The word you hear repeated again and again with the BMW i3 is "nimble." Even though it has an atypical body shape, it drives like a BMW. The i3 is unique not just in looks: the construction features carbon fiber and hemp infused plastic materials that make the car lighter, more sustainable, and increase the range. Early models had an EPA range shy of 100 miles but the i3 is now rated at 153 miles, not including an optional gasoline range extender for maximum flexibility and peace of mind. Drivers love the tight BMW handing and modern interior design.
The i3 was a rare case of an electric car that was not simply an electrified version of an existing model: BMW brags that it was designed from the ground up as a unique and innovative new experience. Although its range was always shorter than that of Teslas or a Chevy Bolt, it is an impressive engineering feat and goes further than other cars could on a similarly sized battery.
The BMW i3 has one official trim choice, the sporty "s." Both the base and the "s" have an optional add-on gas-powered range extender that shortens the all-electric range of the vehicle but adds an additional 75 miles once the battery is depleted to 30%.
The sport trim, i3s, has a lowered suspension, wider wheels and tires, faster acceleration, and a SPORT mode. It adds 13 horsepower and 15 lb-ft or torque. The i3s can also come with the optional Range Extender. Unlike with many EVs, the upgraded trim i3 comes with the same battery as the base level, but at a lower range; The loss of range is due to lower efficiency of the upgraded performance.
Both the base and the sport trim come with optional packages to upgrade the interior, amenities, and provide driver assist software such as forward collision protection, adaptive cruise control, and navigation. Exact add-on features depend on the model year.
Although it has a gas-powered range extended, the i3 is not classified as a hybrid since the range extender is designed for short-range, occasional use and is not meant to be used as the main propulsion. The California Air Resources Board, which is responsible for a lot of the country's zero-emissions vehicles rules, classifies the i3 as "range-extended-battery electric."
Range is defined as how many miles a car can go when fully charged. Like with an ICE car, factors like outside temperature, driving conditions, and driving style can affect the efficiency and energy needs of the car. Battery powered cars are most efficient when the temperature is warm, terrain is flat or downhill, and the car can use its regenerative braking feature to recharge the battery. So, while the EPA rates vehicles with a single "range," this number is really an estimate under a set of highly controlled conditions. Short term range changes tend to reflect external factors, while permanent range effects point to vehicle degradation and age.
Read more about how temperature affects range.
The BMW i3 has been on the road since 2014 so it is has almost 8 full years of data to understand the range degradation with time.
In the Recurrent data set, we track the maximum achievable range at 100% charge for vehicles in different locations and conditions. We have seen vehicles with a maximum range as low as 34 miles and as high as 247 miles. Of course, older vehicles have lower original range estimates and generally lower current ranges, as their battery capacity declines with age and use. First generation vehicles, from 2014 to 2016, tend to have used ranges between 34 and 95 miles. Second generation i3, from 2017 to 2018, generally have used ranges between 66 and 170, and more recent model years tend to have a used range closer to the original EPA range: between 82 and 247. Higher range estimates tend to reflect not just battery condition but driving terrain and external temperature, too.
The used all-electric ranges for i3 REx are:
These range values do not include the roughly 75 miles of gas-powered range extension provided by the REx. Note that the exact range of the REx component may also degrade with age but Recurrent is unable to track this data.
The main ways to measure vehicle efficiency, or energy use per distance traveled, are MPGe and miles/kWh. You may see these values on new car stickers or on dealer listings. The MPGe for the BMW i3 changes slightly with each change in battery size and with different options.
For the i3, the efficiency can range from 112 MPGe for a 2017 i3s to 124 MPGe for an early model year. 2019 and later years get around 113 MPGe, which is fairly average for an EV. When you add in the REx, your efficiency ranges between 100 - 117 MPGe for combined electric and gas performance but in each year, it is less efficient than the all-electric version. The sport trim also lowers efficiency slightly. In terms of miles per kWh, the standard i3 gets between 3.33-3.7 miles per kWh while the REx gets 3.13-3.45. The i3s gets slightly fewer miles per kWh than the i3 for each model year.
Our community of i3 drivers give their car a Charging Score of 4.2/5, meaning that they are mostly satisfied with their charging experience. While the i3 has a fairly small battery for an all-electric vehicle, it can only gain 4 miles per hour of charging on a standard, household 110V plug. A level 2 charger can refill the i3 at around 22 miles per hour, and DC fast charging can refill an empty battery to 80% in under an hour. For the smallest battery size, a DC fast charger can get you 80% charge in just 30 minutes.
