BMW i3 range extender?

sunsurfer

Member
What do you think of the BMW i3 range extender version as an everyday car? My wife wants an easier car to drive than the A2 (?!) and I can get a used i3 REX for about £15k. Some of you have direct experience of the i3.
  • Is it a BMW? Does it handle and perform similarly to its stable mates?
  • Is the electric range adequate - we live about 30 miles outside of Edinburgh
  • Does the range extender engine fully ensure you have adequate range for say touring in remote Scotland or will I be left desperate for electric charge or a petrol station
  • Is it quality? £15k is about 5 times more than a decent A2
  • Is it cheap to run?
  • We have solar panels on the roof - will this make charging even cheaper?
  • Any problems or concerns I should consider?
Cheers and thanks
 

dj_efk

A2OC Donor
Quoting you - think you answered your own question! You’d have to drive a hell of a long way before the economics alone pointed you in this direction.


  • £15k is about 5 times more than a decent A2
  • Is it cheap to run?
 

oowee

Member
Your solar pv is mostly wasted now I would guess unless you have an electric boiler so charging a car battery is a good idea. Effectively free fuel, although the energy cost is much less than diesel. The small engine is very noisy when in use but gives arange of about 80 miles and then you can top it up from a can. You will want to avoid using it when the electric motor is so much quieter. Great thing with the rex is it takes away all of the range anxiety and you can use the elctric to it's fullest.
You should also consider battery degredation.
 

gills

A2OC Donor
I would do your research and go and try one - preferably a 48hr test drive, if you can. They are very different from other BMWs - still well put together, but handling is not the same (look at the tyre widths!) and carbon fibre body gives the car a different feel.

The earlier ones had a very firm ride, so make sure you can live with it.

REX engines have a reputation for seizing if not used regularly. Dealers don't like trying to fix them so replace the entire unit at vast expense.

The public charging network in Scotland is pretty good and often free. Check Zap-Map for charger types/locations. If you are going off into the wilds an EV is still not a great option, even with the i3 REX. Planning is key!

EVs are v cheap to run if home charging, even on the mains (think 1/4 cost of diesel for an A2). Solar cells will make it even cheaper. If you have to pay for public chargers, the benefits are much reduced.

The i3 will almost certainly become a future classic, but it is a bit of an odd ball!
 

chrisd

Member
We are lucky enough to have an FSI A2 and an i3 - they are strangely similar! Not a REX so i3 won’t be off on any epic journeys - but should be ok for 95% of what it needs to do - and longer trips likely to be the two of us together in the A2......when longer trips are ok that is. The acceleration in the i3 is astonishing, the ride isn’t limo like, but if you are OK with an A2 should be fine.
Economically, not sure really makes sense but so far, is a ‘put a smile on your face’ car like the A2. Much smaller in the back if that’s important, but you prob know all this stuff. I’d strongly encourage getting one to drive before committing
Chris
 

sunsurfer

Member
Thanks for the replies.
Economics rarely makes sense when buying cars - otherwise we'll all be driving ten year old Dacias :) The idea is for another "...‘put a smile on your face’ car like the A2."
Test drive - 48 hours if I can get it - is great advice.
Electric cars - even range extenders - have their restrictions and we will consider if we can live with this. I've found when working long distance away it is usually more relaxing to get a train or plane and then hire a car for the final part of the journey. Similarly when visiting family in the depths of England.
Does anyone know how replaceable the batteries are? As technology evolves, if you replace the battery in 5 years time you should have increased range?
 

gills

A2OC Donor
Does anyone know how replaceable the batteries are? As technology evolves, if you replace the battery in 5 years time you should have increased range?

As the i3 batteries were well designed (i.e. with a/c circuit), they're not as easy to do as on a Leaf (https://hackaday.com/2021/02/01/upgrading-the-batteries-in-a-bmw-i3/), although I'm sure as time goes on more companies will start to do battery replacement/upgrades for EVs. In the past 6 months Cleevely Motors in Cheltenham have started offering the Muxsan upgrades for Leafs.
 

mjsbrabus

A2OC Donor
Do your research. I run a 120ah i3 and really would not have considered a REX or shorter range BEV. Early cars are best avoided. Cars from 2016 are generally thought to be better. The facelift cars are better still but you won't get one for £15k.
The REX seems to give problems if it does not get regular use.
 

