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.
The i3 is the ultimate run around town car. Packed parking structures are a breeze to navigate with its short turning radius and the i3 seems to relish busy city traffic and one pedal driving – lifting regen’s energy right back into the battery while slowing you down. Better yet, set the Active Cruise in city traffic and let the i3 and handle the stop-and-go while you only need steer. Need to merge? The i3’s instant torque of its electric motor allow you to get in any gap. With the rear-wheel drive, the i3 handles great, though can get buffeted sometimes on the highway.
As far as function goes, the i3 doesn’t seem like a big car, the fold down seats open the back up to items as large as our daughter’s full size bass. The only truly worthless thing in the i3 is the front trunk which for unimaginable reasons is not only tiny but not weather proof. The interior has held up great to the two years of use – the eucalyptus wood looks as new and the heated leather seats are in great shape. Our killer WeatherTech winter mats have keeps the winter crud off the i3’s carpets.
Our second year living with the all electric BMW i3 BEV has literally blown right by. Recently we rolled through 23,000 trouble free driving in our 24th month of ownership. We have had no trips to the dealer for any problems in two years, save one flat tire where we ran over a four inch bolt in our first month of ownership, and had no unexpected broken door handles or fit and finish issues. Others with i3 range extenders have reported problems mostly due to the U.S.-specific programing of the engine and fuel tank.
In our 23rd month, the “Vehicle check due soon” service vehicle light showed up on the dash and on the BMW i3 app. We finally had the i3 in for its first service at the local BMW dealer. But do you know what a 24 month service visit involves for an electric car? Not much – just a brake fluid flush, new cabin air filter and a software update. The two engine mount bolts were fine but replaced because a design change, under a service bulletin.
The i3’s 24 mo check up report did the rear tires were more worn than the fronts. They said replacement of them would be needed before the i3’s next service. We plan to replace the rear 175/60/19 Bridgestone Ecopias around 30,000 miles. If we weren’t using snow tires for three months a each year, we would probably be replacing the rears now. The tires are a very reasonable $135 per nit.
We charge the i3 primarily at home with our home solar array, and have not noticed any battery degradation. I really don’t miss yearly oil changes, or trips to the gas station for the i3. So far, the biggest impact on the battery range has been driving style and extreme heat or cold. The i3’s range seems to be the best during moderate temperatures of the spring and fall where we will see range estimates of 100 miles on a charge. As our daily drives rarely exceed 50 miles, we don’t really experience range anxiety.
Overall, we have averaged about 4 miles per kWh of electricity during our two years. In 23,000 miles, this works out to 5,750 kWh used. In our area of the country the cost for electricity is 11cents per kWh, so if we hadn’t had solar, our electricity cost would have been about $630 of electricity to go 23,000 miles. Comparing to the car we replaced with the i3 and assuming an average of $3 for a gallon of premium gas, the X3 would have run us around $3,450 in fuel to cover the same distance.
The amazing thing about the BMW i3 is that even at two years old, it still gets comments. Just last night when leaving a professional soccer game parking lot we were getting “cool car” comments and thumbs up.
Perhaps the biggest revelation in our 24 months of driving all electric has been just how trouble free it is. We just charge the battery and go. If I had one wish for the car was that it would be easy way to drive it on long trips. Though the 2017 BMW i3 gets a bigger battery capacity, it still wont cross country easily. Tom Moloughney, the original electric BMW pioneer, has a BMW i3 Range Extender has done long distance trips. For true pure electric long distance travel though, Tesla has that market cornered currently. Hopefully BMW will have an answer there someday so that born electric doesn’t mean you have to stay in the city because all other BMW answers are plug-ins.