Home » My BMW i3 Depreciated $43,000 In Just Nine Years. The Luxury Features I Got For $10,500 Are Incredible

My BMW i3 Depreciated $43,000 In Just Nine Years. The Luxury Features I Got For $10,500 Are Incredible

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The high-mileage electric BMW i3 that I just bought for $10,499 used to cost $53,750 when new. That’s right: This car depreciated over $43,000 in just nine years. And if that has you frantically looking up i3s thinking you might be able to get luxury features you never dreamed you could afford, all for a reasonable price, allow me to confirm: The i3 is an incredible deal. Here’s a look at the luxury features my i3, the cheapest clean-title BMW i3 REX for sale by a dealer in America, has on its spec-sheet. As someone who’s daily driven old cars for years, I remain surprised that I’ve ended up with what essentially feels like a space ship from the future, all for surprisingly little money. Check it out.

I cannot express enough how great of a deal the electric BMW i3 is, especially if you manage to snag a fully-loaded model like my 2014 BMW i3 Giga World — the 135,000 mile one that I bought for $10,499, only to find out it has a bad battery, only to then find out I could get that battery replaced thanks to a California-mandated 10 year, 150,000 mile warranty for Partial Zero Emissions Vehicles.

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But even if BMW had found that my battery was still above the 70 percent capacity threshold and therefore not eligible for replacement, this still would have been a great deal because the i3 is a masterpiece of both design and engineering, plus they tend to come packed with awesome luxury features that you’d never expect in a vehicle this cheap, even if it’s nine years old. First, let’s get into the “masterpiece of both design and engineering” claim, because it’s very much true.

The i3’s Engineering And Design Are Still State-Of-The-Art Today

From an engineering standpoint, the i3 is state-of-the-art even though it’s nine years old. The skateboard chassis — which carries the suspension, battery, and rear-mounted drivetrain — is made of aluminum. Mounted atop that chassis is a carbon fiber-reenforced plastic “Life-Module” — a lot more advanced than a typical steel body on today’s cars.

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Automotive benchmarking company Munro and Associates has a nearly 24,000 page breakdown of the car’s engineering, diving into how much everything cost BMW to build. You can buy the whole report for $18 here if you’re feeling like getting nerdy. Below is a little snapshot. This first slide is just an overview of the “body-in-black,” which is just a name of the main body structure, without any closures (and of course, without the chassis, drivetrain, and interior):

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How about that?! BMW is recycling carbon fiber waste for the roof panel, gluing on brackets to fasten body panels and trim to the Life-Module, and wedging structural bits between bits of carbon fiber (see below):

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And here Munro talks about the use of glue to attach aluminum to carbon fiber — that’s right, this car is made of plastic and is partially glued together!:

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And check out the A-pillar. There’s actually a braided carbon fiber sleeve wrapped around a “structural foam core,” and sitting inside the A-pillar (glued to it) to give it strength:

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Watch the video below and listen to John McElroy of Autoline talk about Munro & Associate’s BMW i3 teardown, highlighting the advanced carbon fiber-reinforced plastic body I mentioned above.

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You’ll hear, at the beginning of the clip, engineering guru Sandy Munro say “The carbon fiber body is perfect. You could never get this with steel or aluminum.” It’s worth noting that the car receives very good crash test ratings from pretty much every regulating body.

In this other video just above, you’ll see my colleague Jason Torchinsky and me digging into the Tesla Model S, Chevy Bolt, and BMW i3, even showing the battery packs of each. The i3’s pack is by far the smallest at 22 kWh (the Model 3 and Bolt are both about three times that size), and while that may sound like a bad thing, if you’re an environmentalist, it’s actually good, in theory.

A typical American commutes about 35 miles a day. If you’re driving a Tesla Model S with ~300 miles of range, on any given day you’re basically carrying over 250 miles worth of expensive, heavy, dirty-to-mine batteries around for no reason — all so you can go on a longer road trip once a month. The i3’s battery is sized beautifully for a commute, offering about 75 miles of range (when new). On range extender-equipped models like mine, if that battery runs out, there’s a little gas motor out back that should offer another 70-ish miles per tank, or so.

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Small-batteried EVs make sense because of their ability to quickly bring electrification to the masses, and they’re cleaner to build. Just think about vehicles like the upcoming Chevrolet Silverado EV. Its optional battery pack has a capacity of 200 kWh — that’s over nine times my i3’s. So, in theory, one could power nine families’ electric cars on the battery in a single family’s Chevy pickup truck. And what’s more, those nine families’ cars would be far, far cheaper than that Silverado. This is obviously an oversimplification in some ways (for one, batteries degrade differently based on how much of them you use; my i3 needing another pack isn’t great for the environment), but my point remains: If we want to get electrification to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, small, lightweight car with small batteries, like the BMW i3, are the right idea. Again, this is all just in theory. Car buying is not rational.

To be sure, my i3 was expensive when new, at over $53,000. And you can, at least in part, thank that “experimental” body construction for all that expense. But BMW went with that design for good reason: The company knew that, if it could keep overall weight down and be smart about aerodynamics, it could achieve more range with a smaller battery. It’s called reducing “Vehicle Demand Energy” (the energy needed to propel a vehicle forward on a given drive-cycle), and it’s going to become more important than ever in the EV age now that extending a vehicle’s range is a lot more expensive and complex than simply blow-molding a bigger fuel tank.

Anyway, now that we’ve talked about the car’s brilliant engineering, let’s discuss the i3’s interior design. It’s absolutely gorgeous.

