How does the BMW i3 handle in winter?

BMW i | November 2nd, 2014 by 2

The new BMW i3 made its U.S. debut this past Spring, therefore many i3 owners are wondering how the electric-vehicle will handle in the snowy …

The new BMW i3 made its U.S. debut this past Spring, therefore many i3 owners are wondering how the electric-vehicle will handle in the snowy winters of the Midwest or Northeast. Since European customers received their first i3 models this past winter, we set to look for a report that outlines the winter experience aboard the BMW i3.

Meet this i3 owner from Sweden who spent a few months of heavy winters with his BMW electric car. He begins to outline his experience by starting with some of the i3 features that makes it an acceptable winter car, such as the built-in heat pump, insulated heated batteries and functionality to set heating preset times or start it immediately through an app. He also mentions the good traction control system.

bmw i3 prototype snow 1 750x499

BMW i3 has a heat pump as standard for all cars sold in Sweden but it’s available only the BEV model – fully electric. The REx models do no have a place for the heat pump due to that space being used by the fuel tank and the little combustion engine.

Heat Pump

A heat pump reduces energy about 30% and since the display says that the interior heating consumes about 12 km during a charge cycle the heat pump should be able to increase the range 5-10 km.

Insulated Battery

To protect the battery from the extreme cold temperatures, sometimes seen in the Midwest or Northeast, BMW has insulated batteries on the i3 and heats them to get the optimal energy. The insulation also helps in the summer when it cools down the batteries.

But despite all the insulation, temperatures affect the range of electric cars. Low temperatures require cabin heating which requires more energy spent and therefore a lower driving range. The Nordic i3 owner says with the car in comfort mode, heat on and a normal driving you can expect in winter time 80 – 100 km drive on a single charge (20 – 25 kWh / 100 km).

“But BMW says that one should be able to go 130-160 km on single charge – is that not true?,” says the owner. “Well, my experience is that if you turn off the heat and drive really carefully you can without difficulty drive at 12 kWh / 100km. But then it is neither convenient nor fun.”

Traction in the snow

With an impressive 1000 km of winter driving, the i3 owners came out to be impressed with the i3’s handling and traction.

“A rear wheel drive with tremendous torque should be difficult to drive but it is not. The traction control system works well. It slips a little bit in the back at times but never so that it is unpleasant.”

But he encountered some issues strong crosswinds which are noticeable in the car, we suspect due to the fairly low weight of the i3.

In the next few months, we will learn more from the U.S. i3 owners about the winter driving, as well as from our own BMW i3.

2 responses to “How does the BMW i3 handle in winter?”

  1. Phil says:

    I live In Quebec and we know winter also. We already had a couple of days with -40 and a little snow.
    I’ll start by saying that we love the i3 and it’s the best car we bought yet.

    But it could have been design better in snow.
    First: the heap pump is in the BEV not the REX
    For some really weird excuses, they did not include a heat-pump in the Rex which means that the range falls really much!
    kinda an excuse about “missing space” but this is a new model not a
    refurbish one so they could have given it 3 inches more to accommodate
    the heat pump on the REX so it’s lame.

    they do not regenerate the engine heat lost: so that makes it really
    less efficient then the VOLT. So far in the winter when the REX starts I
    get about 15 liters per 100km!

    range when it minus -20 Celsius and with a minimum of heat, with a
    really light food and on only roads 90km and below we usually get about
    80km on batteries an 50 km on gas. (I start in a heated garage with all the pre-condition option optimized…)

    To go to work I have to do 80km so once in a while the REX kicks in. When it’s -25 to -30 it’s worst.
    In the summer: I always have at least 50km of spare (so 130km range summer time)…

    And concerning Tractions Control: yes it’s good making sure the rear don’t slip. Really good.
    where it’s really bad is that when you are in a parking lot and want to
    go on a road and need it’s a bit slippery then traction control stops
    the car right there in the middle of the road and you can press and
    press on the power but it barely moves.
    is major, I use to have a Toyota Echo and when you want to come on a
    road it’s quite predictable but with the i3 there are a couple of
    instances where I almost got hit and the car just didn’t do anything!
    is a way to disable it but it’s not a “one button press” process. You
    got to go in the menus click select click select clicks select click
    select confirm clicks and then it will start but by that time the coming
    truck hitted you. And by the way: when for selecting an option you have
    to go that deep, they could have remove the “ARE YOU SURE” last click!!
    “Yeahs: I think I’m pretttty sure!” It’s so annoying all those warning
    and confirmation!
    can also program it on a “quick button” which means locate click select
    click select click confirm which his nothing near faster….
    with TC off you will get stuck and the wheel will refuse to spin … but a
    bit “less”. You won’t be able to do a spinning U-turn and you will long
    for your Echo “direct reaction drive”….

    other winter option problem you will freak about is all the warning
    “gongs”: directly coming from the loud speakers and loud warning gongs
    when the windshield receive a bit of slushes : it drops abruptly from
    cruise control! and I mean “Abrutly” so make sure your foot stays ON the
    pedal and you don’t jump when it “GONG!!!”, an make sure when you use
    it that the guy behind you keeps a 1 kilometer distance or he will think
    you want to $/%$ him! Then you have to read the warning and press enter
    and enter (again endless warnings and confirmations)
    gongs” when snow gets on the sensor and it thinks constantly that you
    are gonna hit something and you can’t disable it without disabling the
    backup camera and that last for a few seconds and come back and back
    band bank.
    warning loud gongs when you go to McDonald drive true! You press on a
    botton but 5 feets later it comes back, and back and back….
    winter you can just assume that the adaptive cruise control is not
    working and not use it for the whole season and you simply press and
    hold 5 seconds a button and go back to the good hold “fix speed” cruise
    control (after a couple for warning messages confirmations off course).
    So it’s usable only during summers.

    the “air recycling” button doesn’t work in winter (it rarely works in
    summer either: you press on it and 1-2 minutes later it goes back to
    automatic “outside air in”. This is where the engineers should not have
    tried to create a car that tries to outsmart humans! There’s a lot of
    time you DO NOT want outside air to come flooding the car and I still
    can’t figure out why they create a “recycling button” that don’t want to
    BE on “recycling”!

    and not least really bad design: the “hot air exit” button. Instead of
    putting the heat exit button on a dialer which would have been fast to
    select they putted it on a SINGLE button! Which need to be press 7
    times for the seven options! Let me tell you that when you drive and you
    want to send the heat only to your feet, you press on 6 times and watch
    carefully the itchy bitsy llittle lights that show where it goes out
    (and if you over pass you press another 7 times!) and the whole process
    is more dangerous than texting and driving!
    cannot figure out why they put a dialer for the heat which only require
    to have an up and down single button: heat is easy you want more or
    less! While the air exit should have been a dialer with direct

    note: the steering wheel is not heated! Yeash I know: the Leaf which
    costs half of it have it… With EVs we all need to try not to use much
    the “hot air” so why the lack of heated streering wheel??? Go figure…

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