RAB

Technical Specialist 1.2 TDI
Upgrading from 60Ah to 94Ah, was that a difficult and expensive job? Also how did that impact on the range?
Probably done by using a more energy dense battery, otherwise it would impact on luggage space. That's what happened to the E-Up, same battery space but 95m range to 160.

RAB
 

sunsurfer

Member
Probably done by using a more energy dense battery, otherwise it would impact on luggage space. That's what happened to the E-Up, same battery space but 95m range to 160.

RAB
The E-Up! sounds like another possibility for my wife - at a lot less than BMW prices. For an 8 year old car, was the upgraded battery expensive or difficult? Would you recommend the E-Up?
 

RAB

Technical Specialist 1.2 TDI
The E-Up! sounds like another possibility for my wife - at a lot less than BMW prices. For an 8 year old car, was the upgraded battery expensive or difficult? Would you recommend the E-Up?
I haven't upgraded my E-Up but it's the difference between the original E-Up and the current edition (plus other things). My only reservation is that you can only charge at 3.6kw unless you have a 3-phase supply. I wouldn't recommend fast charging (50kw DC) as there is no battery cooling.

RAB
 

mjsbrabus

A2OC Donor
A couple of your questions about the i3 are interesting.

Take Quality. Yes in many respects it is a quality product and way ahead of other s/h electric options like the Zoe and e-Up. But also bear in mind that in the 15 years or so between development of the A2 and i3 there was a dramatic push for cost savings across the automotive industry. The A2 was over engineered and never made any money for Audi. The same is probably true about the i3 and BMW (in spite of the high selling price). In some respects you'd say the 'fittings' on the i3 are cheaper and less substantial than the A2 but of course it is all done on the name of weight saving. Even so, the 'mass in service' of my i3 is 1345kg against 1109kg for my fully optioned A2. Blame them heavy batteries.......

Does it perform like other BMW's? I have no great experience of the BMW range but I doubt it. But if you like instant torque and excellent 0-30 / 0-50 performance then it does the job in a way not much else can. Much is made of the i3's skinny tyres on 5" and 5 1/2" alloys. Of course this is alien to drivers brought up on the fat oversized alloys that cars are fitted with today. But 'back in the day' people drove the wheels off Mk 1 Golf GTI's and the like, with similar width alloys, without complaint.

The A2 was a vision of the future at launch - a future that never was. Ditto the i3. Electric cars now are migrating towards the same anonymous bloated SUV's that the market has apparently demanded for the past few years. Step forward the VW ID4!

Justifying the purchase of an i3 on cost grounds is a non-starter. It is a 'heart' over 'head' purchase. But buy a good one and you / your wife won't regret it. And right now, the used market is awash with them.
 

sunsurfer

Member
Cheers for your comments mjsbrabus this reinforces my thinking/feeling.
  • Quality - it is a bespoke design built in carbon fibre to be as light as possible to meet the requirements of an electric car. I've not tried one but I think it is quality and well believe that BMW makes little or any profit on the i3.
  • Performance - I'm not expecting this from a local area runabout. Electric engines are different from IC engines and learning to use them effectively gives its own satisfaction. Anyone who's had an MX5, Lotus, or other sportscar knows that it is not simply about power. I'm not expecting a tall(ish) car on skinny tyres to handle like an MX5 but your comments re Golf Mk1's are interesting. I had a non GTi Mk2 and I enjoyed it's handling.
  • A2 and i3 - the comparison between the A2 and the i3 is apt. They were both an attempt at a design for the future. Both show a 'form follows function' purity of engineering purpose. The A2 was designed when petrol was expensive and unfortunately launched at end 1990's- early 2000 when petrol was cheap. BMW designers knew, to enable reasonable range in an electric car with the existing battery technology, required it to be as light as possible - hence the carbon fibre.
We are still musing over it and will try out i3s when we can. For us it is a significant investment - I run a 20 year old car because I like it and also because I can't (or will not) pay for a newer one. We're thinking, if we buy the i3 of keeping it for a decade or more. This will probably require a new battery and I'm wondering if BMW i3s can be upgraded or if the software/hardware is so guarded that this becomes difficult.
 
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