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Behold the “Giga World” interior. It is a true work-of-art that features olive leave-dyed leather+wool seating, a eucalyptus wood dash, sustainable dash and door paneling, and a big 10.2-inch infotainment screen on the dash, which features lovely cream-colored leather that matches the steering wheel. It’s an absolute masterpiece of design, which is why it won “Automotive Interiors Expo Award 2014.” Here’s BMW’s press release on that:

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There are many facets to the sustainable character of the BMW i3. BMW i represents a prime example of “next premium”, the next generation of luxury headlined by the sustainability of its materials. The ambience this creates on board the BMW i3 can be experienced by the driver and passengers in considerable depth – and the international jury of experts for the Automotive Interiors Expo Award 2014 are now among its fans. The jury handed the electrically powered BMW i3 the title of Production Interior Vehicle Design of the Year. The third edition of these awards – which recognise exceptionally innovative concepts and solutions in the field of interior design – were held yesterday at the Automotive Interiors Expo in Stuttgart.

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The cabin feels like an upscale Swedish lounge; it’s classy, comfortable, and airy, offering great visibility. More importantly in BMW’s eyes, it’s made of sustainable materials. From BMW:

25 per cent (by weight) of the plastic used in the interior of the BMW i3 is recycled. The textiles selected for the seat surfaces are made entirely from recycled fibres, ensuring the surfaces display impressive naturalness and quality. The textiles for the roofliner, interior trim, boot lining, instrument panel and floor mats are likewise the product of a sustainable production process. The door trim panels of the BMW i3 are made from kenaf fibres, a plant from the mallow family whose natural structure remains recognisable after the treatment process. Eucalyptus wood from certified plantations in Europe provides the raw material for parts of the instrument panel, while the leather set aside for the interior of the BMW i3 is tanned in a natural process using extract of olive leaves

My seats need to be cleaned a bit as you can see in the photo above, as the wool has a tendency to stain, but otherwise my i3 — the cheapest clean-title BMW i3 REX being sold by a dealership in the U.S. — has an interior that’s in borderline mint condition. And it’s jam-packed with luxury options, which I will now enumerate.

The i3 Is Filled With Luxury Features I Never Thought I Could Afford

My car literally parks itself. I never thought I’d say those words, but it’s true, as my i3 comes equipped with Park Assist, which involves the car steering and braking in such a way that parallel parks the car in an open spot. It’s awesome.

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My i3 also came from the factory with two screens — a 5.5-inch gauge cluster and the aforementioned 10.2-inch infotainment screen, which offers navigation and is controlled via an iDrive dial that acts as a mini digital writing pad should I want to write things out by hand.

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There’s also a 12-speaker Harman/Kardon speaker system with absolutely excellent audio quality. You can see one speaker in the photo above, just above that slick column-mounted electronic shift-selector.

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You know what else my car has?: Adaptive Cruise Control. That’s right, you can set the distance you want to follow a car ahead of you, and the vehicle will brake and accelerate to maintain that distance. All from a 2014 car that cost me just $11,600 all-in:

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Plus I have heated seats, forward collision warning, parking sensors that beep when you’re too close, a rearview camera, rain sensing wipers, climate control, automatic headlights, proximity keyless entry, and so much more.

It really is remarkable how state-of-the art this nine year-old car still is. And to be able to snag one for that price is just incredible to me. If I’d been eligible for the government’s up-to-$4,000 used EV rebate, this deal would be out of this world, though I guess the fact that I’m getting my battery replaced means it’s out-of-this-world, anyway.

The BMW i3: It’s just so much car for the money. Possibly the most car for the money.

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bmw325_num99
bmw325_num99
1 year ago

Do you know about the higher-speed self driving mod? Expanded Traffic Jam Assist unlocked with a software mod. Timestamped for you:

https://youtube.com/watch?v=HF2HZLbD0Ng&feature=shares&t=272

Dingus
Dingus
1 year ago

Counterpoint: The Cadillac ELR is a better value and will be more reliable. Yeah, it may not have the special interior, but I’m sure it’s plenty nice. Some shared parts with a Volt will make service easier, plus the ELR looks FAR more grown up than that dorky BMW. Does it come with some scotch tape for the center of your glasses?

Toecutter
Toecutter
1 year ago
Reply to  Dingus

The Cadillac ELR is also rare and very likely to appreciate handsomely in the coming decades. Not my type of car in terms of function, performance, or aesthetics, , but to each their own.

Duke of Kent
Duke of Kent
1 year ago

I liked this article. The i3 is an interesting car, and I really knew very little about it, so it was eye-opening to read through the multitude of reasons why it’s special. Understanding your background, I can really appreciate the way it appeals to you.

The only part that ruffled my feathers a bit was this quote:

A typical American commutes about 35 miles a day. If you’re driving a Tesla Model S with ~300 miles of range, on any given day you’re basically carrying over 250 miles worth of expensive, heavy, dirty-to-mine batteries around for no reason — all so you can go on a longer road trip once a month.

The jab at Tesla spinning the longer range as a disadvantage seems a little silly and antagonistic — not that the Tesla bros need any encouragement to talk up how wonderful their cars are. I don’t have a horse in this EV race, but if you swap the Model S in the example with ANY car (electric or ICE), the other side of that coin seems just as ridiculous to me.

If your primary daily driver is an i3 and you take monthly road trips that necessitate 300 miles of range, then you’re stuck either renting a car every month OR keeping around a second car that you have to store, maintain, insure, etc.

