It's clearly the week for news about the new and distinctive 2014 BMW i3 electric car.

Yesterday, as the first cars arrived at dealers, we learned that it was rated at 81 miles of range (less than a 2014 Nissan Leaf's 84 miles), but operates at an unparalleled efficiency of 124 MPGe.

Window sticker from 2014 BMW i3 battery-electric car, showing EPA ratings [photo: Tom Moloughney]

Window sticker from 2014 BMW i3 battery-electric car, showing EPA ratings [photo: Tom Moloughney]

Then, late last night, we found that California buyers who ponied up for the range-extended option--the car known as the BMW i3 REx--will receive the same $2,500 purchase rebate from the state as if they'd bought the battery-electric version.

DON'T MISS: 2014 BMW i3 Electric Car: Why California Set Range Requirements, Engine Limits

That makes the 2014 i3 REx the first-ever battery-operated car with a combustion engine to qualify as an electric car under California's guidelines.

All other cars that fall into that category, including the Chevrolet Volt, Ford C-Max and Fusion Energi models, Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid, Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid, Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, and others receive only a $1,500 rebate.

The difference is due to the design of the BMW i3's range-extending option, which has been engineered to make the range-extended model the first-ever "BEVx" under state law.

Basically, it's a battery-electric car with a range extender that's strictly limited, and only used under certain conditions.

Among other criteria, the California rules define a BEVx by requiring that:

  • The basic car has to be rated at 75 miles of range, or more;
  • The range extender (called an "auxiliary power unit," or APU) can only offer range equal to or less than the rated battery range;
  • The range extender can't be switched on unless the battery is entirely depleted;
  • The BEVx vehicle has to meet some technical "super ultra low emission vehicle" (SULEV) requirements; and
  • Its engine and fuel systems must meet requirements for zero evaporative emissions.

2014 BMW i3, 2013 Frankfurt Auto Show

2014 BMW i3, 2013 Frankfurt Auto Show

While we still don't know the electric or gasoline ranges or efficiency ratings for the BMW i3 REx--it's heavier, so they'll likely be lower than the battery-only version--California is apparently satisfied that it meets all the requirements above.

While the first BMW i3 delivery is likely to be today, the range-extended models won't arrive in the U.S. for many more weeks.

And when they do, California buyers can apply for their $2,500 rebates, but they'll join a waiting list and won't get their checks until September.

If, that is, there are sufficient funds left--or more are allocated.

Rebate funds ran out earlier this month, although the state added $25 million to fund some of the rebates on the steadily growing waiting list.


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