After sitting idle at the dock, awaiting an official fuel economy rating from the EPA, the BMW i3 with the two-cylinder range extender finally has the credentials needed to go on sale. Rated at 39 MPG and with a 72-mile EV range, the BMW i3 REx has a total range of about 150 miles and a 117 MPGe. So how’s it stack up against competitors?
The most obvious car to compare it to is the Chevy Volt, which can only go 35 miles per charge, but has a total range of about 300 miles with a full tank of gas. It’s also cheaper, though the purpose-built BMW i3 is rear-wheel drive, lighter, more powerful, and hence quicker. The i3 takes 7.2 seconds to go from 0 to 60 MPH, whereas the Volt is more than a second slower at 8.5 seconds. However, the Volt is also about $10,000 cheaper, $34,185 compared to $45,200, but the i3 REx has a better MPGe rating, 117 compared just 98.
The conclusion? The i3 is more electric than conventional car, whereas the Volt is more conventional than gas-powered, and I have to wonder if the 78 extra miles of driving is worth the cost of the range extender. Depending on your needs, one or the other might work, though the Volt is undoubtedly the more versatile of the two.
Compared to the electric-only BMW i3, the REx model doesn’t make any better of a case for itself. The BMW i3 EV has a 81-mile electric range, 124 MPGe, and a starting MSRP of $41,350, as well as weighing less. I think GM had it right by going with a lower EV range and a longer, range-extended mode, but 150 miles may be the magic number EVs need to achieve. The two gallons of gasoline (plus the battery power of course) equates to about 75 MPG, a number no conventional hybrid has yet to achieve.
As for the rest of the plug-in hybrid fleet, like the Ford C-Max Energi and Toyota Prius Plug-in, the electric-only ranges are so low as to really disqualify them from comparison in my mind. With this little rating snafu cleared up, buyers of the BMW i3 REx can finally take delivery of their long-awaited vehicles. Did BMW hit the nail on the head, or did they not go far enough?