The Electric BMW i3 Comes With Optional Range-Extender

The base model BMW i3 is a small electric sedan with a stated range of roughly 100 miles. But when the i3 is released in the United States early next year, BMW will become the first plug-in vehicle maker to offer an optional small gasoline engine to extend driving range when the car’s 22-kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery pack runs low on charge.

The optional range-extending capacity will cost $3,850 and give i3 buyers a choice between owning a pure electric vehicle with a range that is slightly better than that of EVs like the Nissan LEAF or Honda Fit EV—or owning a plug-in hybrid with an all-electric range roughly two and a half times longer than that of a Chevy Volt.

The i3 has a starting price of around $42,000, so the range extending option will push the price tag to about $46,000—before state and federal alternative vehicle incentives totaling at least $7,500.

According to a 2012 Columbia University study, 95 percent of daily commute distances in the United States are less than 40 miles each way, meaning that on a practical basis, the range extender isn’t needed very often. But a range-extending feature isn’t so much about satisfying most of a consumer’s transportation needs: it’s about knocking down any reasons for BMW buyers not to buy the i3.

Some EV buyers don’t care whether their EV can handle occasional longer drives—either because they own a second car or because they’re willing to make other arrangements like renting a gas car when needed or catching a flight for longer trips.

For others though, range anxiety is a major concern. What if my spouse needs the other car and I don’t have time to arrange for a rental? What if I unexpectedly need to take an extra trip? These kinds of questions might keep some people who would otherwise be inclined to buy an EV to hold off or opt for a plug-in hybrid.

BMW is betting that the issue will be of enough importance to enough people that a significant portion of buyers will be willing to tack on an additional 10 percent to the price of the i3.

The plug-in market now has pure EVs with ranges in the 70 to 100 mile range that allow their drivers to go gas free. And it has plug-in hybrids like the Chevy Volt and Prius Plug-in that offer ranges of 38 miles and 11 miles respectively. The optional range-extended i3 will be the first plug-in car that leaves it up to the customer to decide what works best.

Article by Brad Berman, appearing courtesy ebay Green Driving.

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One comment on “The Electric BMW i3 Comes With Optional Range-Extender

Niri Tawa

That is really cool. I am glad that BMW is NOT going with the “Commute Data” though, and making the vehicle with the option of the gasoline engine. There ARE people like me and my neighbors, that the “commute” to the nearest small farming hamlet here in remote, far west Texas for Huevos Rancheros and the mail, is a 56 mile trip.

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