i3 BMW Fail

i3 BMW Fail

I just read a first impression review on CNET (

Range of 80 to 100 miles, ugly, optional engine? What is good about this thing.. better then a horse I guess.
This yet another example of a manufacture that cannot get the engineering right so they put the burden on marketing. Hey this is all that people need.. you don't need to go over 100 miles.. no..

Good job BMW, in one fell swoop you have given late night comedians and the oil industry something to talk about.

EcLectric | July 29, 2013

I have to agree that BMW does not have its heart in building the best electric car. If electric BMWs were successful, they would just cannibalize/replace sales of their existing ICE cars as the Model S has done in California. For the I-3, they are looking for customers who would not buy an ICE BMW. That means they are looking for people like gt3123 who think having 'extra' batteries is a waste, and that styling and performance don't matter. What BMW doesn't realize is that for those people, the BMW brand doesn't matter either.

So the I-3 is yet another electric 'punishment car' that Tesla set out to bury. And it will.

tobi_ger | July 29, 2013

The i3 is the modern day "AMC Gremlin" or "Nissan Micra" from the looks of it (the latter has good sales with women in Germany).
However, the main issue with such a small car is the huge price tag, that will keep people away. With the same money people may just say "meh" and go with a 3 or even 5 series.

portia | July 29, 2013

precisely why EVs are not getting any respect (present company excluded of course), UGLY was my first reaction too. if Tesla made a beast like that, I still won't be driving an EV! Tesla is for people who want REAL cars, not toys. muscles and beauty and elegance, not funkiness or cuteness. The i3 is an eye sore, shame on BMW.

hsadler | July 30, 2013

Haha, very funny BMW, we get it!! Germans do have a sense of humor!
Seriously, now you can show us your real entry into the EV market!

cx872 | July 30, 2013

I actually thought the look is acceptable until I saw the front wheel.... never have I been so wrong

Brian H | July 30, 2013

They are buying 2,000 MS for the project.

Start the rumor here.

2050project | July 30, 2013

This article really, really nails it... ouch! But, well done.

jandkw | July 30, 2013

The fallacy of many car manufacturers who build hybrids and then EVs is that they want a car that is unique and will not compete with their current core products. Starting with Toyota that they proved their successful formula in Prius with the unusual looking car and continued to do so because they are selling lots of Prius. Other manufacturers follow that strategy with their EVs like Leaf and now i3. They don’t want the EVs to outsell their ICE cars by executing the “wait and see” strategy. Tesla does not have that kind of problem so they built the best looking and performance EV. Now that they see the success of Tesla, I believe we will see more good looking and performance EV in the next few years.

mrspaghetti | July 30, 2013


I think you're giving the established auto makers too much credit. Big, old companies are inflexible, bureaucratic and ridiculously slow to react, as a rule. They are dinosaurs.

In fact, I predict that some will not wake up in time to see their extinction coming and will demand yet another government handout to perpetuate their backwardness - and will almost certainly get it.

AmpedRealtor | July 30, 2013

@ gt3123 - and when you need to drive more than your daily commute? I'm sure you are aware that people don't just drive to work and back.

jandkw | July 30, 2013

@mrspaghetti, I agree with you to a great extent. I also believe a great leader can turn a company around. Take a look at GM, Consumer Reports recently scored the Chevy Impala 95/100. This is the car that nobody cares about for many years. Yea, it's still an ICE car but it doesn't mean they cannot put the performance and technology know-how into a EV, Volt v2 or v3? The report said their CEO, Dan Ackerson recently hired 1000 engineers in Michigan to do "electrification" and he admitted they will "study Tesla cars". What the big company has is capital and cash and they can hire top notch engineers to turn things around. I think the next 3-5 years we will see much better EVs to compete with Tesla. This is good for consumers as well as EV revolution.

cloroxbb | July 30, 2013

Tesla is the only company that is dependent on the electric car to succeed, THAT is why the Model S is better than all these EVs.

Other companies are competing with themselves and eachother when they decide to release an Electic Only vehicle. Not to mention the NADA that has more to lose by selling EVs, to the point that the manufacturers will probably NOT be able to compete with Tesla until everyone is allowed to sell EVs by direct sales instead of traditional dealers.

Just my opinion on the subject tho.

