Electric Vehicles bmwi3_10

Published on May 27th, 2014 | by Christopher DeMorro

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BMW i3 REx Rated At 39 MPG With 72-Mile EV Range, 117 MPGe

BMW i3 Electric Car

After sitting idle at the dock, awaiting an official fuel economy rating from the EPA, the BMW i3 with the three-cylinder range extender finally has the credentials needed to go on sale. Rated at 39 MPG and with a 72-mile EV range, the BMW i3 REx has a total range of about 150 miles and a 117 MPGe. So how’s it stack up against competitors?

The most obvious car to compare it to is the Chevy Volt, which can only go 35 miles per charge, but has a total range of about 300 miles with a full tank of gas. It’s also cheaper, though the purpose-built BMW i3 is rear-wheel drive, lighter, more powerful, and hence quicker. The i3 takes 7.2 seconds to go from 0 to 60 MPH, whereas the Volt is more than a second slower at 8.5 seconds. However, the Volt is also about $10,000 cheaper, $34,185 compared to $45,200, but the i3 REx has a better MPGe rating, 117 compared just 98.

The conclusion? The i3 is more electric than conventional car, whereas the Volt is more conventional than gas-powered, and I have to wonder if the 78 extra miles of driving is worth the cost of the range extender. Depending on your needs, one or the other might work, though the Volt is undoubtedly the more versatile of the two.

Compared to the electric-only BMW i3, the REx model doesn’t make any better of a case for itself. The BMW i3 EV has a 81-mile electric range, 124 MPGe, and a starting MSRP of $41,350, as well as weighing less. I think GM had it right by going with a lower EV range and a longer, range-extended mode, but 150 miles may be the magic number EVs need to achieve. The two gallons of gasoline (plus the battery power of course) equates to about 75 MPG, a number no conventional hybrid has yet to achieve.

As for the rest of the plug-in hybrid fleet, like the Ford C-Max Energi and Toyota Prius Plug-in, the electric-only ranges are so low as to really disqualify them from comparison in my mind. With this little rating snafu cleared up, buyers of the BMW i3 REx can finally take delivery of their long-awaited vehicles. Did BMW hit the nail on the head, or did they not go far enough?

Source: BMW


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About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or esle, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.



  • Wallace

    The BMW i3 is not much competition for the Volt when considering long range driving. The i3 gas motor cannot keep up with electric power needs and ends up lowering speeds. Not something you want on the highways, especially in the mountains.

    • Steve

      Yep, it doesn’t really compare to a Volt. A Volt can be driven 1,000 miles in a day, the i3 can’t.

  • Steve Distante

    Being a volt owner and soon to be (2 not 3 cylinder) i3 rex owner, the game for electric car owners is to use only electric when possible. The volt is marginal at best with a max of 40-42 miles on a charge (during the summer with the windows open, aka ideal conditions). I believe that the i3 will be more practical from an electric only perspective. I have a car charging station at home and at my building.
    I have not heard that the i3 is underpowered when on ER mode, how do you know that, they have not been released in the US yet?

    • Telveer

      While the i3 is a fine car, its range extender is more of a limp home (or to the nearest charger) solution rather than a cross country solution. This was mentioned by BMW itself in one of their press releases (well – they did not use the phrase “limp home”). Also, have you heard how the REX sounds? Reminds me of my lawn mower. You are probably better off getting one without a REX

      • Steve Distante

        Again, I ask, how does anybody have experience if the REX is just getting released from the dock? I doubt very much that BMW would create anything that could be described as “limp”, on my test drive the car was awesome, better than the Volt, very agile. I did not test a REX, I will let you know when I finally get mine!

        • Telveer

          It was released in US now but has been in the Europe market a while. Many users posted their REX experience on Youtube and many other sites. So, there are plenty of reviews to go by, as well as detailed specs. And the REX solution with its 37hp engine and 2 gallon tank is indeed a limp home solution, and not designed for long drives.

  • Markwbrooks

    Your 0-60 numbers for the volt are not correct most owners beat the 8.5 secs easily. Unlike BMW, GM has set the constant level of torque ( its programmed via software) to 10% lower level than the maximum capability of the motor.
    This is called torque softening, ITs sporty as it is but this can be tweaked to a flat 7.0secs by on stock volts if desired.
    The Volt is focused on over delivering what is promised to all volt owners all the time. The 8.5 you quote is a min level at max gross weight. The 7.2 you quote for BMW is a MAX number with No gas and with HANS dressed only in his underwear.
    Still the I3 is lighter vs the heavier volt. An interesting topic for you to dive into for the future.

    • Telveer

      0 to 60 is over rated. How many times would one do 0 to 60 in real life? On local roads, 0 to 40 and 30 to 50 times are more useful. And on highways, 45 to 65 and usually 55 to 75 times are more useful. Very rarely do you get to do 0 to 60 on regular roads.

      • Steve Distante

        0-60 daily, i3 kicks butt, really a fun ride.

  • Telveer

    Current Volts EPA estimate is 38 miles per charge – not 35 (35 was for 2012 and older models). The lowest range I have seen is 28 miles per charge – this was during those few days when we had sub-zero temperature. Majority of the time, I get about 45 miles per charge, and on a few good days, I get over 50 miles per charge. And this is without hypermiling. So, my average is over 40 miles per charge. Most Volt owners I know experience similar EV range.

  • Steve

    You can’t drive the i3 cross-country like the Volt, it can’t handle it, the generator is there to charge the battery, not motivate the car.

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