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Think of the BMW i3's gas-powered range-extender as akin to driving around with a middle linebacker in the back seat. Except that football player will have a hard time pushing the car 60 miles or so once the battery runs out. Thankfully, he won't prevent you from getting a nifty tax credit either, according to BMWBlog, which isn't affiliated with the company.

The i3's front storage compartment is not watertight.

Here in the US, where the i3 will be available in short order, BMW will offer an optional i3 plug-in vehicle with a range extender that will have a 1.9-gallon capacity gas tank. That sounds a good deal smaller than the 2.4-gallon tank used in Europe, but the two are actually the same, the US tank is simply limited to the smaller size, Dave Buchko, from BMW's product and technology communications department, told AutoblogGreen. The complete range extender system – including the tank, the engine, and all related hardware – adds about 265 pounds to the 2,634-pound curb weight of the i3 EV and the extra weight in turn adds about a second to the EV's 0-to-60 time of seven seconds flat. Adding the range-extender won't make the US government take any longer to dole out a $7,500 tax credit for the i3, though. We also learned that the i3's front storage compartment is not watertight since it is only meant to hold the mobility kit and the 110-volt charging cord.

BMW recently increased its production of the i3 at its German factory from around 70 units a day to about 100 due to better-than-expected demand. Check out our First Drive impressions of the model here.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 33 Comments
      Spec
      • 7 Months Ago
      "will have a 1.9-gallon capacity gas tank. That sounds a good deal smaller than the 2.4-gallon tank used in Europe, but the two are actually the same, the US tank is simply limited to the smaller size," Does anyone proofread this stuff? 1.9 equals 2.4 except that it is smaller? What?
        ElectricAvenue
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Spec
        Other speculation: 1.9 imperial gallons = 2.3 U.S. gallons. Close.
          Rotation
          • 7 Months Ago
          @ElectricAvenue
          GoodCheer: They do. It's a 9 liter tank, seemingly everywhere. All the gallon figures are just conversions.
          GoodCheer
          • 7 Months Ago
          @ElectricAvenue
          That would almost explain it... if it were the other way around (2.3 in the US, 1.9 in EU), but not this way, with the EU tank bigger. Oh why can't we all just use liters. :(
        Grendal
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Spec
        That's too funny! I have to guess that what it means is that the tanks physical size is the same while having a smaller capacity. BMW probably put something inside the mass produced tank to decrease the capacity. All done for the reason that Rotation mentioned: CARB rules.
      Spec
      • 7 Months Ago
      "The tank adds about 265 pounds" . . . this can't possibly be true. The tank? By itself?
        Jeff
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Spec
        A proofreader! A proofreader! My kingdom for a proofreader!
        Conspiracy theory
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Spec
        That's the whole Range Extender system not the just the tank. Hah 265 pound fuel tank! Think motorcycle. Does Autoblog have editors?
        Jeff
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Spec
        The 265 lbs is almost certainly the entire REX package.
        Grendal
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Spec
        That's one frackin' heavy tank. It doesn't make a lot of sense to spend all that effort to make a lightweight CF frame then stick a solid lead tank into the car to hold a measly 1.9 gallons of gasoline. :) They should have brought Dan into the planning so he tell them how stupid they all are. "Achtung! It is too HEAVY!! Lighten it up, you dummpkofs!!"
      Snowdog
      • 7 Months Ago
      I would skip the range extender on this one. It's heavier/slower/more expensive and loses some EV range. And if you need it, it kind of lacking: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/car-manufacturers/bmw/10440292/BMW-i3-Range-Extender-review.html "It was a gradual process, from motorway cruising speed all the way down to 44mph. By this time I was travelling up a slight incline and had effectively become a slow-moving obstacle."
        Matte
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Snowdog
        which happened in part because of lack of knowledge/communication: " ... What I should have done, it transpired, was engange the range extender when there was still 30-40 per cent charge in the battery. Still, the car had covered my mistake, albeit in a slightly alarming fashion, and the remainder of our journey back into London went without a hitch (save needing to add another 7.5 litres of petrol). " The i3 has an option to "hold charge" at any point (below 75-80% SOC), which acts like in the volt/ampera.
          Snowdog
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Matte
          So what you need to do is run the range extender all the time. Sounds wonderful. I wonder if the US version will even have that capability since they want to class it as a BEV here. Even if it did, this is NOT a road trip car, you would need to look for gas every 50 miles or so. I'd rather drive a pure EV like a Tesla cross country on the Supercharger network than a range extender I needed to gas up every 50 miles.
