Tom Moloughney is an avid electric car advocate. Two years ago, he purchased a BMW i3 with the 0.65 liter onboard two cylinder range extender gasoline engine. 27 months later, he has 56,000 miles on the odometer. He says 96% of those miles have been done on electric power alone. He has purchased about 50 gallons of gasoline for the car, which works out to be more than 1,000 miles per gallon.
For daily driving, the BMW i3 has all the range Moloughney needs to get where he needs to go and back home where he can plug it back in. It is only when he is on trips that he has to use the range extender engine. In order for the car to qualify as a zero emissions vehicle according to the rules established by the California Air Resources Board, its 2.4 gallon tank is electronically limited to 1.9 gallons.
Maloughney say he gets about 38 miles a gallon when using the engine, so he needs to make frequent stops to fill up while travelling. That’s the bad news. The good news is, it takes almost no time and all to add 1.9 gallons of gas.
The i3 is not a perfect car. It has quirks, most of them imposed upon it by regulators. For instance, in the US, the car’s computer prevents the range extender engine from kicking in until the state of charge for the battery is below 5%. That make it impossible for the engine to recharge the battery and move the car forward with authority, especially on hills. Some i3 owners have filed suit against BMW claiming the way the car suddenly goes into reduced power mode with little to no warning is dangerous.
During warm months, Mologhney sometimes goes months without putting gas in the tank. In colder months, battery range is reduced and the engine comes into play more often. The Chevy Volt has a feature that starts the engine every month or so for a few minutes, just to make sure all internal parts are kept properly lubricated.
A new version of the i3 is due later this year with a 50% boost in battery capacity. Range will be about 114 miles with the new version of the car. If Tom Moloughney trades in his current car for a new model with the larger battery, he may never visit a gas station again in his lifetime!