“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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