 30mph

Parking Assistant: A fully automated parallel parking system that controls the cars steering, the accelerator and the brakes.

Speed Limit Display: This will display the current speed limit on the road you are traveling. Can’t find a speed limit sign? No problem, it displays it for you.

Note: Okay, so some these electronics will be optional and will add to the cost, but having them available is certainly worth mentioning because these features are not even available on other EV, and add to it the i3’s uniqueness and next-generation abilities.

Is The BMW i3 Worth $41,350?

Focus on efficiency without compromising driving pleasure

BMW went to great lengths to make the i3 as lightweight and efficient as possible but also made it rear-wheel drive and gave it a powerful electric motor. This will allow to have the great driving dynamics expected from a BMW and also be the most efficient production car available. Not only will it be the fastest EV in its class, but it will also likely boast the highest efficiency figure of any car on the road.

The skateboard body-on-frame architecture put the heaviest component of the vehicle, the battery at the lowest point of the car, below the passenger compartment. The wheels are located as close to the four corners of the car as possible giving it an especially wide stance. The result has brought praise from most journalists that has test driven one so far. The combination of a great driving experience and extraordinary efficiency should set a new standard for electric vehicles in this class.

At $41,350 it’s not an inexpensive car. Plus, like most BMW’s the majority of buyers will likely add $5,000 to $10,000 worth of options. The good news is there is a $7,500 Federal Tax credit in the U.S. that most people will fully qualify for. That’s not a deduction, it’s the full $7,500 taken off your tax liability so most people that buy an i3 can load it up with options and still have an effective cost in the low 40’s.

If you lease it you get the $7,500 as a capital cost reduction built right into the lease price regardless of your tax liability. Plus some states like California offer an additional $2,500 Clean Vehicle rebate, and other states like New Jersey offer a sales tax exemption on zero emission vehicles bringing the effective cost down even more.

Whether a vehicle is “worth it” or not is an entirely subjective matter. I suspect many people will look at the i3 and say “Why would I want one of them when I could buy a 328i for the same price?” People buy cars for all kinds of reasons. It’s not a logical decision, it’s an emotional decision. It’s not really fair to look at the price and compare it to what gas cars you could buy for that money. This is new, cutting edge technology and it’s going to cost more, there’s no way around that. However for individuals looking for a premium electric vehicle under $50,000, the i3 looks like it’s going to be the best in class – hands down.

Read more BMW i3 news at http://bmwi3.blogspot.com

  • Michael

    Seriously great article!

    Separate thought:
    I, as well as BMW USA’s fmr CEO, take issue with the subsidies. I’m not a fan of cronyism and this very innovative product frankly doesn’t need them. If your product is substantive and innovative consumers will buy your product without taxpayer funded, politically motivated, market manipulation. I of course realize that has nothing to do with BMW specifically.

    • Tommolog

      Thank you Michael. The subsidies issue is complex and we can debate it for a very long time. I’m not a fan of subsidies either, mainly because I believe in many case corrupt politicians dole them out for reasons of personal gain rather then public betterment. However the argument of helping one technology as opposed to letting the free market determine the winner is flawed because the supply chain of oil is enormously subsidized already. Plus, according to the Rand Corp, we spend $80 billion in taxpayer money annually protecting our access to the world’s oil with our military and let’s not even get into the loss of thousands of our soldiers who are there. Like I said, this can go off in directions not appropriate for BMWBLOG. The electric vehicle tax credits won’t be necessary long term though, and I fully support ending them in a few years, as I support ending the subsidization of oil. Let us pay the true price of gas at the pump, and with gas at what it really costs us, like $10 to $15 per gallon, then there would instantly be no need to subsidize electric’s anymore. Even without doing that, inside of ten years there will be no need to offer subsidies as the technology will have improved, batteries will be better, cheaper and lighter and the once prohibitively expensive new technology will be on par with the cost to manufacture a gasoline or diesel car.

      • Michael

        Agreed. Thank you for your response.

        Ideally, I would like to end oil subsidies immediately and then phase out other subsidies. The oil subsidies are a perfect example of how destructive subsidies can be. These forms of intervention create what we in the economic field refer to as ‘market distortion’. They have prolonged the prominence of oil in the market beyond that which would have occurred if the market were unmolested and have retarded progress in alternative technologies consequently. I would prefer to correct those distortions by eliminating the corporate welfare structure rather than expanding it in an attempt to restore fairness to the marketplace.

        • Tommolog

          < Stands and applauds!

  • Manny Antunes

    Great article Tom! All the talking points we touched on yesterday.

    • Tommolog

      Thanks Manny. Like any car, it will be worth it to some and not to others. There are people that think $90k for an M5 is ridiculous.
      The question is will enough people agree with me here, and is the plug-in vehicle market for a $40+ car with about a 100 mile electric range large enough yet? I can’t answer that.

      • Manny Antunes

        Ah, yes, well that is the Multi-Billion dollar (Investment) question! We shall find out.

  • Rob

    Its cheaper than a chevy volt with a couple options!

