BMW i3s review: Range anxiety… should you really care?



every time we write about an electric car on car advice it seems like the whole world or most of the internet anyway jumps on board to tell us what they really think along with the environment people are worried about range they're scared the cars going to go dead like their phone goes dead on a night out so is range anxiety really a thing people need to worry about in the real world and they're real commutes we're going to use the BMW i3 s to find out so on paper the i3 has a range of about 200 k's in the real world and I Drive a 40 kilometer round trip every day to put that range to the test I'm gonna drive home tonight on Monday night and just commute normally for a week best case scenario we don't touch the plug and this is a great little city car worst case we're trapped in a red and black BMW on the side of Punt Road in peak hour anyway time to get this started so wish me luck so here we are in the BMW i3 s now I didn't say this in my introduction and I definitely didn't say it in the email I sent to Mike Stevens okay my boss when he suggested this idea I'm really quite nervous about it as with petrol cars and their fuel efficiency claims often electric cars don't actually go as far in the real world as manufacturers say they will now that's why the new European driving cycle quotes 300 codes for the i3 s and BMW says you probably get closer to 200 so already on paper the claimed range isn't necessarily the range you're going to enjoy in ideal conditions in the real world yeah this is set up well to get me where I need to go it's got a 94 amp hour battery which is bigger than what you got in the first i3 and it's a smarter battery it's the same physical size as the battery in the first car but you've got a whole lot more cells in there for a whole lot more range I'm also an eco pro mode at the moment which means that I've got a softer throttle and some other stuff set up that basically means I'm less likely to put my foot to the floor and burn through a ton of charge in one go all told I'm just worried that I'm gonna be that guy who runs out of battery charge in a bright red and black BMW on the side of putt road in peak hour traffic in Mel and has to have the entire angry commuting world drive past and look at some local to go pros on the dash sitting there sheepish I'd rather not be that guy but that is a risk we take here any we're gonna try and keep you guys updated on what's going on pretty much daily so I'm going to finish this drive home tonight and then jump in tomorrow morning and update you on the range and what's plan for today stay tuned obviously and please put your hands together and hope that I make it to the end of this week commuting because I'm very nervous all right here we are Tuesday morning sitting in traffic on Punt Road get excited about that folks now noticed I've changed my chamfer and shirt this is a week-long challenge and continuity can go and take a hike because I don't want to smell terrible all week so we started this morning with 195 kilometers of range showing a little range meter in the i3 dashboard that is down five kilometers on what we've finished with last night even though I didn't do any driving last night so I'm not quite sure how that works I've never jumped in a petrol car and having not driven it had less petrol than when I started anyway that kind of makes me distrustful of that range meter but we're still kind of ahead of par so that's all good news beyond that we're gonna be spending a lot of time in the interior of this I three because for good news finding a lot of time in traffic so it's worth taking a look at how it's actually laid out as that rubbish truck next to me makes a whole lot of noise to start with there's a whole lot of normal BMW stuff here and that's a really good thing because normal BMW is very good you've got a ten point two inch I Drive display and along with the normal rotary controller down in the console here and then this little screen that pops up on the dashboard although it looks really funky it's got all the same information you would expect of a normal PM and a really handy display to show you your regenerative braking how much power you're using and what drive mode you're in so all of that really good stuff beyond the iDrive stuff I think the most interesting thing about this interior is some of the materials that have been used BMW wants this car to be eco-friendly from the moment starts being built to the moment it hits the road and that means they've used stuff like door panels and dash panels with 25% recycled fibers and they're designed to make them more eco-friendly and have a smaller environmental footprint the leather on these seats which are also manually adjusted because apparently electric motors would have been too heavy was died using olive leaf extract and little things like that that sounds small but add up over time the dash itself has a beautiful massive piece of open pore wood it sort of starts up high and then sweeps down low under the their driver display and pops up the other side you can actually get that in pale wood and it looks fantastic like that as well but it's just that a little bit different to what you would normally expect and speaking of different we've got this gear selector here which looks a bit like a transformers leg it's very very funky but BMW didn't need to put anything on the transmission tunnel because there is no transmission tunnel this is an electric car so they've moved it up here behind the steering wheel it takes a bit of getting used to but once you're used to it well it's just completely normal the final funky thing about the interior is the fact that the rear doors are suicide doors and that looks really cool will show you those now but it also causes a few problems for one if I want to let someone out in the back seat and I'm sitting in the front I can't just let them open their rear door I'm gonna open my door and that means opening this pillar and that means my seatbelt gets pulled out the door and I go with it a small thing but just worth bearing in mind the other thing worth bearing in mind is that this is a four seat car not a five-seater so you're not looking at a particularly practical thing although it does have a really good Headroom and decent rear legroom although again I'm not gonna be able to sit behind myself all told it's a really interesting execution and BMWs done a good job of blending the interesting stuff with the really boring stuff in a way that makes this work well so good job BM anyway we'll check back in on the range when we get to work today and then we jump back on tomorrow morning and we'll take a look at the performance of the car hello and welcome to the i3 again it's Wednesday night now I did some video this morning and it looked terrible so having another crack at this turns out this video log thing is a little harder than it looks anyway we've done about 80 kilometres of driving about 85 in the i3 now so we've got a kind of good idea about what its actual claimed ranges versus what we're using and it turns out BMW is pretty close right now sitting on punt Road on the way home from work I've got 110 kilometers left today we're gonna talk about what makes the i3 s and i3 s and not the regular a3 and that starts with the motors that are underneath so the normal I 3 has got 125 kilowatts and 250 Newton meters of torque the the o3 has bumps it up to 135 kilowatts and 270 Newton meters small increases but handy nonetheless you also sit 10 millimeters lower on new suspension you're out on 20 inch wheels and you get some funky styling stuff on the exterior you also get wider tires the standard I three rides on one five five Section fronts and 175 section rears they go up to 175 section fronts and 195 section rears so