The i3 uses lithium ion batteries - a power dense, high voltage technology that works well for storing a lot of energy. Although the lithium ion batteries in an EV are much stronger and more durable than those in your phone or laptop, they will still start to lose power and capacity with age and use. Battery degradation happens because of two things:
a) the age of the battery (also known as 'calendar' aging)
b) how the battery is used, charged, and stored
Calendar aging is inevitable - it starts the moment a battery is made. However, there are things that can cause a battery to degrade faster. The way an EV is charged and stored will impact the rate of battery degradation, so there are ways for an EV owners to slow the process. This discussion is covered in a research article on battery degradation.
The battery size, or battery capacity, is measured in kWh. The i3 comes with three different battery sizes, which the manufacturer generally refers to by the corresponding Amp-hours (a unit measurement that is similar to kWh). The earliest models were 60 Ah i3's with 22 kWh batteries, following by an upgraded 94 Ah battery with 33 kWh. In 2018, BMW released a 120 Ah battery with 42.2 kWh.
BMW offers an 8 year, 100,000 mile warranty against defaults or extreme degradation in the high voltage battery. The warranty ensures against degradation beyond 70% over the coverage. The balance of the warranty is also transferrable with sale of the vehicle. Certified pre-owned i3's can be purchased with supplementary insurance, although many of these do not cover battery replacements.
This page shares BMW i3 data collected from 337 drivers across the United States. Each of the 1.2 million miles driven helps to draw a picture of the driver experience. We polled our community to find out what they love and what they could leave with their vehicles.
Most liked features:
"Design, quick charging, interior, amount of space in the cabin, build quality and the materials.
"The i3 is a total joy to drive. It's quick, quiet, solid, and snappy."
"Designed to be an EV, not a battery pack shoved in an ICE shell and it shows. Handling, sportiness, cheap to run, looks."
"The feel and fun factor of the car. Drives incredibly well and the interior is the best in the business. No super fancy screens, elegant design, open and airy feel."
Room to improve:
"Lack of key luxury car features- heated steering wheel, power seats, blind spot monitoring"
"If something breaks, since it's a BMW, it can be pricey so that's why i just tend to be careful"
The Green Score for the i3 is GREAT. Like other battery electric vehicles, it has no tailpipe emissions. Drivers that opt for the add-on range extender (REx) do have a gasoline engine that will emit CO2 and other pollutants if the battery charge gets too low.
If driving electric isn't environmentally friendly enough for you, you can lower your impact by buying used and avoiding the production and shipment of a brand new car. Finally, you can really up your green game by powering your EV with renewable energy for the ultimate clean machine.
The i3 was released as a mid-priced car in the normally luxury BMW line, with original purchase price starting at $41,350 in 2014. Later models hovered around a MSRP of around $50,000. Options such as REx and the "s" trim add to this MSRP. New i3's are also eligible for the $7,500 federal tax incentive while they are still available. Since the production of i3's ended with the 2021 model year, there is limited remaining stock of new ones.
There is a wide range of used prices for i3's based on model year and car options. While most used vehicle prices fall between $17K and $33K, there are older i3's to be found as low as $13,000 and tricked-out new ones that can be as pricey as $60K. This means that if you're set on a BMW, you can likely find a used i3 that meets your budget.
Cost per range mile is a metric that Recurrent uses to help shoppers understand how much range you're getting for money, as opposed to bells and whistles. For most used i3's, the cost per range mile will be between $130 and $220, while for some very inexpensive or very pricey vehicles, you'll see cost per range mile values between $110 and $245. Depending on how much range you need - and how many amenities - the i3 can be an easy way to go electric.
Recurrent uses data from the AFDC to determine the range of annual charging costs for the i3. However, for drivers with the range extender, gas costs and frequency of charge must also be considered.
Assuming an average driving pattern of 34 miles a day, 5 days a week, 49 weeks a year with 25% highway driving, plus a few additional highway road trips, you can estimate your annual charging costs to be between $322 - $1030. These figures are for a 2017 94 Ah (33 kWh) model with no REx. More detailed and personalized values can be calculated at the link above. For our calculations, the highest electricity price is found in Hawaii and the lowest in Louisiana.