Now I appreciate having the right tool for the job, but keeping a different vehicle for every driving situation is excessive and wasteful in its own way. I am one man; I can drive only one car at a time. I’m looking for a “Swiss Army Knife” solution.

Toecutter
Toecutter
1 year ago
Reply to  Duke of Kent

David’s i3 can run on gasoline for long trips. Sure, the range per tank is short, but it can be filled up in minutes.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
1 year ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Stopping every 70 miles to refuel isn’t exactly practical as a road trip car – I’d have to visit the gas station a minimum of once a day just to get through my daily work schedule of sales calls, and my 2-3x yearly drives to Key West would require stopping 16-17 times instead of the 2 or 3 stops I usually do

Toecutter
Toecutter
1 year ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

True, but it’s still doable, with roughly the same degree of time spent fueling as charging a long-range EV. You just have to stop more often for lots of short breaks, rather than a smaller number of longer breaks. Plus you can carry a small jerrycan in the back of the car too.

But since the car is primarily electric, as long as the owner can charge it, it can start the day with a full charge anyhow.

S Chen
S Chen
1 year ago
Reply to  Toecutter

How long do you think it takes to charge up an EV?

Toecutter
Toecutter
1 year ago
Reply to  S Chen

Depends upon the size of the battery pack and the charger used. 30 minutes or so is normal at a fast charge station to charge from 0% to 80%, an hour or so for a full charge. And IMO is not a big inconvenience.

Duke of Kent
Duke of Kent
1 year ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Yeah, I read the article. That sounds like a really fun road trip, stopping every hour to gas up.

Duke of Kent
Duke of Kent
1 year ago
Reply to  David Tracy

To reiterate, the specific example doesn’t matter to me — it’s the need for two cars (of any brand) instead of just one.

People have different use cases for their vehicles, and there is a whole range of cars on offer to satisfy those use cases. That’s ok.

Widgetsltd
Widgetsltd
1 year ago
Reply to  Duke of Kent

I’m sure you know that many households have two drivers – or more! Indeed, if you look at the vehicle count for many couples you will find that EACH person has their OWN car. My wife leased two different Chevy Bolts (a 2017 and a 2020) and the 230-ish miles of rated range was only an issue on 2 or 3 occasions over the 6 years we had a Bolt EV in the house. This situation was no problem because I drive a conventional ICE equipped vehicle…and the Bolt’s real-world 200+ miles of range was almost always enough for the trips that my wife needed to take. It worked for us.

Chris D
Chris D
1 year ago
Reply to  Duke of Kent

It’s really not a valid argument to call electric cars “dirty” because of the batteries. A dino juice vehicle requires the filthy process of removing petroleum (and sometimes causing earthquakes – fracking…), for the entire life of the vehicle, the refining of the petroleum, and the combustion of its distillates, which pollutes the air either a little or a lot.
An electric car recharged at night by a home with solar panels does not pollute at all, other than the tires slowly wearing down on pavement.

Gnarsinski
Gnarsinski
1 year ago

Great story, impressive tech and that interior is beautiful! Gotta take a shower before getting in.

I also have a depreciated German electric car. I picked up a 2016 e-Golf in 2019. Had less than 25k miles, paid almost the same price, little over 11k with all fees. It has similar range, great car to drive. Interesting how VW went a totally opposite route as BMW, using an existing platform and electrifying it. Two very different approaches to come up with a very similar answer. Unfortunately VW wasn’t so generous in the options department, at least not on my car. I have heated seats, heated windshield, rain sensing wipers, but manual seats, cloth that annoyingly always looks stained and no cruise control.

Matt DeCraene
Matt DeCraene
1 year ago
Reply to  Gnarsinski

Beautiful is pretty subjective depending on taste. Personally, I find the interior to be a busy mess of too many contrasting colors.

I also prefer that any infotainment screen looks integrated into the design. Same for the gauge cluster. These appear as afterthoughts to me.

I prefer an overall integrated but minimalist approach. Not button free, just the buttons you (or a passenger) use on a regular basis.

I’m sure the interior is way more comfortable than what David is used to, and it seems to be beautiful to him, which is what matters since he is the one driving it.

Dennis Frederickson
Dennis Frederickson
1 year ago

I wonder how much BMW lost on each one of these?
It gives off kind of a ‘white plastic pocket protector’ aura.
I have to congratulate you on selecting one of the few vehicles in car mad LA that you could leave the keys in and it would still be there the next day.

Dar Khorse
Dar Khorse
1 year ago

So happy for you David! The i3 is really the best small EV ever made. I’m very happy with my 500e (“Blueberry”), but the BMW is clearly a higher level of quality and convenience. And the ability to use DC fast charging is a HUGE advantage over the Blueberry (although you should use it sparingly to optimize battery life). Ever since I bought the 500e, I’ve been singing the same tune as you are about the joys of a shorter range EV. Blueberry meets 95% of our driving needs and we live in the mountains of Colorado. And I think a short range EV is the perfect way to get introduced to the EV life. You have to really think about and plan nearly any kind of trip, figure out how to find and use chargers, etc. With a 250-mile plus EV you can be a lot sloppier with your planning. Can’t wait to see all the posts about enjoying and road-tripping with your i3 once you get it!

Vicente Perez
Vicente Perez
1 year ago

Amazing article! Yes, the i3 deserves more love. I wish BMW had kept developing the platform.

