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Confessions of an i3 owner

Discussion in 'Model S' started by Mike K, Jun 3, 2016.

  1. Mike K

    Mike K Member

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    #1 Mike K, Jun 3, 2016
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2016
    So I've had an i3 for two weeks now. My wife had an Infiniti FX35 which basically became a lawn ornament the moment I bought my Tesla. The FX35 is considered a "good" SUV and it was good. Build quality was stellar and it was somewhat fast but it was crippled by a 7 speed transmission that made it almost unbearable to drive around town and impossible to drive smoothly. More than that though, every time we left the house we were faced with a value proposition: take the Tesla and pay nothing to drive or take the Infiniti and put gas in it.

    Then I got an email

    From the local BMW dealer. $0.00 drive-off and $259.99 + tax a month for a top of the line trim i3 with the range extender. The i3 has been on my short list for no other reason than it's owners seem to like it and having a second electric car would inevitably end up in me putting less miles on the Tesla. Combine that with the fact that the Infiniti needed tires, was 7 years old and the BMW came with a $2500 California rebate and I was sold. We grabbed the i3.

    The Bad

    • The range extender - So far we've never needed it but there were a few times I tested it. The range extender is a generator that only comes on at 6% state of charge and is only designed to hold that state of charge. It does not drive the wheels directly. It has three modes: "Barely on", "Ok now I hear it" and "Jesus Christ, is someone running a lawnmower in the back of my car!?". Those are the official BMW modes. Take my word for it. I live at the top of a hill which means that by the time I reach the top of my hill with no charge, the range extender is in emergency mode. Emergency mode literally sounds as if someone taped a running lawn mower to the bottom of your car. This is embarrassing BMW. I realize it's a 2 cylinder motor but it may as well not be muffled at all. As another fun experiment, I went up the San Gabriel mountains on just the range extender. Top speed: 39mph. That's not just the top speed I reached; that was the top speed of the car.
    The Good
    • Range Estimator - Tesla is doing this wrong. I absolutely hate the way the Tesla estimates remaining range because it's wrong 100% of the time unless your drive is downhill with a tailwind. The i3 is like every other vehicle you've driven in that it displays it's estimated range based on your driving habits. So while it has 81 miles of EPA rated range, a full charge shows as 67 miles of range which is based on historical efficiency. And I much prefer this instead of trying to figure out the voodoo that is Tesla's range estimate because if the car tells me I have x amount of miles of all electric range left, I know it's true. It's not like road tripping with the Model S where I'm building up 50 mile buffers between superchargers because I know my 150 miles of rated range isn't going to get me 130 miles to the next supercharger.
    • Build Quality - The i3 is unapologetically cheaper than the Model S yet feels significantly better built inside. Now I'm sure some of this has to do with the car having just 500 miles but if I'm being honest, the Model S's build quality has always left me disappointed. Having come from BMWs, Audi's and the like, I found the Model S's interior to be a disappointment. I know some swear that the newer cars are better. I've not found that to be the case. I've found the newer cars to be newer but not appreciably better built. I also think people tend to need a reason to justify a bump from an older Model S to a newer Model S and so they're inclined to see improvements where improvements do not exist.
    Now a Model S it is not. It doesn't have a lot of electric range, it's range extender is comically bad, it's not very large inside and it's not a sports car by any stretch of the imagination. What it is is a nice city car that's comfortable, torquey and well built and for $259 a month and no money down how do you say no?
     
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  2. ecarfan

    ecarfan Well-Known Member

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    BMW is desperate to move their i3 inventory, as sales are way down this year compared to last year.
    While I think the Tesla range estimator could be improved, my experience is that it is very accurate over 80% of the time.
    I agree, for that price it is a compelling city EV. Too bad it's so shockingly unattractive from the outside.
     
  3. Johan

    Johan Took a TSLA bear test. Came back negative.

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    Don't buy the black with the white thick "stripe" going across longitudinally. It looks like a skunk.
     
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  4. SMPL

    SMPL Member

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    I test drove the i3 three times before settling on the tesla. I find the fit and finish in the tesla to be nicer .... I feel the is is dated with its clunky buttons for the radio. Granted the two displays are super sleek, those buttons ruin it for me.

    Tesla all the way !!

