This is a new feature at AUTO Connected Car News where actual car owners or lessees write about their experiences with technology connected cars.
The following is written by woman who leased a BMW i3 in January and plans to return it, who we call Madame X. We did not use her name because she wanted to have the best negotiating power with her sales associate.
The BMW i3 is sold as being integrated with connect car technology.
Update 2/2017: BMW is recalling more than 19,000 i3 REx plug-in hybrids in the U.S. because they could develop a fuel vapor leak that would increase the risk of a fire. Cars from the 2014 to 2017 affected by the recall.
I’ve been leasing BMWs for years, when I was in a car accident, a tow truck arrived almost immediately from the BMW roadside assistance system, BMW Assist. In January, I rode in my friend’s Prius and realized I wanted something more eco-friendly, when I leased my next BMW. The sales woman suggested the BMW i3 with the range extender and DC fast charge option.
After I drove off the lot, I contacted my electric company to have a charger installed at my home in North East Los Angeles. In order to get the lower rate, I would have to install a new meter. The garage was far from the main power source and a charger with a new meter would be very expensive to install.
I decided to opt with charging my BMW i3 at work where there is a ChargePoint station. I also charged the car at local garages and super chargers.
After two weeks, I tried to return it as my love/hate relationship with the car continued to develop. When I bought the car they told me that the range would be 71 miles on electric power. When I returned they said that they did over-estimate the number miles on the electric charge. They also told me that they would help me with my charging situation.
The problem is that whenever I go anywhere, I’m always worried that I will run out of charge.
I’m very busy, I’m in management, I don’t have the time to stop and charge the BMW i3. Charging is very inconvenient especially when it takes several hours for a full charge. Even the half hour super charge seems too long to wait. I have the app and it really doesn’t help that much, because there are only so many chargers in the area.
I can’t visit my friends who live outside Los Angeles County because I’m not sure, I can get a charge. I can’t pull up to their house and take out my charging cord and connect it to the BMW i3.
Also, when I’m driving the BMW i3, it feels like a car that I would drive 30 years ago when I was young. It’s very light and not as comfortable or luxurious as my previous BMW models. It doesn’t have the power or smoothness, I’m used to. I need another car for longer trips.
I’m paying $600 a month on the lease and $125 a month for charging at various stations around town, plus the charging situation is always producing range anxiety.
The last straw came when I was driving back from the Inland Empire, I was in a fast lane on the freeway. I ran out of battery power and the gasoline extension engine started.
I couldn’t keep up with traffic I had to pull over and drive in the slow lane which produced even more anxiety.
There was burning smell that really bothered me. I think it may have damaged the batteries or something.
The whole way home, I was afraid that I wasn’t going to make it. Since the freeway episode, it doesn’t seem to be driving as well.
Thankfully, I have a lease that I can get of any time. I’m going back to the dealer to see get something better. I’m also going to look at the Tesla S.
This buyer illustrates the problem we’ve seen with the Range Extender on the BMW i3, some reviewers have noticed when the range extender motor is engaged the BMW i3 has trouble getting up hills and it also can slow down to 40 mph.
Even BMW states “The range extender is not intended for daily use. It’s for situations when the driver needs to extend the range of the vehicle to reach the next charging station.” The BMW i3 is designed as a city car, but people in the city don’t necessarily have a charger or the correct power in their garages if they park in a garage at all.
The range extender has been called “inelegant, and it doesn’t seem to supply the car with adequate power for non-city driving.” When the battery is below 6 percent and the motor is supplying power in “get to charger” mode it has been reported that the BMW i3 can only handle about 40 mph which is not safe on the freeway.
It has been reported that in designing the BMW i3, BMW chose to use the engine only for extending range in order to enable California drivers to receive a full $2500 rebate. For whatever reason, the extended range option on the BMW i3 appears to not relieve range anxiety but add to it.
We have also seen reviews from actual buyers who confirm you need to have a charger at home and at work to feel comfortable in with an electric car that has a 71-80 mile range. Many owners note that the BMW i3 is not good for weekend road trips because the gas tank only holds 1.9 gallons with about 78 miles of driving range and finding charging stations is difficult.
The ride of BMW i3 has been referred to as bumpy.
The BMW i3 tries to do something similar to the Chevy Volt, however the Volt can go 380 with the gas engine and has a special mountain mode for going up hills.
EDITORS NOTE: Have you experienced extended range problems with a BMW i3? Would like to offer a real buyer review on a popular technology-oriented car? Please let us know what you think in the comments below.
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