The “Range Extender” model of the i3, which is equipped with a small petrol engine in the rear for greater range, has not been sold in Germany since 2018, since 359 purely electric kilometers are now possible with new battery technology. Except for the additional internal combustion engine on board and more modern batteries, the i3 received in 2014 by the ADAC largely corresponds to the current generation. According to the manufacturer, the then current version of the i3 REx made 170 kilometers electrically, with the support of the petrol engine about 300 kilometers.
The energy content of the battery of the i3 built in 2014 is 22 kWh, of which 18.8 kWh can actually be used. As part of the ADAC long-term test, the i3 was used by engineers from the Landsberg technology center, mainly for commuting on business trips, according to the Autoclub. Care was taken to drive as often as possible without the help of fossil fuel – i.e. without using the range extender. The real electrical ranges in the long-term test were between 90 and 130 kilometers, depending on the application scenario and weather – “only in the deep winter sometimes only 80 kilometers”.
The range extender, which is automatically activated when the battery charge level drops below seven percent, can draw on nine liters of fuel in the i3 REx. That was enough for the ADAC for an additional 100 to 120 kilometers. Based on the entire 100,000 kilometers in the long-term test, the share of gasoline operation was about 15 percent, and gasoline consumption on average 7.5 liters per 100 kilometers. “This is a rather high consumption, which should therefore be avoided in practice for cost reasons as well,” commented the testers. The reserve from the combustion engine would have been “very beneficial” for all users. The noise development of the petrol engine, however, is rather annoying compared to the silent sliding in electric mode.
In most cases, the tested i3 REx was charged at a wall box in the ADAC technical center, rarely at a household socket. With the equally rare fast current draw with up to 50 kW via CSS standard, the charging curve up to 45 percent fill level showed a stable high output, which was then continuously reduced. A battery that was only 10 percent charged could be refreshed 80 percent in 20 minutes.
No glitches, few defects
There was not much to report about defects and breakdowns during the endurance test according to the ADAC: The BMW i3 was mostly very reliable and never got stuck due to a technical defect. The testers list some unscheduled visits to the workshop, with a view to the electrical engineering, only a defective charging cable at 64,700 kilometers is mentioned here. Otherwise there were defects in the door sensor, fuel filler cap, steering wheel leather and radio key as well as an exchanged strut bearing.
The ADAC also highlights the quickly wearing, narrow tires, which are likely to be quickly overwhelmed by the high torque of the i3. The condition of the battery is likely to be more important for prospective buyers – the battery performance of electric cars deteriorates over time, which reduces the range. After five years and 100,000 kilometers, there is still 86 percent energy capacity left, reports the auto club. At the end of the long-term test, the e-range had dropped from around 100 to just 86 kilometers.
The testers finally praise the sportiness of the i3, its good room ergonomics for the occupants and a “very precisely” arriving, dynamically adjusted range forecast. With the destination entered in the navigation, the guide value is even more precise. In particular, a higher range and a cheaper price are mentioned as improvement requests of the users – BMW has already implemented the former. In addition, the counter-opening doors of the i3 are good for getting in, but this does not apply if there is limited space for opening, for example in parking spaces.