FirstDrive: BMW i3 – Range


Intro
Looks / Practicality
Engine / Performance
Driving / NVH
Range
Verdict

The batteries in the i3 give a realistic range in everyday conditions of about 70 – 80 miles when fully charged – that’s more than the Fisker Karma. The trip computer is pretty flexible at calculating the driver’s conditions too, so the perceived range will update itself after turning on certain ancillaries.

Take the drive mode out of Comfort and there’s a choice of EcoPro and EcoPro+ modes to help towards maximising the range too. EcoPro will, for example, adjust the throttle map to a softer, less sensitive setting,  while EcoPro+ will go as far as limiting the climate control settings and limiting speed to 56mph.

These driving modes aren’t stubborn either; come the time for you to suddenly need more performance, the i3 will give revert back towards Comfort mode and respond as normal.

IMG_4696 copy
Driving modes can be selected beside the iDrive dial.

Owners have noticed that the range on battery power does decline in the colder, winter months, but those with Range Extenders will have the generator to fall back on and effectively extend range by another full charge.

The engine in the Range Extender comes on automatically when the battery depletes to 5%. You can also preset one of the eight ‘favourite buttons’ on the dash to directly switch the Range Extender switch on / off whenever you need to, but this does only work once the first bar of battery life has depleted (i.e with 75% charge left).

For our i3, this was preset to number 8; saving time and minimising distraction by not having to manually go through the iDrive menus.

With the i3 driven mostly in a small town, our stats estimate that a comfortable 160 miles can be done on a single charge and full tank of fuel.

We did keep an eye on the battery range while driving but only as much as you would with your regular trip computer.

We found it less of a distraction knowing we had the security of the generator too, and so for us, range anxiety wasn’t actually much of an issue.

The two-gallon petrol tank may not seem like much but the potential for an extra 70 – 80 miles means another charge station (or at least a petrol station) is within reach.

As a small town car then, it’s pretty much perfect and all you’d need theoretically. It’d serve well as a second car too that’d rarely left town to cover long distances. For someone who used to drive 30 miles a day on my work commute I can see this working quite well. You could easily outlast an iPhone by only charging it every other day, and you could bank on the range extender for irregular times of need.

A number of owners have found that if you don’t require the Range Extender as often as anticipated, the engine will fire up for maintenance every 6 – 8 weeks or so for a few minutes. Again, this can only happen below 75% charge and so an error message may pop up during attempts if charge is above this level.

Range update 2016:

Thanks to a higher density battery fitted in 2016, an extra 50% mileage range can be had for every full charge cycle. While the battery dimensions remain the same, total mile range climbs from ~70 miles up to ~115 miles for the pure electric i3.

When coupled with a range extender model, total mileage climbs up to 195 miles thanks to the extra 81 miles generated by the 2-cylinder motor.

Performance and power output remains the same, while multi-phase AC charging now means that charge times – where permitted – can be less than those with the previous battery. How you charge up your i3 also remain as before.


BMW i3 charge types

There are 3 main types of way in which you can charge your i3. Charging can be from a conventional domestic power socket, a BMW i Wallbox installed at home or at a public charging station.

BMW-i3 charger
BMW’s powerful i Wallbox charger reduces charging time to three hours.

You can also schedule the car in iDrive to be charged by the i Wallbox charger nearer the time you leave your house. This means the battery is at a warmer temperature and will operate far better than from cold.

And when you’re on the road, the sat-nav is capable of telling you where the nearest charge stations are. Owners have found that a separate app on your phone is worth having though as that will tell you which of those might be out of action!

Long journeys are feasible in the i3, but should you need something more appropriate, BMW offer a service where you can temporarily exchange the car for something else – i.e if you need an Estate for moving house.


Spec: Range Extender
Engine: E-motor: 168bhp, 184lb ft (@ 0rpm). Range Extender: 647cc 2-cylinder with integrated generator, 36bhp ( @ 4500rpm), 40ft lb ( @ 4800rpm)
Transmission: Single Speed
Mpg: Official: 470.8mpg 
Performance: 0-62mph: 7.9 Secs, 93mph
Colour: Andesit Silver
Options - 19" BMW i Turbine-spoke style 429 alloy wheels, Interior world: Suite (Velour mats, Leather seats, Multifunction steering wheel), Media Package - BMW Professional (Traffic Info, Sat Nav and Concierge Service), Park Assist Package (Park Assist, PDC sensors, reverse camera).

6 thoughts on “FirstDrive: BMW i3 – Range

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