still incredibly skinny it's unbelievable how small they are but wider than before for a more stable feeling based on a quick drive in the original i3 and driving this one this car definitely feels that little bit more planted and less kind of up in the air like a spaceship that you got in that first i3 in terms of performance it's really punchy off the line 0 to 60 K is an hour it takes just 3.4 seconds and that's an odd metric I realize but it's a really relevant one if you're living in the city and you want to burn stuff off the line 0 to 100 takes 6.9 seconds so again that's mark 5 Golf GTI quick this is not a slow car all told it's a pretty punchy interesting take on the basic a3 formula and it's not a proper hot hatch nor is it a warm hatch but it definitely is a more purposeful feeling punchier i3 especially when you flick it into sport mode which is unique to this car now tomorrow we're gonna have a chat about what makes the i3 and i3 what makes an electric car that means regenerative braking there's no noise and a creep etcetra etcetra etcetra try to stay tuned for that hello and welcome to the i3 s for a Thursday morning update we've got one morning to go that's tomorrow and we're looking like we're going to make it with a plenty of battery left at this point we've got 88 case of range left to do about 70 kilometres of driving so although BMWs range claim wasn't quite bang on we've driven more than 110 kilometers now and we've used about 125 cares of range it's it's been very very close to bang on and certainly closer than I would have expected which is great cuz it hasn't left me stranded on the side of the road also a little disappointed before you maybe because it hasn't left me stranded on the side of the road anyway now today we're going to talk about about what makes an electric car an electric car to drive and the first part of that is the silence it's really quiet in here as you can probably tell there's also no vibration through the steering wheel from a motor it's just a really serene place to be and that's lovely the second part is regenerative braking so if I lift off the accelerator in a normal car or an internal-combustion car the car sort of coasts in gear and then you push your foot on the brake and it'll slow down that's all pretty simple in an electric current doesn't quite work that way because that's quite a wasteful way of doing things you've been all this petrol and this energy getting up to speed and then you kind of just turn it into heat and dust when you slow down and brake like that so in an electric car when you lift off the accelerator the motor turns into a kind of dynamo and starts pulling or they call it harvesting energy back to the battery the idea being get as much range as possible by trying to get some sort of charge back to the battery when you lift off the accelerator what that means for what that means for the driver is that when you lift off the accelerator the car doesn't coast normally and so rather than just following the traffic in front you kind of pull back and get out of sync with them to start with and you can actually drive with one pedal only when we're coming to a full stop in a bit of a hurry have I touched the brake pedal in this I three otherwise you just sort of slowed down by working out how much pressure you need on the accelerator the final way is definitely the most fun way though and that's instant talk that's that's the biggest difference between driving a petrol car off the line and driving an electric car off the line when you put your foot down on this I 3 even though it's you know not the most powerful car in the world it really holds you're able to burn off essentially anything you want to next to you unless they're really trying or they're really quick I got rid of a Golf GTI pretty comfortably this morning when I had to so just because electric motors make their torque from zero revs if you're stuck in traffic and you need to get rid of somebody or you next to somebody there's no gearbox and no gear change and no revs don't worry about you just put your foot down and the torque is there straightaway it's very very satisfying now the final part of this challenge is going to come tomorrow morning we're gonna see how much range we've used in total we're also going to go through and and have a look at you know what BMW does to extend range on its cars because if you do get yourself in a pickle there's a couple of modes in this Evie that are designed to make sure you get absolute maximum range out of the car and to make sure you don't get stranded so stay tuned for that and keep your fingers crossed nothing goes wrong and we don't get stranded on the side of the road hello and welcome to installment five of the range anxiety Diaries where we come to a conclusion about whether range anxiety is a real thing the answer I'm gonna talk about add a bit of length but realistically is no BMW said you'd get two hundred kilometers out of his car on a full charge and I wanted to commute 160 kilometers in a week I've done 150 of that hundred and sixty and I've still got tons of range left so BMWs claimed figure that real-world number they give you not the new European driving cycle figure which is complete pie in the sky rubbish is bang on pretty much and and that's boring for a video because the bastards don't give us anything mean to say about their car but it's also reassuring if I owned this car and so I didn't want to charge during the week or I didn't have access to a plug for a few days I'd still be completely fine on that front for the average city commuter doing an average commute every day the i3 has absolutely nailed the brief now one of the other things I've learned out of this is that the i3 is a really good city car it's just way too expensive so as tested here you're looking at about seventy thousand seventy thousand dollars plus for the i3 s that's too much money for a small car I completely accept that but if you can look past the price tag it's a really nice city car I am so comfortable in here the seats are brilliant it's dead quiet and costing around town it's just a good place to spend time instant talk is awesome in the city regenerative braking is awesome in the city I've been driving with one pedal I jump back in an internal-combustion car last night for the first time all week and I lifted off the accelerator expecting the car to coast to pull back in at coast I almost ran into the car in front it's amazing how quickly you adjust to that stuff or maybe I'm just a bad driver the car also has been really well received by people who've sat in it and people who've seen it in traffic I was expecting it to make me look like a wanker and well I still look like a wanker but that's this that's not the car people are interested in what it is they're interested in what it stands for and especially when you tell them that it's got a carbon fiber chassis and it's got recycled materials and it's got electric motors and a floating screen and all that stuff they're completely on board with it and that's really cool as well because it shows that BMW with its I brand kind of set out to make electric cars interesting and to put the technology on the map and it's done that people are fascinated by this thing and I'm fascinated by it as well I'd love to live with one for longer to see what it's like all told that's not the really scathing conclusion we're after potentially you know it's not you'll never be able to drive an electric car and I look forward to the commenters coming on board and just saying you haven't been hard enough on it what are you talking about you're an idiot your hair looks it your shirts terrible fine fire away but in this test in a normal commuting challenge where the i3 could very well have fallen down it's been totally fine well done BMW [Laughter]

