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BMW i3 Joins CleanTechnica

In addition to our long-term Nissan LEAF and long-term Tesla Model S reviews, we’re now adding a BMW i3 REx to the CleanTechnica stable.

In addition to our long-term Nissan LEAF and long-term Tesla Model S reviews, we’re now adding a BMW i3 REx to the CleanTechnica stable for a long-term, ongoing review.

After much deliberation — over the course of nearly 3 years — I finally decided after moving to Florida with my wife and two daughters (2 and 4) to get a used BMW i3 REx as our solo transporter.

Various factors were at play here — the lack of a base Tesla Model 3 for another several more months, attractive used i3 prices, the short-term nature of our overall plans, and more. But I think the matter that weighed stronger than everything else was that I fell in love with the i3 on my first test drive (it was actually the first electric car I ever drove, back in 2013) and that love only grew over time.

In particular, features I love about the i3 include: the awesome acceleration, the superb turning radius and “ultracompact” size, the very open and seemingly spacious interior (despite being an ultracompact car), the helicopter-like visibility, the exterior design, the highly admirable BMW fit & finish, the pre-cooling feature on the app (critical in hot Florida with two little kids), the range extender (which is super seldom needed but does provided that extra backup range at a relatively cheap premium), and the suicide doors (yes, the suicide doors, since the make sure the little ones stay locked in the back and they make loading & unloading them that much easier).

The obvious downsides: not a ton of storage space, not nearly as much range as a Tesla (or Chevy Bolt or new Nissan LEAF), no Supercharging, no Autopilot (though, traffic-aware cruise control is halfway there).

We’ve had the i3 for a little over a week now. So far, we love the car as much as we thought we would — maybe more.

The acceleration is just perfect. We had a Model S 85D in Poland and appreciated the nearly insane power of that car, but what the i3 has is all you really need (more than you really need) and feels a bit more refined and safer to me. (Not to say I wouldn’t happily take the power of a Tesla again.) If I need to get into traffic or around someone quickly, the i3 has enough peppiness to do so easily while also throwing in a bit of exhilaration to tickle my and my daughters’ fancy. (My wife doesn’t like it as much, so she keeps our fun in check.)

The ultracompact size may seem like it’s only a downside, but it’s actually a major plus for us. We love that the girls are quite close despite being in car seats in the back — it’s easy to reach them and hear them, and it’s just nice feeling like we’re traveling together rather than in different wagons. In terms of driving, the ultracompact size is also awesome for getting through narrow places, making sharp turns, and parking in tight spots. I absolutely love it, and it’s one key characteristic that makes me actually prefer the i3 to the Model S we had over the past year — honestly.

There are several things I miss from Tesla. For the most part, they aren’t humongous losses, but they are “nice to haves” that slowly build up the points on Tesla’s side again and inch me closer to a base Tesla Model 3. I’ll get into these topics in coming articles as I dive into specific aspects of CleanTechnica‘s new (used) i3 REx.

As with the Nissan LEAF* and Tesla Model S, we will be living with no home charging. Again, though, neither of us have a commute since I work from home and my wife is a full-time mom. Lack of home charging seems to pose no real problem for us, but it surely does add some extra time and responsibility to EV life — we have to plug in at the store, at the park, at the beach, etc. But it’s also fun. 😀 And it provides a little extra moderate exercise, which is useful in a car-centric world like Florida.

The CleanTechnica i3, which we’ve nicknamed “Bond” or “Bondy” (for family reasons), has already attracted a handful of admiring eyeballs and led to some EV education. That is one of the often forgotten pros of the i3 over most other electric cars. It really pulls people in with its unique look. Some may hate it, but many love it and find it enticing, exciting, and representative of a new era in transportation tech.

Coming articles about the i3 will discuss:

¤ BMW i3 apps (BMW Connected & BMW i Remote).

¤ Storage space in the i3 REx.

¤ Transporting young kids in the i3 REx.

¤ Charging & fueling the i3 REx.

¤ The “suicide doors” — pros & cons.

¤ BMW i3 infotainment — better than the 1990s, but no Tesla.

¤ BMW i3 air conditioning.

¤ BMW i3 regenerative braking & one-pedal driving — unbeatable?

¤ BMW i3 at the beach.

¤ Little annoying things about the i3.

To close out, below is a long string of photos with our CleanTechnica stickers put on or being put on. Note that the first one and a handful of others were taken by my 4 year old.

*The LEAF lived with home charging for a few days in the past week while its driver rented a houseboat. It may soon move back to that unique home charging option for the longer term.

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Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.


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