2014 BMW i3 Electric Car: Connectivity, Navigation Highlights

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BMW i3 Coupe concept

BMW i3 Coupe concept

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We'll finally see an undisguised 2014 BMW i3 electric car in about two weeks.

But, this week, BMW released not only a few technical specifications for the powertrain but also some details of the car's advanced connectivity and navigation systems.

First, the car has its own cellular connection--as do many cars--but it uses its communications abilities in some new and interesting ways.

The suite of services and apps is grouped under the umbrella of BMW ConnectedDrive, a system already offered on other BMW vehicles.

Apps for all situations

Owners can share information with their i3 electric cars via a smartphone app called BMW i Remote. Those might be destinations to enter into the navigation system, commands to pre-heat or pre-cool the cabin, or battery charging instructions.

Another app provides walking directions from wherever the car is parked to a driver's final destination.

BMW also claims a world first for the car's navigation system, which provides intermodal route guidance--not only driving, but also public transport and walking--for the fastest or most energy-efficient ways to get between two locations.

Focusing on range

The Range Assistant app will advise the driver if a destination would be more safely reached by driving in the more efficient Eco Pro mode.

Like most electric cars, the BMW i3 navigation includes the location of charging stations--but it can also route the driver through a station as part of the route calculation.

Interestingly, that range and route calculation actually occurs on a BMW computer system, not locally in the car, with the results transmitted back to the i3 once they're computed.

Edging toward autonomy

Perhaps the most interesting facets of the BMW i3 are its many electronic safety and driving systems.

They include:

2014 BMW i3

2014 BMW i3

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  • Active Cruise Control: Adaptive cruise isn't new, but the BMW system includes a Stop & Go function that can brake at up to the car's full braking ability, down to 0 mph and back up to highway traveling speeds.
  • Traffic Jam Assistant: This may be the most interesting feature, though we'll have to wait to find out if it's offered in the U.S. market (liability lawyers, y'know). This lets the car pull away from a stop, steer, and brake in low-speed urban traffic--a feature previewed at the August 2011 launch of the BMW i3 Concept.
  • Parking Assistant: The automated parallel parking system controls not only the steering, but also the accelerator and brakes--making this fully automated parking.
  • Park Distance Control: This is a more standard proximity alert system, which can be supplemented by a rear-vision camera as well.
  • Speed Limit Info: This displays the speed limits prevailing on the road where the car is traveling at any given moment, working together with the navigation system.

Borrowing other BMWs

BMW notes that its data from the MINI E and BMW ActiveE electric-car fleet tests revealed that the average distance traveled was 30 miles a day.

But the carmaker recognizes that some drivers may need to cover distances beyond the i3's electric range.

Its 360 Electric program lets owners arrange to borrow other vehicles from the company's line for occasional longer trips--a service also offered by Nissan and Fiat, among other electric-car makers.

There'll be much, much more to come on the BMW i3 very soon.

Meanwhile, this may provide food for thought for those who want to drive all electricity in a technically advanced vehicle.


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Comments (14)
  1. Sounds like some very cool tech in addition to being a very exciting EV.

  2. Now we know why BMW is doing the i-Series Genius system in the dealerships. Can you imagine how much time it will take to do a thorough delivery and explain all this stuff to each new buyer?

  3. It sounds like a great state of the art EV and has the things I bought my Volt for plus +++. 30 miles is correct IMO as the 45 miles in the Volt takes care of 90% of all trips. Still happy to have the engine.

  4. Looks like I'll have something else to seriously consider when I turn in my Leaf in 20 months...

  5. It has a gasoline generator that extends the range by another 150 miles. BMW i3 = Volt + Leaf (Perfect).

  6. Perhaps John has the answer but I don't believe that the total range is 80 +150. If the range extension is another 80 miles then the available range on a charge is more like 160 miles.

  7. @Carol, @Bernard: The i3's range extending engine is expected to have a fuel tank sized to give it *less than* the range from the battery. If battery range is rated at 85 miles, the gasoline range will be less than 85 miles.

    This qualifies it as a BEVx, meaning CA will view it as a pure electric car and give it a "white sticker" for HOV Lane access (and some other benefits).

    Owners can then toss in another 3 gallons of fuel and carry on, of course, but the range extension is not likely to be Carol's 150 miles.

    The more important issue: Is performance the same using the range extender?

  8. I think it's a mistake to have just one size option for a ReX and the not-quite-3 gallon tank is undersized.
    At the expected price, BMW should at least make the car go ~300 miles with a full charge and a full tank.
    How much more could it cost to have a 1.0 L engine option and a 6-8 gallon tank?

  9. @Nick: But if they did that, it wouldn't be an electric car with a range extender. It would be a plug-in hybrid--which is treated differently under CARB ZEV rules.

  10. @Nick: And I'd also suggest that while BMW can fit a two-cylinder engine under the rear deck, along with a very small gasoline tank (in front of the passenger compartment), the changes required to accommodate what you're talking about would be substantial.

  11. More importantly, why didn't BMW push the envelope a bit further and design the i3 with a 150-mile all-electric range followed by another 150-mile extended range to meet both the 300-mile "written in stone" demand by consumers and the CARB's marionette fetish?

  12. There are more comments in this thread
  13. A good way to make another overpriced, overteched EV that few will buy.

    EV's are simple and no reason for most of the com tech and especially when completely dependent on BMW's prying eyes on everything you do.

    If they were really interested in a good reasonably priced EV they would have done it more simple and medium tech composites as CF is way overhyped and the little, only 10% of the part itself, at 10-20x's the cost of a medium tech one of the same strength.

    What they are really doing is trying to prove EV's are too expensive so they don't have to make them.

    They better be careful or Tesla is going to clean their clock as they already have in the Lux Sedan class.

  14. Yeah, BMW coming to market with an EV prices comparably to the current 3-series shows most others that BMW is serious about the EV market. Contrary to you, most EV buyers/owners are extremely tech savvy and will want most tech features including the ones you dislike.

    I'm also no more interested in BMW's "'prying eyes" than I am in any other overly paranoid attack not based on reality. BMW won't be doing anything that other OEMs don't already do, of course. Sounds like somebody has a prior anti-BMW bias, perhaps?

    If BMW's secret plot of running the EV market by making EVs cost too much were anything other than your paranoia, the i3 would cost much more, of course.

    Yes, the Model S is better, at abut double the cost. Poor comparison.

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