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2014 BMW i3 REx: Range-Extended Electric Car Drive Report, By Very First Owner

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This past Wednesday, May 21, I picked up my shiny new 2014 BMW i3 REx range-extended electric car from JMK BMW in Springfield, New Jersey.

The car, in Laurel Grey, was the first range-extended i3 delivered in North America, and I will always appreciate that BMW gave me the honor of being the first delivery. More than two years ago, I had been selected to receive the first BMW ActiveE delivery, also a great honor.

2014 BMW i3 REx range-extended electric car - buyer Tom Moloughney with salesman Manny Antunes

2014 BMW i3 REx range-extended electric car - buyer Tom Moloughney with salesman Manny Antunes

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Over the next year, I'll be writing a series of articles that document my experiences and thoughts owning the i3 REx. My goal is to report back about every 5,000 miles. I'm happy to take suggestions for specific tests and pictures that readers here would like to see.

Today, I'll discuss my initial impressions after two whole days of owning the first electric car in the U.S. to be fitted with an optional range extender--unlike the Chevrolet Volt, Fisker Karma, and Cadillac ELR, in which the range-extending engine comes standard.

2014 BMW i3 REx range-extended electric car owned by Tom Moloughney - in garage with BMW ActiveE

2014 BMW i3 REx range-extended electric car owned by Tom Moloughney - in garage with BMW ActiveE

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First, I'd be remiss if I didn't discuss the i3's appearance. It has been called everything from ugly through polarizing to award-winning. In fact, it did indeed win the World Car Design of the Year award--but for many people it is just too "un-BMW-like" for their taste.

I'll acknowledge that it doesn't have the sexy lines of a Ferrari, but I don't think it's ugly at all--and I also believe (as many others have pointed out) that it looks better in person than in pictures.

The interior is a totally different story. I really love what BMW has done with the interior design. The seats are comfortable and the interior seems almost Tardis-like: Somehow the i3 feels as if it has more interior room than its small size should allow. It certainly has much more room than my ActiveE (based on the BMW 1-Series), and the company says its interior volume is nearly as great as that of a 3-Series.

DON'T MISS: Electric Cars For Speed Freaks: Which One Is Quickest?

2014 BMW i3 range-extender EPA window sticker (Image: Tom Moloughney)

2014 BMW i3 range-extender EPA window sticker (Image: Tom Moloughney)

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That's surprising when you consider how much shorter an i3 is (157 inches) against a 1-Series (172 inches), let alone the 3-Series (183 inches). No doubt the i3's height and large windows help here. The net result is a feeling that you're driving a much bigger car than you actually are.

Extensive use of carbon fiber and aluminum lets the lightweight i3 run on a relatively small battery (21.6 kilowatt-hours of capacity, with 18.8 kWh usable) and gives it an EPA range rating of 81 miles. My REx version, which is heavier, was rated at 72 miles per charge. And so far, that rating seems pretty accurate.

I got 83 miles on Thursday before the REx turned on, but that required efficient driving and keeping my highway speed down to 65mph.

Later that day, when I was driving normally, it turned on after 69 miles--so I suspect the 72-mile EPA rating is about what I should expect under normal conditions in mild weather. When the winter rolls around, I'll be sure to report how much impact the cold temperatures and snow have on the range.


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