2014 BMW i3 REx range-extended electric car - buyer Tom Moloughney with salesman Manny Antunes
There are drivers who view the limited range of an electric car as a limitation--and those who view it as a challenge.
Only with the latter attitude would one BMW i3 owner think to travel more than 400 miles in a car with 72 miles of electric range, assisted by a small gasoline range extender fed by a tiny fuel tank.
That's exactly what electric-car advocate Tom Moloughney did, driving a 2014 BMW i3 REx 462 miles from New Jersey to Vermont.
He recounted the experience in a recent blog post.
2014 BMW i3 REx owned by Tom Moloughney
Distance wouldn't be the only challenge for driver and car.
The trip involved mostly highway driving, as well as an elevation gain of about 1,000 feet, and cold temperatures to boot--it was only 15 degrees Fahrenheit the morning of the first leg.
The cold meant that even though the car left New Jersey with a full charge, the range extender switched on after just 48 miles.
That required three fuel stops--although at least the REx's 1.9-gallon gas tank made them quick, at a mere 2 minutes per stop.
For maximum efficiency, Moloughney used the adaptive cruise control, finding that 70 mph allowed the range extender to comfortably maintain the battery's state of charge.
On the return leg--along a different, shorter route and in warmer weather--the car achieved 63 miles of electric range.
2014 BMW i3 REx range-extended electric car owned by Tom Moloughney - after delivery
This time, Moloughney made four fuel stops, including one to top off the tank at the end of his journey.
The electric BMW seems to have performed creditably, considering that--unlike, say, the Chevrolet Volt--the i3 REx range extender isn't really meant to turn the car into a long-distance cruiser.
The REx engine is a 650-cc two-cylinder adapted from motorcycle applications; using it yields an EPA-rated maximum range of 150 miles from the battery and fuel tank combined.
While the i3 REx isn't an ideal road-trip car, it still offers enough capability for an enthusiastic owner willing to push the limits.
And that may be the cleverest part of BMW's minimalist approach to its range extender.