BMWs EV offering looks like crap because the point wasnt to make a great EV that they hope to sell like crazy, it seems like it was made to NOT be attractive and to "remind" people about how great ICE are over EVs.

A lot of things need to change before the old timer car manufacturers, will have free reign to build great EVs IMO.

mdemetri | July 30, 2013

The BMWi3 is a joke. Model S is better than similarly priced ICE cars in almost every category. In contrast, the BMWi3 is worse in every category compared to a similarly priced ICE. For example, for the same price as an i3 you could get a BMW 3 series (MSRP (including destination) for a base BMW 335i is $44,075 and a base BMW 328i is $37,775).

Who is going to walk into a BMW dealership and buy a butt ugly BMWi3 with only 80-100 mile range when they could buy a 3 series for a similar price? IMO, very very few will. They may sell some to people who are only considering an EV, but they are not going to make many converts.

As others have said above, BMW has purposefully made the car ugly and with a limited range so as not to reduce sales of their beloved 3 series. If they keep this up, they as well as the other big ICE manufacturers will end up like 'horse carriage makers' from the beginning of the last century: Out of Business.

AmpedRealtor | July 30, 2013

+1 cloroxbb, right on the nose!

Doesn't California have a requirement that all auto manufacturers who sell in California must also sell a certain number of EVs or AFVs (alternative fuel vehicles) in the state? I believe that is why Toyota sells the Rav 4 EV only in California. Could it be that BMW's i3 was developed to satisfy the same requirement?

I'm just asking this specific question because it might explain the half-assed effort on BMW's part. At least the Rav 4 EV rides on a Tesla power train and battery. Unless required by law, there is little incentive for any manufacturer to make AFVs or EVs. The only force that will make BMW put a concerted effort into doing it right would be downward market pressure on its existing vehicles and lost revenue to EVs like Model S.

Possible counterpoint... the Nissan Leaf, which has an equally lame 70-100 mile range, has sold approximately 25,000 units in North America as of May 2013. Like Model S, it has been a success in limited numbers. Perhaps BMW is looking to that example instead of Tesla?

DanielR | July 30, 2013

bigez1 and 2050project both provided a link to the "Slate" review, and I thought the title to that article warrants a specific mention:
"BMW's New Electric Car Is Just Like a Tesla, Only Much, Much Worse"

CalDreamin | July 30, 2013

@AmpedRealtor, the BMW i3 is not limited to being a California compliance EV ala Honda FIT EV, Fiat 500e EV, Toyota RAV4 EV, etc. BMW has poured 2 billion euros into their electric car program. BMW intends to sell the i3 globally.

July10Models | July 30, 2013

"The ultimate driving machine!" WTF happened BMW! Where has the passion gone? :(

bp | July 31, 2013

For $20K more, the 60 Model S gets more than twice the range, more seating capacity, significantly more storage, ...

The more EVs in the $30K to $40K price range now - the better for the EV industry and Tesla - especially while Tesla has the only long-range EV on the market. With the exception of the Model S, the other EVs require comprising the performance, range and/or capacity in order to get the benefits of driving an EV - and while the extra $20K reduces Tesla's potential market now - it's good for Tesla to have other manufacturers selling shorter range EVs today - to grow the market for EVs - and the infrastructure of charging stations.

And, when Tesla releases the Gen 3 - there will be a large potential market of existing owners of hybrids and the short-range EVs.

YL | July 31, 2013

They should have electrified their "Mini" sub-brand (keep current styling), put in a real battery (~150 miles), left out any apologetic gas motor option, and beefed up performance a bit (0-60 in ~5.5-6 sec). Such a battery would likely cost ~15K. Take out the 5-7K engine, charge an extra 5K to the customer, and take a small "hit" in profits. But enter into long-term contracts with battery suppliers that take advantage of expected battery price drops over the next 3-5 years, and so essentially defer profit in order to break into the game with a truly viable EV option.

sftesla | July 31, 2013

@YL +1

That's what I would have expected from BMW if they were serious about selling electric cars. They have already gone to great lengths to differentiate the Mini brand from BMW, so that would protect 3-series sales in the short term. And there's even some kind of a field trial underway with electric Mini E. That's where they should have put their money. The i3 is embarrassing for EVs, which I guess is what they wanted.

