One Year with an all-electric BMW i3

Test Drives | November 8th, 2015 by 21
bmw i3 test drive winter 15 750x500

“Born Electric” is BMW’s catch phrase for the i3. Now having lived with a BMW i3 for a year, it makes me realize just how …

“Born Electric” is BMW’s catch phrase for the i3. Now having lived with a BMW i3 for a year, it makes me realize just how true that catch phrase is. Owning and driving an electric car is indeed a whole new world – 12 months and 12,000 miles without a drop of gas, an oil change or a visit to gas station.

Attention Grabber

To start with, the BMW i3 garnishes more attention than any other car, I’ve ever owned. We’ve had people follow us to where we park and start taking to us – a Tesla Model S follow us to our house just to see it up close. I could go on and on. Surprisingly, it never gets old and we love talking about it.

bmw i3 test drive winter 20 750x500


I always get asked by people who don’t know electric cars if I have a charger at work. As work is a 26 mile round trip from our house, it’s not necessary even in the coldest of weather. We also get asked what it costs to charge – I enjoy Solar/Home Charging and our overall electric bill hasn’t changed as we produce more kWhs than we consume. If we had to pay for our electricity, it’s $0.11 a kWh and a “fill up” would cost about $2.00 – if we were almost empty.

BMW i3, in fact, is the most efficient car on the market, being rated at 124 MPGe.

bmw i3 test drive winter 08 750x563

We average 4.9 miles per kWh in combined usage of highway and city when the weather is between 40F – 90F. The BMW i3, in fact, is the most efficient car on the market, being rated at 124 MPGe. Part of the reason is the BMW i3 is built using the lightest materials – Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP), aluminum as well as plastic – and weighs a mere 2,800 lbs. Powering the i3 is a 170 hp electric motor and a 22 kWh battery, of which a little over 18 kWh is usable. The i3’s range has stayed at about 80 miles. Just last week we did 73 miles and had 7 miles left on the “guess o-meter.”


Though BMW sells the BMW i3 in pure electric (BEV) and the Range Extender (REx) versions with a small onboard generator, we chose the i3 BEV as it is not our only car and drive at most 50 miles in a day. Over the 12 months we have experienced zero degradation in usable range. Seriously cold weather does effect all electric cars – the i3 included – but there are tricks to dealing with it. See electric car guru, Tom Moloughney’s tips here.

Nokian Hakkapelitta R2

Nokian Hakkapelitta R2

We did purchase a set of winter wheels and tires (Bridgestone Blizzaks) from Tirerack, as well as a set of winter mats from WeatherTech. So outfitted, we had no problems getting around in the snow and slush. Nokian sent us a set of serious winter tires we tested as well. Both are outstanding and in my opinion, snow tires are a necessity, if you want to drive in bad winter weather.

Nokian Hakkapelitta R2-bmw-i3-19

READ THIS: BMW i3 REx – One Year Review

The i3 is blast to drive. Mainly, I think, because of its crazy instantaneous acceleration. Almost nothing can touch it 0-30 mph. Not only does it push you back in the seat but there’s almost a George Jetson electrical whine under hard acceleration and deceleration/ regenerative braking. I absolutely love electric car, one-pedal-driving. It seems every time I drive it, I try not to touch the brake pedal and plan stops well enough so all the energy slowing is routed back into the battery. I live for the 100% efficient rating on the BMW i Remote App. Driving around town – love it. It feels like a tall go-cart.


On the freeway, though, I occasionally feel the i3 get buffeted around from wind and the car moves around some. In town though, especially tight parking garage taking advantage of the i3’s tight turning radius, the i3’s the bomb.

BMW i3 Tech


The tech in the i3 is insane. We’ll okay – maybe not Elon Musk insane – but cool nonetheless. Walk up to the i3 at night and unlock it and the interior is lit up in cool dark blue hues. We opted for the Tech Package and didn’t know what to expect. Speeding in the i3 is entirely too easy as it is just so quiet and there is no engine noise. I find myself more often than not, using the Adaptive Cruise Control to keep smooth acceleration and to help me not speed. It does a great job of slowing down when you reach traffic.