          Snowdog
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Matte
          Followup: http://www.thestreet.com/story/12221040/1/bmw-suffers-big-setback-against-tesla-in-california.html It will not have the capability of turning on the range extender in the USA until the battery is just about dead. So the behavior in the review will be the ONLY way it works in the USA. Run the battery down, then limp home. "the gasoline engine could only be used to keep the battery from going below the 5% level, not to charge it any higher than that. "
      Matte
      • 7 Months Ago
      after driving this (REx-version) and the ampera/volt for a week each: The BMW is, in my opinion, far superior to the ampera in almost every aspect. The only minor wins for the ampera is the tank size and the ability to charge the battery with the engine (mountain mode), both of which are convinient, but for such a vehicle not that important (since none of them have enough luggage room for cross country travelling anyways). In the BMW, the driver has a far better viewing position - the ampera driver has its view blocked by the roof, the dashboard and a large beam in the back (like the prius and the insight), it is far easier to use (although not VW easy) as oppose to the distraction mania going on in the ampera, it handles better (is smaller with smaller turn radius and has better acceleration and breaking) and still has almost equal luggage space, it has twice the electric range (which is the main reason to buy this type of car, i would say) and the engine, atleast in the two copies i drove, was less noisy then the ampera-dito. The quality feel of the interior is also better in the i3 - the ampera seats are nice, but the instrumentation is stupidly poorly thought through for such an expensive car (the functions are very good, but the touch panel and complete lack of feed back... oh dear that is a killer on the buy-no buy listing)
        Rotation
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Matte
        I agree with a lot of what you say except for the idea of distraction mania in the Volt/Ampera. What's distracting in that car? Are you compelled to scan the center console periodically or something? The dash has one huge, easy to read number for the speed and a bar graph on the left showing how much range you have left. What else do you want? As to the viewing position, how are you having your view blocked by the dashboard? And if you're sufficiently short to not see over the binnacle, then I don't see how the roof is blocking any of your view.
          Matte
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Rotation
          i drive in a very hilly city and also alot of very busy autobahn/highway, 60-130km per day About the distraction: To change temperature, climate, fan speed, seat heating, radio, anything - you will have to move your eyes from the road to the center dash, find what you need and change what you need before you move your eyes back to the road - most other vehicles, atleast that i have driven are clever enough for you to find your wanted button without taking your eyes off the road and you only need a split second to confirm correct setting, if you try the same with the volt, you will have accidentally tipped several other buttons, not even having anyting to do with whatever function you want... about the viewing: stopping downhill in a city at a red light - you won't see the traffic light! stopping up hill - you don't see the road infront of you, ok, this isn't a big problem, but with the low roof, it makes for a very thin slit to view through (I'm 1.75m tall), perhaps this is an american thing...
          Matte
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Rotation
          about the i3 vs ampera vs station wagon for longer rides; anything below 200km - the i3 REx is great here 200 - 300 - one short stop with the i3 0-10 liters and perhaps half an hour forced break, volt uses 9-17liters of petrol, diesel SW uses 10-15 liters - i guess the ampera has some merit here, though a cheaper but still better equipped SW is a pretty nice deal. anything over 300km will be in the diesel territory
          Rotation
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Rotation
          Matte: The center stack has buttons for those things, like any other car. No, I don't have any problem finding the right one, because it is marked. They are the only buttons with red and blue markings. I know what you mean about traffic lights, I've driven cars like that before. Although most states in the US mount traffic lights in ways such that this isn't a problem, some do and it's maddening in a car with the problem. I think you're off your rocker about not seeing the road. There is no such problem in that car, the dashboard isn't ridiculously high.
        Snowdog
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Matte
        Sure if you don't mind stopping ever 50 or 60 miles to gas up. I really think the i3 is a better Leaf, but not really a better Volt/Ampera.
          Rotation
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Snowdog
          Matte: You really think I'm going to stop and quick charge AND fill with gas? Unless there is some kind of new gas station, this is starting to get rather inconvenient. I really do prefer the longer EV range of the i3. In fact, I would skip the RE altogether. But I think you are apologizing for the inconvenience of the RE too much. If you get into the RE often, then it's just not the car for you. Especially in the US where you cannot turn the RE on early and thus will suffer reduced performance every time you use the RE. Unless you drive a very long way frequently, your Golf/Passat is not going to use less fuel than a Volt/Ampera or i3. The Golf/Passat has used over 4L of fuel before the Volt starts to burn any at all (at 70km). Now the Ampera is going to use another L every 15km or so while the Golf/Passat will go maybe 20km per L. You're going to have to drive another 350km (420km total) without recharging before you even reach break even on fuel so the Golf/Passat can pull ahead.
