BMW kicked up sales of its all-electric i3 in August. After an introduction in May—and nearly a decade of development—production of the i3 is now apparently now closer to full tilt. The company had been selling around 300 units per month, something of a ramp-up period. But in August, sales reached 1,025 units—putting the electric Bimmer in the Top Three spot for pure EVs, behind the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S.
There are now dozens of i3 models listed on eBay—ranging in asking price from $43,000 to $53,000. Federal tax credits offset the price with a $7,500 incentive. Many states offer additional rebates and perks. (Most of the eBay listings are in California, although BMW said that distribution is nationwide at nearly all its dealerships.)
Fifty thousand bucks sounds hefty for a small—although luxurious and highly innovative—electric car with a nominal range of 80 miles. But buyers need to run down the list of trim levels and options to fully understand pricing for the rear-wheel-drive battery-powered upscale commuter.
Of course, the appeal of the all-electric ultimate driving machine goes beyond a strict economic interpretation. Zippy performance, lightweight efficiency, and a Bauhaus design—with legendary BMW handling applied to a novel propulsion system—all add to the car’s allure. And no tailpipe emissions.
There are several trim levels for the i3, including the base Mega World—and the mid-level Giga World, which adds larger wheels, a partial leather interior, sunroof and satellite radio, and tacking on $1,700 to the purchase price. The top of the line Tera World, for $2,700 over base, adds full leather, unique 19-inch wheels and fancy floor mats. But as the late-night cable commercial says, “That’s not all.” The hefty price tags on some models comes due to a $1,000 self-parking package. Additional driver-assist and convenience packages further drive up the price.
That’s all fun stuff, but here’s the biggest consideration for those who want the highly civilized German electric car with the funky design: Do you add $4,000 to the price tag by including the optional two-cylinder, 650cc gasoline range extender? That item turns the BMW EV from an 80-mile range small vehicle, to one offering 160 miles between charges (or gas fill-ups).
With the range-extender option, the small gas engine starts up when the batteries hit about 20-percent state-of-charge. The gas tank only holds 1.9 gallons, so the engine should not be viewed as a means for long road trips. You would be filling it up all the time. You should instead view the range-extender as an insurance policy that pushes the boundaries of mid-range commuting—the two gallons of petrol eliminating anxiety regarding the limits of an 80-mile battery pack.
The $700 quick charge option—which adds about 80 percent of the battery’s capacity in about 30 minutes—is another way to tackle the same problem. However, finding suitable quick-charge stations (compared to ubiquitous gas stations), and making a 25-minute or so pit stop, is considerably less convenient than extending range via the gas engine. Most drivers will rarely use gasoline, but it’s there for those occasional slightly longer trips.
Regardless of trim options, and range strategies, a test-drive is worth at least a thousand words. Five minutes in the car to experience near-silent electric propulsion, with BMW wrappings, will determine if one of the i3 models now listed on eBay can lure you into your first EV.
Article by Brad Berman, appearing courtesy ebay Green Driving.