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Electric Vehicle information for Atlanta and Georgia

BMW i3 information

My first EV was a Chevy Volt, which I leased from Dec 2010 to Dec 2013.

By 2013-2014, the EV market was getting bigger and there were more choices.  The BMW i3 worked best for me because it’s a powerful rear-wheel-drive car (read: fun) and BMW gets all the little details right when it comes to making a car that actually works for a driver.  Now, there are definitely things that I did not like about the i3, and I wrote them up at the time here:  The First Volt Owner in Georgia Explains What He Doesn’t Like About the BMW i3… and Why He’s Buying One!  I should note that the above article was written for an audience of EV enthusiasts, I assume that they already know the basics of the i3, have read other reviews, and are very familiar with EVs in general (usually as owners). So my apologies if some of that article goes over your head!

There are pros and cons with the i3, as there are with any car. Here is my take on the car:

– powerful drivetrain, more power than any other EV except for Tesla
– silky smooth and responsive accelerator pedal
– rear wheel drive dynamics
– DC Fast Charging
– iDrive interface, NOT a touch screen (that’s good)
– physical buttons in general (e.g. for air recirc)
– neat-o advanced cruise control
– coupe-like doors

– no climate prestart on keyfob
– plug on wrong side of car
– kind of ugly, especially looking straight at front or rear
– tire size mix means no rotating to even out tire wear
– no power seats, not even as an option
– no sunroof, not even as an option (note: sunroof available as of 2017)

Some of these “cons” are discussed in the article I linked to above, written in Dec 2013.  See also the “checklist for the perfect electric car” page for much more detail about what makes a good EV.

There is one special “con” not listed above: the poor behavior of the “range extender” or “REx” feature. I did test drive a REx i3 for a couple days, and I thought the REx behavior was horrible. It was underpowered, and the gas engine would continue whining away even when the car was stopped at traffic lights. Further, i3 REx owners continue to have some problems with their cars, even into late 2016, by which time BMW really should have worked the bugs out. If you can live with the 100 mile range of the i3 (and the growing DCFC network makes this a lot easier) than you really are better off getting an i3 BEV (the pure electric version). If you will be using the REx feature a lot (because your daily driving is more than 100 miles or so), I recommend you get a Chevy Volt instead. The Volt has much better range-extending behavior, and if you’re going to be dipping into the REx mode on a daily basis, you’re better off with a Volt.

In short, the i3 is more of a high performance car than most of the other EVs on the market, with careful attention paid to how well it actually DRIVES. Ultimately, the i3 is the best car for me, for now.

advice on buying a USED i3

The BMW i3 has now been on the market long enough that we are starting to see them appear used, expired off lease or whatever.  Used EVs are a huge bargain in general, because A) they don’t really wear out like gas-engine cars do, and B) their prices are depressed by the ever-improving capabilities of the newest cars on the market.

If you are considering a used i3, you need to be aware of these details:

– model year 2014: had optional DCFC, so either make sure any 2014 you are looking at has the DCFC option, or insist on a big discount; the reason that car is still on the lot is likely because it doesn’t have DCFC

– model year 2014: in general, this first year of production was a little buggy and troublesome, so make sure that all of BMW HQ’s “bulletins” on the car have been performed by a dealer (especially the motor mount fix and the 2017 REx software update)

– must-have options:  tech package and heated seats (and DCFC on 2014s as mentioned above)

– rear-view camera requires the “parking assist” package; you won’t ever use the automatic-parking feature (it works poorly) but you’ll definitely want that backup camera

– interior “worlds”: BMW has 3-4 different levels of interior trims that govern what kind of seat and console materials are used (leather, wood, etc.); Mega and Deka are base level trims, Giga is middle level, and Tera is top level