Little know-it-all correction. The 2014 i3 does not have Apple CarPlay, it was added a few years later with the first refresh. Unrelated, some other features no longer work after AT&T dropped the 3G network. So the big SOS button by the rear view mirror now is just for show, and the BMW app no longer connects to the car.

But still, 100% agree, the i3 is a great deal!

TheHairyNug
TheHairyNug
1 year ago

Is insurance a big high on them? I heard that it was due to all that fancy material choice making repairs costly

Vicente Perez
Vicente Perez
1 year ago
Reply to  TheHairyNug

Not really. When we got ours we where coming from a Fiat 500e and the main insurance bump was because BMW is considered a premium brand, not for the specific technology. Or at least that is what we were told…

RootWyrm
RootWyrm
1 year ago
Reply to  TheHairyNug

Extremely high.
The i3 is a ‘commuter car’ designed for short trips. Most accidents occur exactly on these type of trips. So statistics are already against it. Some insurers will make the ‘BMW, so luxury’ excuse, but that’s not how it works. And they know it. Insurance works on actuarial tables, observational statistics, and repair costs.

And the BMW i3 when it gets in an accident? Is EXTREMELY expensive to repair for a $53k car, much less post-depreciation. The CRFP can only be repaired at very specially trained shops with specialized equipment. The extremely vertical windshield? Safelite can’t touch it – only BMW certified shops. The glass and bonding surface are both special. There are very few trained shops, often resulting in lengthy tows and lengthier waits for repairs.
Basically, the repair costs on a $41k (base MSRP) i3 in a minor front end or rear end collision are on par with or higher than the costs if it was a $70,000+ Alfa Romeo 4C. And the i3 is going to be driven orders of magnitude more often, increasing the risks of an accident.
They also have a very high rate of being totaled out relative to other cars. Insurers are not engineers; they rely on BMW’s engineers to tell them if a car can be safely repaired, and if so, how. On the i3, every CFRP element is strictly disposable. So a minor rear end collision can require sectioning out the whole body panel and replacing associated parts. True to BMW form? Some of those parts are already discontinued and NLA. For example, one of the life cell to panel support brackets is NLA, as is a bumper cover, emergency cut cable, and the entire left uniside assembly.

And they cannot just go pull parts off a junkyard car, period. You cannot ‘unbond’ the CFRP panels from a wrecked car, you have to buy virgin CFRP from BMW. What this means in effect is that they were forced to total out repairs well below 40% of the value because they MUST total out when the manufacturer deems it irreparable for lack of parts. (Which can also be a big factor in depreciation.)
Now that they’re closer to the bottom of the barrel in depreciation? Installing a new roof panel and windshield from light hail damage is pushing 30% of the value of the car. And gods help you if you need shocks. (BMW literally just won’t sell them and there’s no aftermarket part.)

Toecutter
Toecutter
1 year ago
Reply to  RootWyrm

All true.

It doesn’t have to be this way though. As more people learn to work with carbon fiber, the costs to repair the body could come down. Cars built as carbon fiber monocoques could be designed to be repaired with hand labor, and alternative methods to mount components other than proprietary bonding methods can be devised. Subframes, shocks, and other metal components that mount to the carbon fiber chassis could be designed to be 3D printed from a CNC mill, and the models could be made open source.

You can leave it to BMW to take what could be a technology and construction technique that is durable and could potentially last a human lifetime, to turn it into disposable junk by deliberately making the vehicle composed of unobtanium parts if something is broken and which require installation processes and tools that only BMW has access to.

Carbon fiber is not as difficult to work with as it sounds. I’ve repaired my carbon fiber Milan SL velomobile at home from two separate wrecks it has been in. It just takes a skillset that is not yet common, and lots of hours of labor. It uses McPherson struts that take about 3 hours to swap out, and has drum brakes, and aside from the chassis, almost everything on this vehicle is standard bicycle parts. Unlike the BMW i3, it was designed to be repaired without special tools, processes, or equipment, and the unobtanium parts are both repairable/rebuildable and kept to a minimum. This vehicle has crushable sub structures and has saved me from injury in accidents that my much heavier steel-bodied Triumph GT6 might have gotten me injured in. Provided it is not completely obliterated and thus totaled, the monocoque will probably outlast me. The automakers could, and should, build something that is every bit as repairable, when using this technology.

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
1 year ago

Dude! This was an absolutely insanely amazing deal! Like a ten out of ten. The new battery means you paid beater money for the rest of a truly advanced car. Given it’s Cali car, the frame is probably like new and we know the body isn’t rusted.

Openly, the deal scrounger in me is a really envious right now. Lol!

Smile every time you drive it.

Sensual Bugling Elk
Sensual Bugling Elk
1 year ago

“If we want to get electrification to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, small, lightweight car with small batteries, like the BMW i3, are the right idea.”

So hybrids and PHEVs are the right idea? You’re saying that in a supply-constrained world, spreading kilowatt-hours of battery production over as many vehicles as possible has the greatest life-cycle environmental benefit? And that this idea is well-grounded in economic and environmental research and simulation, and has been for decades?

So why doesn’t a major automaker, like say Toyota, push this angle while churning out hybrids and PHEVs by the millions instead of full EVs by the thousands like everyone else is right now? I bet the automotive media would love that! I’m sure the automotive media would be super chill about it. And I’m sure the automotive media wouldn’t be so myopic as to continually label Toyota electrification laggards for it.

Ben
Ben
1 year ago

The problem is that hasn’t been Toyota’s message. Toyota’s message was “hydrogen is the future”, which was at least as wrong as saving full EVs are the right answer for the present.