    :)
     
  5. Great Dane

    Great Dane Member

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    The range estimator is perfect in my tesla
    just watch your speed and
    drive gentle and it is spot on
    Remember to drive it like an EV not
    an ice
     
  6. Saghost

    Saghost Active Member

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    I actually thought Tesla was breaking some rather impressive new ground with the range estimator - at least the one built in to the trip planner navigation side.

    Granted, folks like evtripplanner had done some rather similar things, but Tesla added real time usage and HVAC into the elevation/efficiency based models to give a SoC prediction for every point long the trip, including especially the end.

    From everything I've read, it's been both very accurate and really useful for people (apparently a lot of folks adjust how they're driving on longer trips now based on the trip prediction arrival SoC.)
     
  7. Evbwcaer

    Evbwcaer Member

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    Is there any good reason that you cannot turn the range extender on right away if you know you will be going for a 60 mile plus trip?

    Why do you have to wait for a low state of charge instead of buffering the discharge with a running range extender from the get go?
     
  8. davewill

    davewill Member

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    #8 davewill, Jun 3, 2016
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2016
    BMW had to limit the range extender in order to qualify as an BEVx vs PHEV. It meant they got more credits from CARB. It isn't as restricted outside the US. You can hack the car if you're brave enough.
     
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  9. TurboFroggy

    TurboFroggy Member

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    I found the Tesla range estimate to be quite good, especially the trip range estimator when you navigating. Maybe your range indicator in Tesla is set to ideal instead of rated?
     
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  10. EV-lutioin

    EV-lutioin Member

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    Hmm, a BMW lawnmower.... sounds like a desperate stop gap measure to compensate for lack of range and a super charging network. At least your lawn will look good :)
     
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  11. yeti

    yeti Member

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    I've had an i3 for two years and a Model S for a little more than two weeks now. I wonder if the i3's range estimator has a software fix since then, because I've found its range estimates wildly off -- especially when it is windy or cold. I don't think BMW does OTA updates like Tesla and I've heard they even charge for non-mandatory/recall software updates (and they can only be done at the dealers).

    The i3 is a great little car and it does feel as if it is better built than Tesla. I think that's down to BMW having many more decades of expertise building cars. However, I'm done with BMW and will be turning in the i3 as soon as I possibly can and will never step into another BMW again. A distracted driver crashed into the back of our i3 when my wife was driving it and it took 3 different dealers and over five months to fix the car. The first two months of waiting was all about one dealer waiting for a parts database update! No kidding. Given that we're paying more than twice of what you're paying (part of the early adopter stupid tax I suppose), and having a horrid five+ months trying to figure out what's happening with the car, I cannot love a car that wears the BMW badge anymore.

    However, I must still thank BMW for showing me the light because instead of getting a second i3, we now have a Tesla and hopefully another Tesla when it is time for the i3 to go. :)
     
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  12. Mike K

    Mike K Member

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    Unless you are driving exactly how the EPA tests the car no, no it's not. That range estimator is just EPA range. It doesn't account for how you're driving the car at all. So who knows... maybe your daily drive to work just happens to perfectly mimic the EPA test cycle. :)


    See that's the thing. If I need to drive a certain way for my displayed range to be accurate than it's not accurate. Every ICE vehicle I've driven in has given me a total range estimate based on recent driving habits, an average of how I drive. The i3 works the same way. So a full rated charge of 81 miles only shows as 67 miles because of the way I drive it. I so much prefer that because the rating is accurate.

    The way the Tesla displays range is akin to if an ICE car simply displayed EPA rated range every time you filled the tank. It's only an accurate number under very specific circumstances. Lastly, if Tesla's range estimator was working properly it wouldn't go through 1.3 miles of rated range to travel a mile at highway speeds. It would recognize the speed it's traveling and the power that that speed requires and it would adjust it's range down.

    To be clearly, Tesla themselves refers to the on dash range as "rated". I.E. EPA rated. They make no claims to it being adjusted for driving style. So anyone saying that their range is accurate, it's only coincidence.

    In my experience it works great so long as you don't speed. I just got back from a trip to San Francisco from LA and we take the car to Phoenix regularly. I've learned to ignore the "you have enough power to continue on your trip" message because it's always wrong. I'll pull out of the supercharger with it telling me I'll have a 20% state of charge at my next stop and literally 5 - 10 minutes later that drops to 13%. The reason I think this is the case is because it's assuming a fixed speed instead of taking an average of how I've actually been driving. I started a thread about this and a bunch of people filed in with the same complaint.

