When I moved to Los Angeles, my plan was to daily-drive a 1959 Nash Metropolitan that a gentleman had kindly gifted me for free. Then I started driving on the 101 and 405, and realized that they are essentially death-rivers that could easily crumple old American iron like it’s a cheap canoe. That, plus the fact that my apartment’s parking garage contains EV chargers, and the fact that I’d like to own something from this millennium now that I have responsibilities running a company, plus my interest in “walking the walk” (so to speak) when it comes to driving EVs as a car journalist — it all played into me purchasing The Cheapest BMW i3 In America. The downside of the purchase is that the car has lots of miles on it and the battery is toast. The upside? The state of California has me covered.
It’s possible that you read the article “I Bought A High-Mileage Electric Car With A Bad Battery. Here’s Why That Was Actually A Stroke of Genius.” If so, you learned that I took a big risk buying the cheapest used BMW i3 Range Extender sold by a dealership in the U.S.. It was only $10,500 (plus taxes and fees), but it has 134,000 miles on the original battery, and upon getting in the fully-charged car, I saw this screen:
While you can’t really take the range estimate as gospel, 49 miles ain’t great. And after asking the dealership to test my battery’s health, a representative called me and said “We checked your battery. You’re only likely to get 30 miles of range from it.” I was confused by how the dealership came up with a range figure like that, but mostly concerned that I just dropped over 10 large on a carbon fiber paperweight. So I did a bit of digging; I learned that BMW has an eight year, 100,000 mile warranty on the battery. The dealership initially told me that, since this time/distance has passed, my i3 was not eligible for any warranty on the battery. But then I looked through the owner’s manual and found out about the California Emissions Control System Limited Warranty for Partial Zero Emissions Vehicles:
See that little dot in the second column from the right of that bottom table? It clearly shows that my range extender-equipped i3 is eligible for a 10 year, 150,000 mile battery warranty! I notified the dealer, who agreed to replace my battery. I was thrilled to hear this.
I asked my sales rep, Alex, how long it would take, and he responded with this:
A “‘very rough’ estimate of 6-8 weeks”! That’s a long time!
Here’s a look at what I presume the dealership is importing — eight of these modules (or possibly fewer, depending upon how many need to be replaced. It’s not clear yet):
If the dealer does replace all eight, that’s $25,000 in batteries in my $10,500 car.
I am, of course, thrilled, though I have a feeling it’ll be at least two months before I get to drive my i3. I’m also curious about how battery supply works for an older car like this. Does BMW continue manufacturing old battery packs with old battery technology? Like, is it even possible to get these exact Samsung pouch cells or will my modules have updated tech, but with similar voltage/energy content?
Anyway, in the meantime, I’m going to see about getting that Nash up and running. It needs some significant engine work (a new crankshaft); will I be able to get it done by the time my i3 arrives? Place your bets in the comments below.
- I Bought A High-Mileage Electric Car With A Bad Battery. Here’s Why That Was Actually A Stroke of Genius
- My BMW i3 Depreciated $43,000 In Just Nine Years. The Luxury Features I Got For $10,500 Are Incredible
Every Car Dealer Selling Used EVs Should Provide Information On Battery Health
I Rented A BMW i3 For A Weekend And Now I’m Sitting In A Cheap Motel Two Hours From Home Contemplating Buying The Cheapest One I Could Find
Re which will be ready 1st…
I think parts availability is the long pole in the tent for both cars.
Metros while very cool looking, were small time production & plus that was what +60 years ago. Still IF there is a solid car community around them you could have all the parts you need pretty quickly.
My 500 mile motorcycle has been at the dealer one year this month. It took eight months to get a fuel pump. That didn’t fix it and since then they’ve been waiting for a new ECM. I’m about to start the lemon law process. I’m glad California nudged things in your favor and if your battery arrives in two months I’ll crack a cold one in your honor. Or, I’ll crack a cold one in sympathy. Either way, best of luck.
Out of curiosity, what bike? The only one I bought new was a v Strom, and I ended up kicking myself for not picking up a used triumph/Ducati like I’d initially planned. That said, the damn thing just worked, and I’d no doubt have felt differently if it spent a year in the dealer with 500 miles.