22 comments

  1. One of the best no-nonsense, factual reviews I have viewed. It's just the price that is the deal breaker.

    I personally love the concept and design of the ie, however I the real world, other than the performance advantage ( why would you buy an electric car for performance?), the Kia Niro phev is a more sensible buy. It is better equipped…. The '4' version has everything you would possibly wish to spec (all expensive extras from BMW), seats5, has a longer "no refruelling" range, more space, more acceptable depreciation, more mainstream car like drive & design so easier to sell-on, likely to be more comfortable on long journeys with sensible tyres, comes with a bumper to bumper 7 Yr warranty (here in UK), and considerably cheaper to buy. So a no brainer…. unless you crave to be different driving a funky, quirky, hot-ish hatch burner and must-have that BMW badge snobbery.

    I would definitely consider the I3 if it was priced realistically, but in my opinion the Niro is a far more sensible choice in the current market.

  2. Tired of the stupid comments on suicide doors. I had two FJ Cruisers and it was never an issue. Who would be in the back anyway, it is for your dog, so it isn’t like you’re taking kids to school. If you are, it probably isn’t the car for you.

  3. why do you want to sell an i-3 after 4 years? It will last for 20 years and more. It will still look good: the design is timeless.
    Every 4, to 8 years you will change the battery: Considering that batteries get a significant upgrade about every 18 months, together with a cost reduction and range extension, your car will only get better, and you have less reasons to change

  4. Here's the thing, guys: I've just taken delivery of a Renault Zoe EV. I've been driving it around all week. I'm not even close to 50% charge yet.

    If you're commuting you're probably not going to plug the thing in more than once a week.

    I've yet to get even a minor tingle of the fabled range anxiety. Why would I?

  5. Nice video and review. We have the first version of the i3, and never had range anxiety. We drove 43km starting at an elevation of 1603m and climbed the mountain at its highest driving range of 3306m elevation. At the top of the mountain our estimated kilometers to get home was 12km.Driving back down the mountain we regenerated 109km. The batteries were hot and the cooling system stayed on for a long time. Impressive car. Currently looking at the the 2019 model i3 bev. Another thing, our car has been charged purely on solar energy- I haven’t paid an electric bill in 7 years.

  6. I don't understand why you didn't plug-in when you could? That's the whole advantage of EVs… refueling when you get home!!

  7. Like the i3 and for commuting it would work for me. Yet for holidays (Netherlands to southern France) it might be a bit iffy.

    Am totally into electric cars, just drove a Tesla S 100D, amazing!!!

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