Marathag
Marathag
1 year ago

–and while that may sound like a bad thing, if you’re an environmentalist, it’s actually good, in theory–
Less isn’t really more, it’s just less.
Is that smaller amount enough for your needs, or not enough? If not enough,it’s not enough, period.

Toecutter
Toecutter
1 year ago
Reply to  David Tracy

If you want the battery to have maximum longevity, it should be sized so that your typical usage case assures maximum cycle life. This means that your commute should use roughly 10-20% of maximum range. The deeper the discharge, the fewer cycles you get out of a pack, and this relationship is not geometric, which was especially apparent in the days when lead acid batteries were the only option.

It was not uncommon for 30 mile range lead acid battery equipped EV conversions done by hobbyists in the 1990s to only get 5,000 miles out of a pack, because they were regularly being deep discharged to 80% on a regular basis where the cycle life was about 200 cycles to 100% depth of discharge, while the same battery could expect to have 3,000 cycles to 20% depth of discharge. However, taking Brian Matheny’s S10 conversion “Polar Bear” as an example, this truck was designed for 120 miles range by being loaded with a full ton of Trojan T145 golf cart batteries, and the result was that the battery pack lasted 45,000 miles! Because of battery costs, the common 30 mile range conversions were greatly more expensive to operate than using gasoline, but designed with typical depth of discharge in mind, even with gas at $2.00/gallon back 20 years ago, an electric vehicle designed properly with the battery sized appropriately to save money could be significantly cheaper to operate using gasoline.

With Lithium battery chemistries, the cycle life vs depth of discharge curve is not as temperamental, but the same general rule still applies. Shelf life of the battery must also be considered. Lithium cobalt chemistries aren’t going to last much more than 15 years, but with LiFePO4(at least the large format prismatic ones made by CALB), shelf life might not be an issue at all.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
1 year ago

I don’t see a “gorgeous” interior. I see a futuristic but otherwise just OK interior, maybe one level up from a Prius if it were made by Volvo.

Neomancer Nz
Neomancer Nz
1 year ago

Very cool, congrats. I am totally with you on not needing a ton of range. My car, (09 Lancer), never does more than 50 miles in a trip, so I have no need of an EV with hundreds of miles of range. I am not replacing it right now, but when it eventually needs replacing I am very torn on what to get.

Ron888
Ron888
1 year ago

A very interesting car indeed.I understand these came with tiny gas tanks to suit local EV rules.Is it legal to increase the tanks size?
Assuming you’d want to of course.Unless you’re going cross country it’s probably unnecessary

Jim Zavist
Jim Zavist
1 year ago

We have a ’15 Terra REX and it’s been a great value. The first thing that you’ll need to check (and likely replace, after the big battery) will be the 12-volt battery. When (not if) it dies, it will brick the car. Other than that (and tires), you should have a blast!

A. Barth
A. Barth
1 year ago

“there’s a little gas motor out back that should offer another 70-ish miles per tank, or so.”

That is a great safety net. In theory, could you continue to refuel and extend your range with Rex in the absence of a charger?

Ron888
Ron888
1 year ago
Reply to  A. Barth

I think i get what you’re saying.Yes you can keep refueling and drive across the country,providing the gas stations aren’t far apart

Just Jeepin’
Just Jeepin’
1 year ago
Reply to  Ron888

I imagine that assumption wouldn’t hold out west. Even driving through Arkansas late one night I had a close brush with running out of fuel when multiple interstate exits lacked any gas station (years prior to smartphones making them easier to find).

Sensual Bugling Elk
Sensual Bugling Elk
1 year ago
Reply to  Just Jeepin’

In the United States, BMW had to electronically hide some of the gas tank’s actual capacity for *tl;dr: reasons*. A popular mod in the American i3 owner community is to flash a Euro tune, which allows use of the full gas tank capacity and makes road trips less burdensome.

Vicente Perez
Vicente Perez
1 year ago

Very correct! The main issue with the range extender in the US is that the car goes into energy saving mode when in use, since there is no juice left in the battery. Performance drops noticeably, so not something that you want to do while on the highway.

The Euro spec allows to run it while there is still battery left.

Jon M
Jon M
1 year ago

There is an app you can download and it will let you change the tank from US to Euro spec. It buys you another 30-40 miles range. The big feature it adds is “hold state of charge” mode. Once below 80% state of charge it will run the REX to keep the battery up. The REX cannot keep up with highway driving. over 56 mph the load is greater than the REX can replace. So if you are traveling much freeway, hit hold state of charge and it really limits the highway hit. Other interesting fact we learned, the REX has to be run or you’ll get a MIL. Loved our i3 Just ended up needing more range and since not in California, no new battery.

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Just Jeepin’

I’m on vacation right now, just drove the second leg from Roswell NM to Pagosa Springs CO. Leaving Roswell we had to drive at 75 mph (speed limit) up a mild grade and into a stiff headwind for over 100 miles before the next gas station appeared. The i3 wouldn’t have made it, REX or not.

thejewosh
thejewosh
1 year ago

How does David live in this thing without even a hint of iron oxide in the air?

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
1 year ago
Reply to  thejewosh

Give it one winter and the carbon fiber will develop rust.