That’s also a great argument for keeping something like an old carb’d sportster, dr650, etc in the stable. Not worth enough to feel guilty about it sitting, and never more than a pilot jet and fresh battery away from firing up. That’s partially why I’ve got an old Drz right now-I knew I wouldn’t ride much as we were planning to have kids, but it’s only worth like $2500 post Covid and not depreciating. If I did sell it I’d just end up buying something for $5k a year from now.
This is a Suzuki M90. I’m old and this was to be my last bike so it’s doubly irritating. You’re right about the newer tech coming back to bite me because I know in my heart they have no idea what’s wrong. Fuel pump and ECM tells me that they’re throwing electronic parts at it in desperation. I can tell my skills are slipping so it’s probably time to hang it up anyway. Lousy way to quit riding. I appreciate your asking.
I’d put money on it being sensors/relays and or bad connections in the wiring harness before fuel pump or ECM…
You can dooooiiiiiiit!
You would probably have to keep making the same exact batteries, because that’s what the car was validated and (crash) tested with
It’s becoming glaringly obvious that Dave Tracy was never drug tested for this role. I guess that’s a perk of being an owner ha!
Keep living the dream buddy.
Since the Nash originally came with the BL “B” engine, why not stuff a later/built-up motor from an MGB into it? Looks like it’s a relatively common swap, and being in southern Cal, probably the easiest to source and probably the most straightforward swap option.
Otherwise, there’s plenty of other four-cylinder choices one could stuff into the Metropolitan. Heck, I have a complete Saab turbo motor from an early 9000T (2.0, with ECM, harness and turbo) sitting around that I’d gladly donate to the cause.
Of course, the downside is that you’ll likely need to beef everything else up along the way (rear end, brakes, etc.) if doing anything other rebuilding the stock motor.
The easy route is to rebuild the 1500, but use an MGA intake/exhaust so you can do dual SU carbs. Nice bump in horsepower, without having another engine to store (I almost typed “another engine to get rid of,” but this is David we’re talking about).
Then DT and the Moss Motors folks will quickly become BFFs. 🙂
I’m curious why you would recommend the SUs over Webers – is it the historical aspect?
The side draft DCOE is really only meant for racing and doesn’t gain you anything on a stock B-series engine.
The down draft DGF is pretty functional and easy to install, but getting it to not bog when you punch it from low RPM can tricky.
Both require a new intake, can’t use the stock air cleaner assembly, or have some fitment issues.
The SU’s tend to hold their tune, have good drivability, and make comparable power to the Webers,
The major drawback to the SU’s is some people absolutely loose their $h!t when it comes time to work on them. They have three moving parts are so many car guys treat them like the Antikythera mechanism.
Thank you for the answer – much appreciated!
My rubber-bumper MGB had a Weber 32/36, which now appears to be called the DGV. I don’t recall any low-RPM issues but that was a long time ago. 🙂
The issue people have with the SUs seems to be specifically about synchronization – not sure why they would be more difficult to sync than anything else.
Moss has the DGV kit for under $600 while the SUs start at $1500. That could make a difference for a hobbyist.
If I were to have an MG project right now, I would most likely go with the DGV. Maybe a 40 DCOE if I planned to do head work at some point.
BMW will call you when the battery is ready right? The i3 is still usable despite lower range. Or is there logistical aspect that I am missing (eg 1 parking space for 2 cars?).
Ditto on a pre-’72 MGB 1.8 L. It will bolt right in.
Every time I see a Nash Metropolitan – all I can think of is that it was Weird Al’s car in the movie UHF.
Don’t you need the Nash, like… now? It does not make sense to try to finish it at the same time the I3 become available. You’ll go from 0 to 2 cars instantly. You need to go from 1 to 2 cars.
David, as a writer, you ought to know better. I cringe every time I see or hear the WRONG phrase “walk the walk”. The proper phrase is “walk the talk”. It means to do what you’ve been saying to do, aka, “practice what you preach.”
The Oxford reference you linked to specifically states they got their “walk the talk” version from “A Dictionary Of Human Resource Management”, published in 2008. The brians.wsu.edu link above states the the “walk the talk” version is a modern condensed version of the original phrase. As the knowyourphrase.com link above explains, the “talk the talk…walk the walk” phrase is at least 100 years old, with the earliest example they found printed in a 1921 paper. While David could have used the full “talk the talk and walk the walk” phrase, his use of the shortened “walking the walk” is perfectly acceptable, and his meaning was understood, which is really the ultimate goal of any language.