jk2014 | July 31, 2013

What BMW (and all other car companies) demonstrates jumping into EVs is that Tesla is by far the best company hands down in the market and for many years to come. Nothing is coming even close. BMW and others are showing Tesla has a barrier to entry to the EV market with it's clearly superior drivetrain/battery technology patent. If all cars will eventually become EV (a trillion dollar industry) that patented tech is extremely valuable and the stock market/tesla investors are reflecting it. As more companies attempt to compete with Tesla, Tesla's advantage will become more apparent to the wider public, thus a further increase in valuation (even when Tesla only makes 21K cars and is seemingly overvalued on paper.)

So to all other car companies wanting a piece of the EV pie, please, by all means, take the plunge. It will only help Tesla become more valuable and achieve genIII program and then some...

Brian H | July 31, 2013

This is what I meant when I wrote the i3 is "technologically trivial". It advances nothing in the critical dimensions, and compromises are throughout the design. I.e., not "serious". Despite what the PR dept. and CEO have to say.

Kleist | July 31, 2013

It advances in one critical dimension and that is price - same as the Cadillac Volt offspring... and if that turns out to be somewhat successful then that is a big win for Tesla. There are people who would eat ramen soup every day just to be seen in a Mercedes, Lexus, BMW... you couldn't find them dead in Nissan. And I actually like the constant comparison with Tesla - just raises the awareness and acceptance of Tesla. Can't wait for the arrival of the Mercedes B-class...

danielccc | July 31, 2013

I kind of like the interior. The exterior less so but it's not horrible by any means.

But 22kWh? Really? That's 2kWh less than a Leaf, and exactly the size of the Zoe battery, except the Zoe costs less than half the i3. I mean, sure, the Zoe and Leaf have much plainer interiors, don't have a carbon fiber structure, and don't have the BMW logo on them. But still, 22kWh is a small battery for a car meant to be a cut above ordinary EVs.

It would make more sense to me if it was around 30kWh. Not Model S grade, but at least it would be a true 100 mile EV under almost any weather or driving condition short of drag racing.

Mark K | July 31, 2013

Mdemetri - well said. Tesla's EV beats ICE cars in the same price class. BMW's i3 doesn't.

Danielcc - ah, now you have come upon the dirty little secret of the transition to EV's: margin.

Without a concurrent innovation in direct distribution and in-house drivetrain tech as TM has done, no automaker can afford to buy as many kWhs of batteries as Tesla.

The only option is to keep chopping battery costs until you have a kinda-sorta workable price for a compromise car. The result is cars you don't want. High cost for wimpy range.

These guys are not stupid, they just aren't sufficiently committed to do the whole job of change that TM has embraced..

The reason the stock is strong is that TM has 2+ years of open highway in front of them to grow quickly.

I hope they use it wisely.

justineet | July 31, 2013

I doubt there is a significant market for EVs which do not have close 200miles range. Maybe a little more in Europe. But I doubt in general there is big market for such EVs even in Europe. BMW is trying to address this shortcoming of theirs by offering extension ICE motor and/or free ICE rental for long distance travels. I doubt it will work for them in any bg way. The extension ICE engine will likely increase the price of the car significantly in terms new car price tag and service costs. The free rental deal is probably offered in a very limited condition it won't be very attractive.

Kleist | August 1, 2013

In Europe the distances are shorter, streets are narrow... seems a good fit to me. And if you go on an occasional road trip then you stop every 100 miles... and the stops are fast in and out not as cubersome as in the US. I would not underestimate the appeal outside the US.
Most cities in Europe have already low emission zones which you can only enter with clean vehicles. Add noise restrictions to it and EVs are a must for city dwellers.

Brian H | August 1, 2013

Mark K;

JAFIC | August 1, 2013

Why all the hate on I3 ? It's a electric vehicle (without the addon motor). Every EV out there is a step towards the goal Elon wants. (transport to be on electric/No more ICE).

There will be residual effects. Some of us who bought Model S came from Nissan Leaf. So there will be those who will come from I3.

As for the driving part, no one at this point has driven one to my knowledge, so let consumer reports do their thing and we'll see.

Mark K | August 1, 2013

I don't see hate here.