Dolsh
Dolsh
1 year ago

“Small-batteried EVs make sense because of their ability to quickly bring electrification to the masses”

This is the part that I’m not sure people are thinking about as much. Every one is waiting for “range”. But I actually wonder if the range they want simply won’t show up. Even with some of the battery technology that’s on the cusp of coming out, I’d suggest the primary use isn’t to build a 600 mile EV, but instead to ensure the smallest batteries have the highest energy density and allowing for a 200 mile EV that’ll be pretty much perfect for mass market use, while staying light and efficient.

Toecutter
Toecutter
1 year ago
Reply to  Dolsh

We already have the technology to get long range with tiny batteries. It’s called load reduction.

Consider the BMW i3’s energy consumption. It uses 0.27 kWh/mile. It has a mass of 1,345 kg and has a drag coefficient of 0.29 with a frontal area of roughly 2.3 m^2. Not too bad as far as electric cars go.

But the Tesla Model S PLAID beats it at 0.24 kWh/mile WHILE it weighs almost twice as much, at 2,237 kg. This is because its drag is significantly lower, with a Cd value of 0.20 and a frontal area of roughly 2.3 m^2. You can nearly double the mass, but by cutting the drag by 1/3, you’ll still see a reduction in energy consumption in mixed use, most of that from improved efficiency on the highway.

And it is on the highway, not in the city, where range is most important, because most people who own an EV can plug it in each night and start with a full charge, and most people who drive hundreds of miles in a day, primarily do so on the highway.

Taking this a step further, consider the GM EV1. It has a mass of roughly 1,320 kg, a Cd value of 0.19, and a frontal area of roughly 1.9 m^2. It only needed 0.15 kWh/mile. Almost half that of the BMW i3, while weighing a similar amount.

An inexpensive, long-range EV doesn’t need to be a cramped penalty box, either. A long wheelbase sedan will work just fine. Consider a classic Mercedes W126. The frontal area of a 300SD is about 2.2 m^2, and this is a tank of a car with plenty of headroom. Build it with conventional materials, and it is conceivable that with a small 30 kWh pack, it could weigh in around 3,500 lbs complete while passing all NHTSA regulations. Then consider super-streamlined cars like the Solectria Sunrise with a 0.17 Cd, GM Precept with a 0.16 Cd, or Ford Probe V with a 0.137 Cd. A 0.15 Cd value is certainly achievable for a usable and practical road-going car, and the publication “Aerodynamics of Road Vehicles” by Wolf-Heinrich Hucho said as much nearly 40 years ago.

What you end up with if you design to the above described specs is a comfortable vehicle that offers plenty of passenger space, that can seat 5-6 adults, have enough trunk space to fit 15 dead hookers chopped up(albeit the car would go over GVWR if you did that), and only needs somewhere around 0.13 kWh/mile to maintain 70 mph on the highway. In turn, that 30 kWh battery pack would deliver more than 200 miles range consistently, perhaps down to 150 miles in the worst of winter(still decent), and cost comparatively little to build. Use LiFePO4 chemistry, and now you don’t have to worry about it catching fire. If you opt to use a single series string of large AH prismatic cells of the LiFePO4 chemistry, you avoid the need for a BMS as well(bottom balance it to within 0.001v of each battery before pack assembly, and it will stay that way for decades), or at the very least, can keep the BMS very simple and non-integrated into the rest of the car’s electronics. Build the car with actual physical buttons, avoid all the integrated electronics modern cars are known for and opt for dumb, simple terminal blocks for connections in accessible places using thick corrosion-resistant wires much larger than the current draw requires them to be, and maybe revert the design back to the OBD-II standard, and now you have a car that is fully repairable by a hobbyist mechanic with basic tools, and with very little to go wrong. Want infotainment? Have a display screen that outputs whatever you want it to from your phone, but otherwise leave the car without a proprietary touchscreen controlling everything. For backup camera, a cheap non-proprietary system replaceable with a $20 AutoZone or O’Reillys version if it breaks will suffice.

Now you have a family hauler built to last a lifetime that doesn’t need a massive, expensive battery pack, and for which everything in the car is cheap to fix.

It gets even better when you consider sports cars. Something sized like a Lotus 11, but streamlined to a Cd value of ~0.15, with a mass of around 800 kg, would only need around 0.080 kWh/mile to maintain 70 mph on the highway. A 25 kWh pack would be plenty for such a thing, and if it had 300 horses like a Tesla Model 3, it would have enough power to accelerate like and top out like a modern hypercar, without the hypercar pricetag or hypercar maintenance costs, while being light and nimble enough to out-corner and out-maneuver a hypercar. With the complicated build techniques and material choices of the i3, it would be able to pass regulations, and the price point could target at or below Alfa Romeo 4C or Lotus Elise money.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 year ago
Reply to  Toecutter

We’re closing in on a year now, and they STILL haven’t hit you up to write an article?

Toecutter
Toecutter
1 year ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

If they did right now, I may not have the time to get it right. I’m still working on my own custom vehicle project, and it is not yet ready to hit the road again. Be patient. 🙂

Nlpnt
Nlpnt
1 year ago

You really are mentioning those seats every chance you get. I guess they really are an upgrade from your usual milk crate on the bare floor.

Vic Vinegar
Vic Vinegar
1 year ago
Reply to  Nlpnt

With rusted out hole on said floor.

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
1 year ago

Now I see why you really wanted an i3 – the engineering involved in producing this machine is indeed quite scintillating!

As someone who drives long distances on narrow highways in rural areas, adaptive cruise is a great feature.

Some of the highways here are really windy and there’s no room to overtake anything approaching the length of a B-Double, so you’re better off just letting cruise control maintain a good gap for you until a good straight section finally appears.