The BMW i Remote App – it’s awesome because allows me to check the state of charge of the battery from anywhere.

Over a years worth of use, twice the i3’s Active Cruise Control did things I didn’t expect. First, it does not like driving into sunsets as the sun at a certain angle will abruptly disengage the Active Cruise and engage reg braking. Hello!!

Second, it doesn’t seem to sense shiny milk or gas tanker trucks and you will book right up on them. I applied the brake and the Active Cruise disengaged.

My only regret about our configuration on our i3 which we ordered, is that I wish we would have opted for the $800 Harman/Kardon stereo. The base stereo only comes with two speakers and both are in the front and none in the rear. Also, it’s not that clear of sound and cannot put out that much volume. The radio has to be too loud in front for those in back to hear it. If you have a teenage daughter that has to ride in the back sometimes, trust me on this one. Also I think the satellite radio quality is not that great, so didn’t renew after the free 1 year expired.


The BMW i Remote App – it’s awesome because allows me to check the state of charge of the battery from anywhere. The app communicates to the car via 3G connection and can lock the car or flash the lights. We mostly use it to check the state of charge percentage and decide whether or not we need to charge it. It can also give you an estimate of how efficient you were driving on the last trip. I use the app entirely too much.

Ownership Issues


Problems? None – save one flat caused from us running over a 4 inch bolt on our second day of ownership. According to resident BMW i3 expert, Tom Moloughney, we have the record for the fastest flat. Day 2 – 120 miles. TPMS alerted us to the problem with a rapidly dropping PSI while in a Chick Fil-A drive thru. Nice thing was that we could actually see what the PSI in the tire and not ruin the wheel getting home. The tire was toast though and we had to buy a new rear tire. With mount, balance and tax it came to $211 and was our only repair during the entire year of driving.


We never had to take the i3 in to the dealer for problems.

Things that irritate me with the car? Just three things really.

One, when trying to be uber efficient with the i3, the climate control’s default is to turn it on. I wish it would default to the last setting it was on when started. Restart the i3 and the HVAC comes on.

Second, the buffeting you get sometimes on the freeway. It keeps you on your toes as you never know when it’ll happen.

Third is when it gets cold out, the interior fogs up big time. I invariably have to turn on the defroster even when trying to save battery.

All in all, we love our i3 and intend to keep one in our family for some time to come.

Here is a video review of our experience living with the BMW i3:


MSRP: $49,375
Base MSRP 2014 i3 BEV $41,350
Solar Orange Paint $550
Tera Word Package $2700
Parking Asst Package $1000
Tech + Driver Asst Package $2500
Heated Front Seats $350
Destination Charge $925
Bosch Level 2 Charger: $889 including installation

At 120 miles, one Bridgestone Ecopia EP600 175/60/19 mounted $164 and Balance $25 + Tax = $211.78

At 2111 miles, winter wheels/tires  – $1792 shipped

(4) Bridgestone Blizzak LM-500 Snow Tires 155/70/19’s $119.20//each
(4) Rial X10-I Black $239/each
(4) 433 Mhz Sensors $80/each

Weather Tech FloorLiner Front/Rear $210

At 8600 miles, minor bumper repair when our i3 is backed into. Repaint bumper and refinish wheel. Zero cost as the other driver’s insurance covered it. It did give us an up close look at the BMW i3 repair process we were not wanting.

At 8696 miles, KLE Module Replaced under Service Bulletin, new software installed. = $0

21 responses to “One Year with an all-electric BMW i3”

  1. Brian Rosher says:

    Try switching the recirculate from auto to manually off where no leds are lit. This solved the cold weather fogging for me. Your experience mirrors my own after 1 year and 6k miles in my BEV.

  2. Keith says:

    Great review, Chuck! It is always interesting to hear about extended ownership experience.

  3. Kanon Cozad says:

    Great review, Chuck, about the best long-termer I’ve read. Knowing your garage, it’s wonderful the i3 has found such a perfect niche in your driving options.

  4. lekkousa says:

    Congratulations! Enjoyed your review, keep driving in good health!