Only the sober, scary realization that BMW chooses not to use its considerable talent to build an EV that's better than its ICE counterpart.

They could have, but they didn't. They have the skill, but not the will. The change is simply too disruptive to their status quo. And the story is the same with all the others.

The disquieting truth is that right now, this entire EV revolution depends on the unwavering determination of a single company ... Tesla.

More than we knew, our future depends on them.

pebell | August 1, 2013

@Mark K: +1.

BMW was the one company I had hope for. There is _something_ going on with Tesla and BMW in terms of appeal and mindset. Even the Tesla employee that I took my test drive with mentioned that they noticed a disproportionally large number of BMW drivers test driving and ordering the MS, and relatively few Audi drivers, for instance.

I think if they did the i3 right, they would have been in the "winner circle" together with Tesla, for quite a few years to come. But like you said, they could've, but they didn't - and now it's lonely at the top ;-D

ChristianG | August 1, 2013

@all who said the car should have a bigger battery

There is a reason Tesla is not making the gen3 now, because we are not there yet, especially cost wise. And this is why all the other car makers are making cars like this. They are what a 'normal' guy can buy for a 2nd car if he want's to go electric for whatever reason.

The others decided to go to the broad marked now and live with the limitations. Theyr cars are smaller, lighter, slower and therefore enviroment friendlier than the MS. The limited range also could have positive effects. people maybe will not travel so far, or at least not by car. Using public transportations more often... training people to use less energy, kinda.

The MS on the other hand suggests a lot more worry free joy, we are investing in the future, that has to be enough right? Let's have some fun drag racing yeahhhhhhhhhh. I'm a fan of tesla since 10 years, and I ordered one too and I do completely understand their top down approach. but I return to this though a lot. Also others here on the forum describe the pure joy of driving a model S and how much more they drive now, and how much more money they now 'SAFE' in not buying gas anymore...

After you leave out the conspiracy theories that the big car companies want their cars to fail. Their approach is a legit one and at least as true to the bigger cause, wich is making transport enviroment friendlier. It's not as sexy, it's not as cool, it's not as practical, it's not as fast and so on. But it's affordable and good step into the right direction. And more people trying to get somewhere in different ways increases the chance that we get there.

DTsea | August 1, 2013

Andrew18- "This car fell off the stainless steel ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down!"

Note the car body is carbon, not steel.

Kleist | August 1, 2013

@Mark K - maybe not hate. But assuming inferiority we encourage our arrogance.

AmpedRealtor | August 1, 2013

Perhaps there will be more love for the i3 in the EU, where typical driving distances are shorter and the mentality is a little different. Here in the US the car driving mentality is a bit different. Maybe I'm wrong, but I've spent a lot of time in the EU. It seems to me that over there, a car is more about transporting someone from point A to point B. Here in the US a car represents freedom. So while the expectation here may be for larger batteries and whatnot, perhaps the EU audience will not be as critical of that? Just guessing.

larmorfreq | August 1, 2013

Regard the OP, I often confuse a bmw 135 for a 7 series, easy to confuse the two...

Mark K | August 1, 2013

@Keist - Arrogance is indeed the enemy of excellence. That's why we must take BMW's talent seriously.

Bigger picture, I see more risk of arrogance at the king of ICE rather than the scrappy little EV startup. The Model S proved it can be done. Once the genie is out of the bottle, BMW can't put it back with a middling offering.

@Christian G - True. Making a great mid price EV is not economically feasible today, which is why Tesla started at the premium end. But BMW chose not to, which is telling.

BMW could have made an i7. It could have been the must-have upgrade for Mercedes and and Audi premium buyers. But they didn't. Because it would have cannibalized their own 7 ICE car too.

Bet-the-company moves are always very scary. But at times of great change, waiting is actually far more dangerous.

BMW, and all ICE automakers, are just dipping toes in the water, not swimming fast to the new shore.

Tom A | August 1, 2013

I think the styling comes from a half-baked marketing scheme. If BMW is trying to reach the younger generations, then they are looking at the Kia Soul, Honda Element, etc. - the "box" is "in" or at least was. Several non-sport concept cars from the Asian brands are almost all boxy.

I, too, am disappointed with the result. However, I also agree that it will probably sell better as a percentage of market share in Europe and Asia. USA? Not so much.