    As it is, I generally put in a 50 mile buffer between superchargers. So if the next supercharger is 130 miles away I'll make sure I have 180 miles of range and I might pull in with 15 miles of rated range. So 35 miles of that buffer will have evaporated. The way it should work is the car should estimate how I've been driving and base my range on that. If rated range were accurate I would pull out of the supercharger without the need for a buffer. I wouldn't have to have this odd dance with my car where it lies to me and I compensate for that lie by overcharging it. Otherwise I agree. The onboard trip planner is amazing. It's 90% of the way there.

    I think someone else mentioned it but BMW handicapped the i3 for credits. So it's range extender can only come on at 6% SOC and it can't get more gas range than electric so they software limit the size of the gas tank as well. The good news on both fronts is that you can undo this for about $100 which will give you use of the full 2.4 gallon tank as well as allow you to turn on the range extender at any time under 75% SOC. That actually gives it purpose.

    No, rated. Rated is just EPA ideal. It makes a lot of assumptions and does not take your driving style into account. This is why we can all compare our range at certain battery charge levels. The closest thing Tesla ever had to an accurate range estimator was projected range but you can't display that as your instrument cluster range any longer. The best you can do is pull up the trip computer and average for the last 30 miles of driving. I'd be perfectly sasified if this was how the car calculated range because it would at least have some basis in reality.
     
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  13. Mike K

    Mike K Member

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    I wonder if it's just because I have a 2016 then. Yes, BMW is notoriously stingy with software updates. After owning a Tesla I can't fathom how every car company isn't doing OTA updates these days.

    That sucks. Sorry to hear that.
     
  14. ecarfan

    ecarfan Well-Known Member

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    The Tesla Energy Graph/range estimator takes elevation changes and speed into account. It does not appear to factor in headwinds, rain, or air temp. Still, I find it very useful.
     
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  15. HyperMiler

    HyperMiler Member

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    Part of the nice price could be that as of July, there is a 33/29 usable kWh upgrade for the i3 battery, 3 phase charger coming, at least in Europe. I also read about a class action lawsuit pending trying to force BMW to allow REx starting at will, like in Europe. Apparently you can have that coded in the BMW forum community.

    If the REx can be used at say 70% range to maintain charge during the freeway passages of those rare occasion longer trips, you can hardly hear it, and the car maintains excellent performance, because cruising at freeway speed is not consuming more than the REx can deliver.

    Down to 6% and up a steeper grade, however, you are talking about a 1.3 ton 40hp ICE at the top of its lungs... .
     
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  16. Mike K

    Mike K Member

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    It won't happen because the implications with the EPA are too big, especially with the diesel-gate fallout. It would be nice to have that functionality from BMW though. There really is no reason to handcuff it.

    Even at 6% SOC it's totally fine unless I start climbing into my neighborhood where it then promptly runs out of juice and the range extender kicks into emergency mode.
     
  17. SageBrush

    SageBrush Active Member

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    If this is the one I am thinking of, my wife and I love it. We call it a 'panda' ;-)
     
  18. SageBrush

    SageBrush Active Member

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    I hate to say this, but BMW was strong-armed into that arrangement by CARB to receive ZEV credits. I gather in Europe the range extender can be turned on at any SOC, which allows the driver to pre-plan climbs.
     
  19. Joules Verne

    Joules Verne Member

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    It's not how fast you mow.
    It's how well you mow fast.
     
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  20. Manny13z

    Manny13z Member

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    I currently own the i3, no range extender on mine. I'm super excited to get my MS, but I really love that little car and part of me will miss it. I think overall BMW did an excellent job. It's really fun to drive, very quick, and handles well.

    They also have plenty of room for improvement. In their total focus to shave the weight of the car, they made a lot of compromises. One is the seats, they barely have cushion and get uncomfortable after a while. The other is the rims, although they look good they are awfully thin. My brother asked me if those were the original tires on the Ford Model T. They are so thin that in heavy rain the car feels a little unstable.

    PS: Some here have called it ugly, I disagree. I get stopped and complimented on the car on almost a daily basis.
     
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