Why can’t you drive the i3 while you wait or the parts to arrive? A car sitting and not being driven for an extended period of time is the worse thing for it.
He can drive the i3 to Galpin to wrench on the Nash.
Why do a boring engine swap?
Need to do what the Roadkill had, a hacked ’56 Metropolitan onto a Toyota mini-Truck frame and powered with a Ford Turbo Super Coupe 2.3L
It’s funny I have a 2014 BMW 650I Gran Coupe that needs a new engine…which is in the shop rite now to. I’m driving a 88 Caddy 2dr Deville to get me by rite now…My Caddy gets better gas mileage than my Bima & it’s way comfortable with a V8 & AIR Shocks that still work from 88…Electric cars are a joke…why would I waste time charging a car? I can’t understand the reason people want to drive their cell phones around… if you ever get to drive a 1966 Chevy SS with 502 you will never think about anything electric ever again…
‘I can’t understand the reason people want to drive their cell phones around… if you ever get to drive a 1966 Chevy SS with 502 you will never think about anything electric ever again……’
Because not everyone is into choking on overwhelming fumes, shitty gas mileage, terrible safety and (depending on the exhaust) potential hearing loss while being a selfish, attention seeking jackass?
Say what you want about EVs, at least they don’t stink to high heaven like pre-emissions ICE cars do. EVs are also all but silent on the outside so they tend to be a lot nicer to be around vs. too many ear shattering straight piped/glass packed toys of desperate manchildren.
My guess is that by the time it’s fixed, you’ll have forgotten you bought it. The Metro is simple enough you could rebuild it in a week, assuming parts are on hand.
Funny that it’ll be easier to source parts for the Nash than the BMW.
At least for cheap EVs battery maintenance should be just like any other consumable in the car, easy and cheap to replace/repair, small batteries will cycle much quicker and wear faster making them much less usable in the mid-long run, maybe create a special category like Kei cars that uses compatible batteries
Well, great for David but the rest of the world gets to absorb 25k in warranty costs that will be spread around to buyers of future vehicles.
EV’s are still in “partial scam” territory for me. I’m pretty sure a small, economical ICE car would not have cost 25k to fix unless you wanted it diamond encrusted.
If we really want to save the planet we could just tax fuel to the point where consumers make choices that use a lot less of it. (See Japanese K-cars).
Instead we’re going to build millions of all new cars that will be bigger and heavier than ever and sell them for crapper loads of money on 1639 month payment plans.
Man, if kei cars were sold here I’d buy one in a heartbeat….and not just for the novelty, but because they are legitimately all I need…(and also cool!)
David – please consider an engine swap project – this guy put a GM 3.4 L V6 in his, and the internet says that an S-10 drivetrain with this engine and a T5 (or the auto) is pretty easy install and you can even have AC! Of course the suspension and the brakes need to be swapped out but frankly you need to do that anyhow even if you keep the little powerless engine that’s in it now.
Another school of thought says that an old RX-7 rotary is tiny and therefore an easy install.
Heat shed issues, shitty fuel economy, and exhaust noise suppression, along with apex seals, are all negative issues with the spinning Dorito in Peanut engine…
I feel like this is watching a friend who is finally clean and sober start to fall off the wagon. David kicks the rusty Jeep addiction and buys an (albeit broken) EV. Awesome! He’s getting his life on track. Could be better….I mean he could have bought a functional EV but that’s ok. It’s progress. Next thing you know he is out back in the alley bumming a hit off a busboy……errr…..I mean wrenching on a old Nash and you just know where this will lead. We’ll find David at home with a rear wiper assembly and pile of XJ fenders that were too rust free to just leave at the salvage yard.
New Video idea:
Dave’s in a room with a dream garage set up, a rusty jeep and some booze. No one else, just him and that sweet, sweet rust.
How long can he go without putting a tool to it? I think a live stream and some “gentleman’s bets” could be entertaining.
I wonder if there will be a reality series about David vs the HOA AND city while he is fixing up the nash. From what I heard, wrenching in apartment parking lots (let alone apartments for parts washing) in California is a totally different beast vs wrench on a lot of a sympathetic landlord in Mich.
He’s not that far from the desert. It’s a VERY different California out there.
Rent an air conditioned garage and write it off as a business expense. Host wrenching parties complete with shrimp and ice filled wheelbarrows, then head out to El Mirage for some Autopian style fun.