  5. Amin Wahi says:

    Chuck, you’re in Kansas City? I got my BEV 2 months ago and enjoying it. I noticed the pictures and recognized most of the landmarks. We should meet up and chat sometimes over coffee!

  6. […] Reading tip: As the BMW i3 turns one, Chuck Vossler ponders how true the catchphrase “Born Electric” has become over the past 12 months, taking a detailed look at the all-electric vehicle. We say – happy birthday, i3. May there be electric siblings in your near future. […]

  7. Michael S. says:

    I’m considering an i3 REx now to replace my Focus Electric, especially after I found out that they can be leased for crazy cheap:

    How’s the heater in cold climates? I feel like that’s often a weak point with EVs, except for maybe the Model S.

  8. islevegan says:

    Fantastic, if it were available without animal bits covering various interior elements. Yes really, it’s not possible to get one of these vehicles without dead animal bits. What a bummer that so few people seem to care.

  9. […] years after it went on sale, the BMW i3 has established itself at the pinnacle of its segment worldwide. In Germany, one in every four […]

  10. Jess says:

    This article and review is great! If you’re interested, we would love for you to share it with the BMW i Forum community in the new Born Electric Experiences section —

  11. Peter Hallinan says:

    hi Chuck – I bought my i3 at the end of January 2015 in New Zealand and have clocked up 15000km (say 10000miles?). I agree with everything you posted :) I drive regularly between Christchurch and Kaikoura (185km one way) with my REX version without needing to stop and a comfortable margin after reaching destination. I rejoice in the little bit I am doing to ‘save the planet’ too :) – Peter

  12. […] BMWBLOG’s Chuck Vossler, owner of a BMW i3 BEV, posted his one-year review of the i3. […]

  13. Mikel says:

    Thanks for this very interesting and detailed review, Chuck! I would be happy, if you add your i3 to the electric car map:

  14. […] the price of a Nissan Leaf to $10,623 – down from the MSRP of $29,010. Now there is a $24,944 2015 BMW i3 available through January 4, […]

  15. William Smith says:

    I live in Chicago and I am thinking of buying a used 2014-15 I3 rex. How is the cabin heater (weak or very good) and how much does the real cold days affect you -15 below. I do not have a garage but have a 220 outlet. Also the dealer is trying to tell me the rex engine has changed from 2014-2015? He is saying the 2015 has a higher output?

    • Horatiu B. says:

      Hi William,

      I live in Chicago also and have an i3 REx. The cabin heater is good, but of course that comes with a price – reduced range. It doesn’t bother me much since I can use the REx if needed.

      Not sure if the REx engine has changed, I haven’t heard anything, but I can ask.

  16. Joshua Rager says:

    Chuck, I purchased my i3 REX in September 2015 and one of the first things that I noticed that annoyed me about the car was the climate control’s default was to turn on. It was actually the only thing I complained to BMW about during my follow up car buying interview. Anyway, I had to take my i3 in for unscheduled service because of a check engine light that turned out to be nothing. In addition to fixing the faulty check engine light they updated the software on the car to the latest version. Don’t know if BMW has specifically fixed that issue in the software update, but after I got my car back the climate control’s would always stay at whatever setting they were when the car was turned off.

  17. […] is at night in the rain. While testing out the ZEISS DriveSafe lenses, I was out in our long-term BMW i3 tester and got caught in a torrential down pour at night. When I say torrential downpour, I […]

  18. […] The first year living with our 2014 BMW i3 BEV was really more like being a pioneer exploring the i3’s real world capabilities. The all-electric i3 BEV has an 81 mile EPA rated range, but how would its low 2900 lbs curb-weight and narrow tires handle a severe snow storm or how about a biting cold -15C winter day? As with all electric cars, severe low temperatures decrease range but we learned that when outfitted with some great snow tires along with preconditioning the battery, the i3 easily met our daily transportation needs. […]

  19. […] things they want to know are the cost and the range. Herein lies the biggest differences between the i3 and the Bolt. The BMW i3 has a 22 kWh battery pack standard and an 33 kWh optional, both are fitted […]

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