At best, it would take a few sales away from the Leaf or Volt, as a "Model S consolation EV" of choice.

I would not be surprised if, by the time the first GenIII sedan is delivered, the GenIII will have more USA backlogged orders than the i3 will have USA sales.

All evidence suggests that Telsa already has the 4.0Ah cells from Panasonic to build the GenIII, and all evidence further suggests that the final battery pack costs, based on the 3.1Ah cells, are below $200/kWh for the current Model S and X.

The total pack costs for the GenIII will also most likely be under $200/kWh before the car goes into mass production in 2016 or so. That's a profitable sedan 20% smaller than the Model S with a 200+ mile range starting at $40k before gov't incentives.

This article and the comments at the end pretty much says it all:

Tom A | August 1, 2013

All the other automakers continue to experiment with custom, large-format cells that, for now at least, are uncompetitive by a staggering margin with the price/performance ratio of the modified Panasonic/Tesla 18650 cells.

In all the hoopla about GM starting a task force to study Tesla, the CEO was quoted repeatedly as saying something to the effect that "we can't just say 'oh, it's a bunch of laptop batteries, blah blah blah'".

I didn't think about it much until just now: this leads me to believe that, after all the trouble A123 has had and after the Boeing fiasco, this GM task force is most likely focusing on Tesla's "Beowulf" approach to the battery pack (and patent coverage). Is it possible that GM might abandon the larger form factors and go with commodity-style cells?

Tesla's competition is so far behind that it isn't even funny. There are no 200+ mile production-intent EV prototypes announced. Given the gestation period for a new vehicle or an upgrade to an existing vehicle, by model year 2017 (GenIII launch), it will still be only Tesla Motors that will be selling 200+ mile EVs globally in any automotive category.

If that doesn't justify a $200/share price, then what does? Tesla will continue to sell every vehicle they can pump out that entire time, and probably for a long time thereafter.

jk2014 | August 1, 2013

No matter the size of the car company, no matter the financial resources they have, the few critical things none of them can buy is the intellectual capital, knowledge base man hours, and commercially superior patented EV technology portfolio that Tesla has. I beg them to try.

Tesla is the only viable company focused solely on EVs. Their entire business is built around it. You think the established ICE industry has put in the same time and focus as Tesla? The sobering reality is a loud no.

I say again, if the most likely outcome is all (or a majority) of vehicles will EVs in the future, then Tesla is looking to become very, very successful. As it stands, they are the only ones able to make a car that has acceptable range, storage space, aesthetic, and superior performance and safety over comparable ICE cars. And this is just the beginning since they have plans to produce vehicles in most (if not all) vehicle classes as well as improve on current (patented) drive train/battery technology. Not to mention single handedly developing an advanced charging infrastructure far superior to any competition (including solar storage capabilities).

Folks, Elon(et al partners/employees/companies) is not just the next Steve Jobs, he is the next Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Edison, Franklin, etc... builders of economic/industrial infrastructure. This might just be a case of circumstance, chance, or plain old luck, but it is what it is and we are going to have to live with it. I think all other car companies are starting to get it and soon will have to reevaluate how to survive in the quickly approaching mass EV future. BMW is really going to see this through abysmal sales of the i3 compared to the more expensive Model S (just as Leaf/Volt/Spark are/will). The market value of Tesla in the face of these less desirable products coming to market will continue to rise. The current balance sheet and production levels right now are not accurate measures of market value. The EV execution capabilities coupled with commercially viable patent portfolio are. Better for car companies/analyst to study these areas in order to assess Tesla compared with competitors.

BMW i3 (and all others coming down the line) should be a compelling indicator of their are on the above areas in relation to Tesla.

Kleist | August 1, 2013

Who cares if BMW comes out in 3 years with 200+ miles range, space efficient design, appealing form... it still is a city car. How does that BMW get me from SF to LA?
It is very telling the secret master plan many years ago clearly spelled out the Tesla business plan including SolarCity, but left one item out - the super charger network. It was kept a secret until 4 month after the model S production start. What is left for traditional car companies is use the gas infrastructure via an extender engine, build their own fast charging infrastructure or join the Tesla network.

pebell | August 1, 2013

@Kleist, if a small startup company can build a charging infrastructure at the same time they are trying to make a profit for the first time in 10 years making a very limited number of cars, then big, established companies can do that with money from the petty cash, so to speak. Unlike a premium EV, building chargers is not rocket science, the technology is pretty straightforward and run-off-the-mill.