  • Name

    Seriously, why don’t you stop with the fucking editorials? Who gives a shit about a random person’s opinion? Especially when that person is obviously incredibly biased. I mean are your readers so stupid that you have to tell them what to think?
    Also, the very idea advocacy “journalism” is so ridiculous, even the most stupid idiot should realize it.
    So pardon my french but advocacy “journalists” are just the worst people.

    • http://www.bmwblog.com Horatiu B.

      Thanks for visiting and for not understanding what we do here at bmwblog. It’s easy to hate and trash the work of some people for a potential personal agenda.

      Plus, you always have the option to not read. And for one like you, there are thousands that enjoy a good publication that creates great content.

    • noname

      Was there something in the article you found factually incorrect? It’s clearly stated to be an opinion piece. You can disagree with opinions without demanding they are repressed. Perhaps if you have an opinion you should write an article and submit it. If it’s good enough perhaos they will use it.

  • Otto

    The answer is clearly NO.

    Because of their limited range, EVs can only be city cars.

    It’s a non sense to talk about driving experience.

    A Nissan Leaf is worth 21.300 $.

    Unless you want to support BMW and increase their ROI on carbon fibre R&D (hoping their future models would benefit from it) and brag about the material under the paint, why would you pay twice as much for an i3?
    If you want to drive “green”, get yourself a hybrid. Unfortunately, BMW is way behind its competitors. BMW currently offers only one hybrid powertrain and it’s not sure yet if the i8′s would spawn over other models. VW Group has or will have 4 or 5 different ones, same for Toyota.

    • Tommolog

      I respect your opinion Otto, you are absolutely entitled to it. However let me say a few things in response if I may.
      As for as EV’s only being city cars, I’ve driven my EV’s over 200,000km in the past 4 years. I live in the country, 65km from the city and commute there and back home every day. As long as there are charge points, the mileage isn’t a problem and public charging infrastructure is increasing every day. Two years ago there were no public chargers in my entire state and now there are nearly 100.

      As for the driving experience, it’s hard to condemn something if you haven’t ever done it. I suggest you get behind the wheel of a Tesla Model S or an i3 when they are available, even if you have no intention of buying one, just to see how it drives. The smooth linear acceleration, quiet cabin and instant torque is quite enjoyable. Some may still prefer the loud rumble of an exhaust and the vibrations up through the steering wheel of a large engine at high RPM’s, but I can assure the driving experience of electric cars IS indeed preferred by many other car enthusiasts.
      Also, you cannot buy a Nissan LEAF for $21,000. The least expensive, base model is $29,000. To get one that has options and upscale trim that would be nearly comparable to an i3 would bring the price well up into the $35,000 to $37,000 range, and it still wold be much slower and less fun to drive then an i3.

      • Otto

        As you said : ” As long as there are charge points”. Plus, you’d better have your own garage and not living in an apartment building.

        As for the Leaf price, indeed, I was too quick to check; base price is 28.800 $, 21.300 being with the Federal Tax Savings.
        However, until there’s a huge improvement in battery technology, pure EVs will remain experimental cars. 160 km + at least 4 hours of battery loading is not an option for 80% of the drivers.

        • Tommolog

          Yes Otto, living in an apartment present challenges with charging. They can be overcome in many cases, but it is challenging. As for the 4 hours of charging, even if you drive a lot like I do, the car is still parked for 20+ hours of the day so there is plenty of time to charge. If you do live in a private house where you have a garage then charging is no problem at all. When you get home at night you plug in and it’s usually fully charged before you even go to sleep, but in any case it’s always filled by morning.

          It really isn’t as big a problem as people that haven’t done it make it out to be, honestly. If you talk to people that have been living with an EV the vast majority of them will tell you they prefer plugging in to going to gas stations.

          I do agree with you that it will certainly not work for everyone yet, but they aren’t trying to sell them to everyone. BMW will be very pleased if only 3% of their total sales are electric cars in the next 5 years. This will be a slow transition to plug in vehicles. The i3 is just the first step.

  • Stan J.

    Again, seriously great article.
    For US based readers, it is important to note that BMW markets also small and very fuel efficient (gas/diesel) vehicles in Europe with combined economy over 50 MPG. Turbodiesel technology in Europe prevails over hybrid technology from whatever historical reasons.
    Back to BMW i3, it is the first BMW in the USA that I will like, just like Mitsubishi i (iMiEV) is the first Mitsubishi that I like. I have been driving my little i for 1.5 years now, making over 11k miles and thriving over the past winter.
    In my eyes, the “i3″ is 2 generations ahead of my “i1″. Here are the similarities:
    1) Battery in the floor
    2) Hatchback style/ 4 person seating capacity
    3) Motor in the back, RWD
    4) Minimal size front accessory trunk (OK, i3 is bigger)
    5) Battery capacity 16 kWh vs. 18.8 kWh
    6) Wheels location at the vehicle corners
    Now, the list of differences would be much longer but this is what I call a 2-generation gap. FYI, i1 suffers from underbody corrosion.
    I am eager to test drive i3!!

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