          Matte
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Snowdog
          as i said, none of them are for longer trips - if you regularly travel more than 120 miles one-way, you're better of with a golf/passat variant (station wagon/combi) or such which at that point is much cheaper to buy and has better mpg than the volt/ampera, besides being more comfortable and roomier... but you can, without too much uncomfort (atleast spring, summer and autumn in Sweden, 5-25degC) travel over 200km (120-130 miles, with the european winter package version atleast) before charging and filling up in the i3 REx; if you have a quick charger available, this can be done in half an hour (plus filling gas) and you can go another 200+km...
      Nick Kordich
      • 7 Months Ago
      Additional information/speculation on the range extender: http://bmwi3.blogspot.com/2014/04/more-range-extender-details-uncovered.html ^ In the slide, you can see the 1.9 gallon capacity was a correction to the workbook for the training of US BMW dealers. While it's possible to introduce a conversion error into a correction, it seems less likely a mistake would be introduced in a correction than corrected by it. The speculation there is that the range estimates were worse in electric mode and/or better in hybrid/ICE mode, causing the car to be non-compliant with CARB BEVx criteria (as Rotation suggests). http://transportevolved.com/2014/04/23/u-s-spec-bmw-i3-rex-smaller-gas-tank-range-hold-limited-speed/ ^ Speculation here mentions the possibility of a fuel bladder on US models displacing fuel volume: "In a certain generation of Toyota Prius hybrid cars, the fuel tank contained a flexible fuel bladder, a flexible membrane which expanded and contracted in line with the fuel in the tank. Designed to control the evaporative emissions of the gasoline, it essentially rendered the fuel tank of certain model year U.S. Toyota Prius hybrids smaller than comparable non-U.S. market cars, which did not have the bladder fitted." Among the criteria for CARB Advanced Technology PZEV (and therefore BEVx) is to meet CARB's PZEV criteria, which is a combination of an extended emissions system warranty and having no evaporative emissions. There are straight ICE PZEVs, and not meeting these PZEV criteria prevented early Volts from getting green stickers, so it's possible that BMW was trying to meet a different CARB requirement.
      Snowdog
      • 7 Months Ago
      i3 BEV EPA sticker spotted: http://insideevs.com/bmw-i3-bev-official-epa-rating-range-81-mpge-124/ Range 81 miles. No REX sticker spotted yet. But assuming the REX gets slightly less EV range, say 76 miles. That means the gas range would have to be under 76 miles to get the extra BEV credits BMW seems to have been chasing for the REX model. 1.9 *38 mpg = 72 miles. Extra BEV credits. 2.37 * 38 mpg = 90 miles. No Extra BEV credits. Really BMW should have turfed the credits to make a better product. Fit a bigger fuel tank and allow battery preservation to turned on MUCH sooner than 5% SoC.
      Rotation
      • 7 Months Ago
      Do US models have heat pumps? Some European models do. It's not an option in the US. Does that mean they all have them or none do? The gas tank was surely shrunk to meet CARB BEVx standards, not EPA standards. Sounds like the REx model a lot more sluggish than the EV one.
        Grendal
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Rotation
        This ^^^^^
        JakeY
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Rotation
        What I have heard is if you opt for the REx you can't get the heat pump (the REx takes up the space). However, not sure if even the US BEV models gets the heat pump.
      Rotation
      • 7 Months Ago
      Know what? Given Europe and the US use different gallons, what's the chances the tank didn't even change size?
        Nick Kordich
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Rotation
        I don't think that's the case. The tank size of 1.9 gallons was introduced in the errata to US training (which I assume to have given the post-homologation value as an update), while the European tank size has been known to be 9 liters/2.4 US gallons for a long time. That means someone would have had to have seen the 2.4 gallons, thought "Wait, we have to update that to US gallons" (mistake 1), then applied the wrong formula (converting US gallons to Imperial instead of the other way around - mistake 2), and finally round 1.99 gallons down to 1.9 gallons instead of up to 2.0. That is possible, it just seems unlikely to me for it to have slipped by without someone going "Are you sure about that?" and catching the mistakes. I know if I was teaching or taking such a training session on the subject, I would have asked about that.
      diffrunt
      • 7 Months Ago
      ugly
      JB
      • 7 Months Ago
      F=ma holds true!
      eideard
      • 7 Months Ago
      So, um, none of you have seen the first TV advert in the US, eh?
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