And if a few manufacterors (say, MB, BMW and Audi) would join forces on that - to quote de Niro: "forget about it".

Kleist | August 1, 2013

@pebell - no, because...
- first they need to free up their minds from the gas mentality
- second agree on a standard ( 20+ years in the making ??? )
- third have the charging technology ( not trivial )
- fourth go to Harris Ranch and ask for another 10 parking spots... the Harris owner will tell them we have already - Teslas.

In three years the big guys may have signed the paperwork.

pebell | August 1, 2013

@AmpedRealtor: surely you were jesting when you suggested that in Europe, cars are merely for getting from A to B? You think that's why European manufacturers totally dominate the premium ánd sportscar segments worldwide?

EcLectric | August 1, 2013


That is just the point. They could create a charging network using their petty cash... but they haven't. Why is that? Because they don't have the will. They don't want to jump from an ecosystem (ICE) where they have all the advantages, to one where they are suddenly a late-comer (EV). In addition, much of their profit comes from maintenance. How much would a new car cost if the original manufacturer had to pay the 'replacement part' cost that ICE owners have to pay to repair their broken ICE?

I'll give you an example. When my Subaru seized after 5 years because of a known manufacturing defect, I had to pay nearly $9000 to get it fixed ("might as well replace the clutch while it's torn down that far"). That's nearly 30% of the retail cost of the car! They wouldn't warrant the repair (for only 1 year) unless I allowed them to use a replacement engine with the same defect in it (weak oil pick-up tube weld). They don't want their part sales to dry up by producing an EV with far fewer parts that need to be replaced.

pebell | August 1, 2013

@kleist, listen, I LOVE Tesla, and they are way ahead of the competition, I won't deny that for a second. But just because Tesla got a great headstart, doesn't mean they won the race already. You believe the supercharger is the secret weapon, but really, how many are there? In Europe, there are already 815 CHAdeMO chargers. And before you go "yeah but Tesla's chargers are faster" - CHAdeMO didn't need to be faster yet, because until now there were no cars that could handle a faster charge. Now that there are, they will get faster too.

My point is: I sincerely doubt that the supercharger infrastructure will decide which car manufacturer will "make it", and which one will fail. Like gas stations, they will become a commodity; in a few years any EV can charge on any DC based fast charger. And that's a good thing! What people tend to forget is that if only Tesla is successful at selling EVs, Elon's dream won't come true.

pebell | August 1, 2013

But then again - our stock would make all of us who "got it" early on millionairs.. So perhaps we are replacing one dream for another? ;-D

Kleist | August 1, 2013

@pebell - what did Elon say in regards to the question of the big guys entering the market: we build better cars or die.
Nothing is won. Also I think the Tesla strategy is tailor made for the US. Personally I don't think it is an unrefined strategy for EU or Asia... but I have no doubts that Tesla will adjust as they learn.

Kleist | August 1, 2013

sorry edit: Personally I think it is an unrefined strategy...

pebell | August 1, 2013

@Kleist: Okay, I think you have a good point about the Tesla strategy being designed for the US primarily. But still.. Maybe I am just being incredibly naive, but I really believe, want to believe, that Elon's strategy and underlying motives are not about "creating and maintaining as big a lead as possible over the competition". I think Elon's real goal is to show "the big guys" that there is good money to be made in selling pure EVs - and to do that, he must establish a commercially healthy company doing just that, and "lead by example".

On the forum, it seems like many people are rejoicing every time a competitor comes out with an EV that is "measured and found wanting" when compared to the MS. Whereas I (and I would like to believe, Elon as well) feel only sad that "the message has apparently not gotten through yet". My hope is that the reason for this is that they designed those EVs 3-4 years ago when nobody knew by how much the MS would raise the bar. I really hope that in 5 years, when the lease on my MS expires, it will be a close call whether my next car would be the GenIII, or a competative EV from any of the "big guys".

In which case I would always choose for Tesla, because without them, everyone would still be marketing those conceptually flawed hybrids. :)