GenericWhiteVan
GenericWhiteVan
1 year ago

“… that features olive leave-dyed leather+wool seating, a eucalyptus wood dash, sustainable dash and door paneling, …” sounds like a lot of California froufrou back here in the rust belt.

Those 155/70 R19 tires are some pizza cutters for sure though. My first car, a hand-me-down 1976 VW Dasher, had 155/? R13s

Chris D
Chris D
1 year ago

They also had optional 20 inch wheels and tires, which from all appearances came off of some kid’s bicycle. BMW, was that really necessary?!

The Dasher tires were probably 175R13s, which were 78 or 80 aspect ratio.

Timothy Arnold
Timothy Arnold
1 year ago

Cool car. It’s a hybrid, not an EV.

Dolsh
Dolsh
1 year ago
Reply to  Timothy Arnold

No it’s not. The i3’s engine could only charge the battery.

Vc-10
Vc-10
1 year ago
Reply to  Dolsh

Yes, it is. It’s not a hybrid like a Prius, of course, but it is definitely still a hybrid. You can put fuel in it and never plug in, if you wanted to. It would be foolish, but you can do it. It’s a PHEV, and it’s closer on that spectrum to being a full EV than most PHEVs, but doesn’t change the fact that it’s got two modes of power, and is therefore a hybrid.

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
1 year ago

I’m tentatively excited for you, in that this will – hopefully – be a relatively boring car for you to own, compared to the shockingly-mobile rust buckets you tend to gravitate towards. Looking forward to the perception of someone coming from a fleet generally older and worse off than their owner, to a mobile space shuttle in comparison.

I love the eucalyptus wood dash panel, but – even acknowledging that it’s recycled material – the cloth portions of the dash remind me too much of the usually-unseen inside of interior panels (and also speaker boxes, like those made for aftermarket subwoofers). Adding in BMW’s soft interior materials – be they leather, leatherette, “pleather”, vinyl, etc. – tendency to lose the top surface all too easily (with portions literally flaking off), and/or losing their dye and robustness more rapidly than every other brand in the industry that I tend to encounter.

Good luck getting tires for it. Might be worth buying as new of a set or two as you can and putting them in a climate-controlled storage area with proper protection like the bags that Tire Rack and others sell. I have a few customers with i3s and Scion iQs and they’re getting harder and harder to get decent tires for them, and nearly impossible in an “emergency” situation. The low-rolling resistance tires don’t do well here in the Midwest, hope they’re better for you there in SoCal where there’s not nearly as much rain (and potholes?).

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
1 year ago
Reply to  Box Rocket

Your tire advice is very smart. Very.
I really hope David heeds it.

Vicente Perez
Vicente Perez
1 year ago
Reply to  Box Rocket

All very valid points, although I must say, the interior materials hold up surprisingly well compared to other BMWs. Ours has 75K miles so far and the only issue is that the fabric (as David is already experiencing) will stain if you look at it too hard. Like, no kidding, water will stain. After shampooing the seats for the third time we just bought some leatherette covers and problem solved.

About tires, supply seems to still be healthy in California. Perhaps because more units sold here? We always bought our tires from Amazon (marginally less expensive than a tire shop) and they arrive within a couple of days. But I could see things getting more complicated for an urgent replacement, as not every shop might stock this weird sizes.

Ron888
Ron888
1 year ago
Reply to  Box Rocket

Ouch!They want how much for tires??
No freaking way i’d pay that! I’d rather buy new wheels that use easy to find tires

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
1 year ago
Reply to  Ron888

Based on a quick search on blackcircles.ca where I last bought tires for my Fit, the i3 tires cost around THREE TIMES what the tires cost for my Fit.

In Canadian funds, tires for my Fit cost between $100 to $125 per tire.

For this i3, they are $300 to $350 per tire. More expensive than a set of tires for the Tesla Model S.

And to make matters worse, the front and rear tires are different sizes.

Leave it to BMW to pick a stupid tire/wheel size.

It’s shit like this that keeps me away from owning a BMW.

Detroit-Lightning
Detroit-Lightning
1 year ago

So, did the dealer totally screw up by not testing the batter before selling? Seems like a brand new battery would have increased the price a good amount…

How do you plan on charging it, David?

Ron888
Ron888
1 year ago

Yes i wonder about that!
Even if the warranty is valid only for private owners,and it has to be swapped after it’s sold, it’s still a great selling point!

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
1 year ago

Have you found any sign of FeO2 on it yet? Or will a little vial of rust from another BMW need to be carried somewhere to be the token rust?

The thing about having a smaller battery and being dependent on aero and low rolling resistance for range is that it works fine in ideal conditions. Rain and especially snow knocks that back, hard. I have lots of experience with this in an ICE fuel economy special. The 40ish MPG it normally gets in dry weather gets knocked down into the low to mid 30’s. About a 15-20% reduction. On a 70 mile car, that’s now down to 56 miles assuming a full charge. Add resistance heat and that number drops further.

Tl;dr 100 miles may be a more realistic number for a commuter city EV.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
1 year ago
Reply to  David Tracy

Thanks for the reply!

A 100 mile range EV would fit 75% of my driving even with a 65 mile RT daily commute. Add in DCFC and more public L2 charging with reliable chargers and that increases to about 90%. I wonder about battery longevity. That battery would go through a lot of cycles and Li-ion batteries last 1500-2000 cycles. New free battery at year 7 or 8 with the car since I’m in NY that follows Cali emissions? Hmm, maybe not such a bad idea after all.

