BMW i3 was an engineering and a technological show piece for BMW. The design was never meant to be long term or reach huge production numbers. It was a showcase and a test bed for many innovations and processes. With production ended in 2022 after 8 years, I’m sure BMW has learned a lot in the process and is now implementing these finding in their new EVs. With that said, let’s talk about 10 things you probably do not know about the BMW i3.
- Battery Capacity/Range Anxiety:
A very cool first fact about the BMW i3 is that it was the most efficient EV on the market when it came out beating out even some current Tesla models, needing only 270 watts to go a mile. Even so, range anxiety is a real thing for many people, and I’ve witnessed this myself as my friends were asking me if I’m going to a charger because there are only 30-40 miles left on the guess-o-meter. To battle this, BMW has doubled the battery capacity in 5 years and offered a Range Extender for those needing longer trips. Until 2019, all BMW i3s also came with a heat pump, which means the range wasn’t as affected during the cold months as some other EVs. It’s optional for 2019 and newer cars, so check before buying. There are a couple of limiting factors when it comes to the powertrain as well. If you live in a very cold climate, you will have to pre-condition the battery before taking off or your power will be limited. Pre-conditioning also help in a very hot climate, if you park your car on very hot asphalt, then get in it and drive fast, your AC will prioritize cooling the battery rather than you. If you precondition the battery before leaving, it solves that problem as well. A second limitation is that the Range Extender is just that, a generator for your batteries, it cannot maintain more than 70 mph while on the highway, so there is some planning when going on longer trips. Interestingly, I have found myself strangely obsessed with squeezing as much mileage out of each charge and obsessing with efficiency. I even run my front tires 3 PSI over recommended pressure for better tire wear and better rolling resistance. While I find it fun, not everyone would agree.
- Built with carbon fiber
Part of the efficiency comes from the way it’s built. More specifically the material the car is made from. BMW i3 uses many composite materials throughout the interior and exterior, of which many are recycled and the entire car was designed to be holistically sustainable, not just electric. Materials, size, weight, the right-size, everything. Efficient without being excessive. Of course, BMW i3 was also the first mass production car with most of its internal structure and body made of carbon-fiber reinforced plastics. There is almost no metal in this car and that includes the body panels which can replaced much easier than on a normal car. All of this results in BMW i3 being the lightest EV on the market that can seat 4 comfortably.
- The Handling
Small battery and light body results in a car that handles a lot like a go cart. It’s a fun car to drive that’s controlled, but playful if you push it. Rear wheel drive has excellent drive characteristics and allows for an accurate and light front suspension with no torque steer. This small rear wheel drive city car is a real pressure to drive swiftly and other manufacturers are now following this formula as well. Just don’t go on the highway, but if you do, check out this video on how to make it highway worthy!
- Forged wheels
As you can see this car has a lot of supercar-like features that no one would expect out of a little city run-about and it doesn’t end there. BMW i3 wheels are forged aluminum, which means they are lighter and stronger than a standard cast wheel. Once again, this reduced the weight of the car and improves handling due to less unsprung weight. These aren’t without flaws, of course, as the very thin wheel and tire combination can make the car a little twitchy and good luck finding more than a couple of tire manufacturers in this size.
- Rear Doors/Windows:
There are also many design features AND even flaws that most people may not know about. Some of these make the car look more modern than anything on the road or at the very least very unique. One of the more obvious ones is that the front doors are frameless just like they would be in a convertible and there is no B pillar thanks to that carbon fiber shell. This gives the car a very unique look with all of the doors opened. While we have the doors open, if you look at the rear door, you will find that there is no power windows in the back.. they are fixed in completely. One of the more unique styling choices here is of course the window drop below the belt line. It’s controversial, but I personally love it for my dog as it gives her an unobstructed view out of the sides. I’m sure it’s great for kids as well.
Last item you may not know about the rear here is that if you want to sit in the rear of the i3 and you are alone, you will not be able to close the doors unless you climb through the front as it’s impossible to reach the front door from the back. It would be cool to have power doors that auto close or open with a button. Might have been a little gimmicky, but definitely a lot more convenient.
On the other hand, the front is very convenient since the floor is flat, so you can easily slide between the two front seats.
I have also found this VICSEED Magsafe Car Phone holder to be a very convenient way to hold your phone while driving. It can be used in any car as long as you have a tiny bit of flat surface for the 3M adhesive and a MagSafe iPhone. If your phone doesn’t support that, the kit comes with a template and a metal ring that you can put on the back of any phone. This car mount can be installed in seconds, is surprisingly very adjustable and easily holds the phone over bumpy roads with 20 built in magnets. I also really like the clean, minimalistic look when not in use. Links in the description to get yours.
- Rudimentary Controls:
Knowing that BMW was one of the pioneers when it comes to infortainment systems, I was very surprised how rudimentary the controls and information is for charging. You cannot even select the charging speed or review any information about a previous charge. It’s limited to selecting the limit of charging speed and that’s basically it. I know you can do so much more in a Chevy Volt and it even shows much more information about the battery and other related stats.
This car also doesn’t have a way of turning off the head unit. The power button here only mutes the car. This wouldn’t be a big issue, but if you have a camera plugged into the power socket, it will stay on the entire time the car is charging.
Another nuance is the horn. Single note, and a noticeable slight delay when pressing the steering wheel button.
- Blue Strip:
While we are here at the driver’s seat, notice this blue strip on the steering wheel? That’s not just for show, it’s actually a sensor for adaptive cruise control and even if you don’t have that option, you will still have the sensor built in.
- Reverse Hill Assist
Did you also know that hill assist works in reverse? Meaning if you are facing downhill and put the car in reverse, it will not roll forward. Pretty cool!
- Expensive Insurance:
Another unexpected item for me was that it costs more to insure than an average car or even BMW. Mostly because of the unique constructions and repair shops not equipped to fix them, if the shell is damaged, in a lot of cases, the car is totaled. An even simpler example would be a windshield. On most cars, it’s as simple as just replacing the glass, but on this car it’s much more involved as many trim pieces have to be removed.
- REx Engine:
Lastly, if you love engine specs, here are a few things you may not know about the REx engine in this BMW i3:
- This is a Engine. What does all of that mean? Well, W tells us it’s a third-party engine, 2 is for 2 cylinders, 0 means it’s the basic engine. 06 is the displacement in liters, U means it’s a lower performance class engine and finally 0 tells us it’s a new development.
- This scooter engine produces 34HP and 40 lb-ft of torque at 4300 RPMs, but that has zero effect on how the car actually drives. The electric motor is the only thing ever driving the wheels.
- The gas engine operates based on how much power is requested from it which allows it to achieve 94% efficiency and it will follow 5 different operating speed strategies based on your speed and state of charge.
- Interestingly, this engine has a mechanical coolan pump unlike most BMW engines that rely on an electronic one. This coolant pump is force fitted onto the oil pump shaft and spins at all times. Very unusual as the delivery rate and also the flow rate through the coolant pump is solely defined by the speed of the crankshaft. There is no electrical control here.
- If you choose not to go with the Range Extender, make sure your car has DC charger as it is optional on 14-15 models. It’s necessary for longer trips as it allows the car to charge much, much faster.
And there you have guys, hope you have learned something new about the awesome creation from BMW and if you have one, why not check out my top 10 coding suggestions to enable longer range and much much more! Very DIY friendly and cheap to do. Thanks for watching and I’ll see you in the next one.