Sensual Bugling Elk
Sensual Bugling Elk
1 year ago

Look up the Million Mile Battery on YouTube. You can get order-of-magnitude better longevity out of current battery chemistries with a combination of high-quality manufacturing, good thermal management, and better control of charge/discharge rates.

Toecutter
Toecutter
1 year ago

Some battery types can achieve that even without BMS and thermal management. Using a single high voltage string of large AH prismatic LiFePO4 batteries, and then never exceeding their continuous current rating, will allow for such. With regard to the CALB models, their shelf life is measurable in decades, and they’re rated for 3,000 cycles to 100% discharge. A bottom balance of all cells to within 1/1000th of a volt before use is all that is needed, and as long as the connections installed are consistent, they won’t go out of balance, decades later. If they ever do go out of balance, it is a simple affair to get them back in balance. Checking them once a year with a cheap $10 multimeter should suffice.

Earlier chemistries, like NiFe, could do the same, as long as you keep the potassium hydroxide electrolyte topped up. In fact, this chemistry may be a forever battery with proper maintenance. Jay Leno has the original set for his 1909 Baker Electric still operable! The only downsides are they have about 1/3 the specific capacity of LiFePO4, and you’ll only get about 40 horsepower out of a 2,000 lb pack of them. BUT that’s still enough power to push a streamliner down the highway at flow of traffic speeds and we could theoretically have had 200+ mile range at 55 mph niche market streamliner EV sedans in the 1970s fuel crisis capable of topping 100 mph and accelerating like a Mercedes 240D if this was pursued. The 1935 Tatra T77A had a Cd value of 0.21, and we could have certainly done at least as well 40 years later.

Nlpnt
Nlpnt
1 year ago
Reply to  David Tracy

I would suggest a standardized battery pack for this class rather than a common platform.

Ron888
Ron888
1 year ago
Reply to  David Tracy

That would indeed be awesome!

Toecutter
Toecutter
1 year ago
Reply to  David Tracy

The range is dependent upon the inherent efficiency of the platform. Maybe limit not the range, but the battery size instead? Say, 25 kWh? This would encourage automakers to improve the efficiency of their platforms by reducing mass and aero drag. As it stands today, for a given degree of comfort and utility at a given speed, cars consume at least twice as much energy as they need to.

With conventional aerodynamics, say Cd value in the upper 0.2X range, 25 kWh might get that 100 mile range in a 3,000 lb car, but if anyone were to decide to, they could build a platform that could double, maybe even triple that range on the same pack size.

Consider Reverend Gadget’s GT6-bodied Triumph Spitfire EV conversion. He made a bellypan and grille block for it, installed mooneye wheel covers, and installed a rear wing designed to reduce drag. The car looked almost stock, other than the rear wing(it was shaped like that of a Dodge Charger Daytona) and the salt flats racer wheel covers. But it had significantly less drag than stock as a result of these things. He also ran Royal Purple in the transmission and differential, as well as installed Kumo low rolling resistance 13 inch tires. What he found was that on flat ground in fair weather, his EV could cruise 60 mph using only 0.10 kWh/mile. Which is nearly 1/3 of what your i3 requires, and comparable to the Aptera. This was back in the days where lead acid batteries were the only thing available, offering roughly 1/10th the specific capacity of the cells in today’s Tesla Model 3, and he did what he had to in order to make it work. Without those mods, a conventional Triumph Spitfire conversion would require around 0.20 kWh/mile at 60 mph.

Solectria’s Sunrise has similar efficiency to the above hobbyist conversion, but could seat 4 adults, getting about 0.13 kWh/mile.

Now imagine a small Lotus 11-sized sports car with the Solectria’s drag coefficient. Were such a thing to be built, the door would be opened to sub-0.010 kWh/mile consumption. A tiny, inexpensive 25 kWh pack could yield 300 miles range! And the car would require very little horsepower to haul ass, and would be especially potent on the race track with a modern Tesla drive system! By such a thing not existing, enthusiasts are being robbed of a future they should have been entitled to.

Then there’s my own custom microcar/velomobile build. I built a one-seater that uses less than 0.010 kWh/mile, albeit at 35 mph, and with some pedaling. Its drag isn’t as good as I would like, as I did some coast down testing and derived a Cd figure of 0.33 using the RChung method, but it made up for it with a frontal area of only 0.58 m^2. But do consider that my unmotorized Milan velomobile has a Cd value of 0.08, which then brings the possibility of a one-seater microcar that can cruie 70 mph on only 0.020 kWh/mile. So imagine this, 400 miles real-world highway range with an 8 kWh battery pack. Once solid state batteries with 400 wh/kg hit the market, this would be a pack weighing only 45 lbs! Literally every component composing such a vehicle could be replaced for a few hundred dollars, even the battery, and cheap off-the-shelf Chinese ebike parts would be perfectly adequate for making it out-perform most of today’s new cars. Mass produced, such a vehicle could be build for the price of a moped or scooter, while offering the operator protection from the elements and even climate control, as well as rudimentary collision safety more comparable to a car than a motorcycle.

Vicente Perez
Vicente Perez
1 year ago
Reply to  David Tracy

My understanding is that the current Mini EV uses the battery/power train from the i3. So not exactly that, but kind of…

S Chen
S Chen
1 year ago
Reply to  David Tracy

This comment is in direct opposition of the vast majority of comments when it comes to EVs: apparently people need 500 mile range while towing a trailer and they don’t want to pay more than $25k for such a car.

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