Sayonara i-MiEV, hallo i3!

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Well-known member
Apr 25, 2012
Honolulu, HI, and Uppsala, Sweden
Short version
On 5 November, we traded in our 2012 i-MiEV for a 2014 BMW i3 BEV. As a result, I will no longer be an active member of this forum but will become an active member of its sister MyBMWi3 forum. I have really enjoyed participating in this forum and have learned so much from the many knowledgeable and gracious members of this forum. Thank you very much! I'll see you at the charging station!

Long version
i-MiEV Problems
We have really enjoyed our i-MiEV. Its small exterior size, generous interior size relative to its exterior size, rear wheel drive, relatively light weight, silence, nimbleness, and peppiness were ideal for us. There wasn't another EV available in Honolulu that matched these qualities … until recently.

About 15 months ago, we moved 10 miles to the extreme southeast tip of Oahu. This additional 20 miles round-trip made driving to many locations in the north, west, and windward areas of Oahu impossible without stopping to charge en route. With the numbers of PHEV's increasing much faster than the number of public charging stations, finding a charging station that's not broken, not in use, and not ICE'd has become so difficult that we have been reticent to drive beyond the i-MiEV's range. As a result, we have increasingly avoided doing things that we enjoy. This has made us less satisfied with our i-MiEV, but there hasn't been an acceptable EV alternative … until recently.

Another concern we had was about the future of the i-MiEV. After its rather weak introduction in 2012 and poor U.S. sales, I had great hopes when Mitsubishi significantly lowered the MSRP of the 2014 model. But Mitsubishi and its dealers have done even less to market the 2014 i-MiEV and have made it almost unobtainable, so sales have dwindled to a trickle. It now appears almost certain that the total number of U.S. i-MiEV's sold will never exceed 2,000. While the i-MiEV has been very reliable, immediate parts availability is not assured even now. Finding knowledgeable mechanics isn't easy and will only get worse, especially in a place as isolated as Hawaii.

i3 Promise
When I began reading about a new BMW EV being developed, I did not pay much attention because so many new EV's have been compliance cars that are unavailable in Honolulu, because BMW's have been expensive to buy and maintain, and because BMW seemed to specialize in high-performance ICE vehicles. I could not imagine a BMW EV that would be like an i-MiEV's upscale twin. But then I began reading about BWM ICE owners accusing BMW of slighting ICE R&D in favor of EV R&D. Recently a Mercedes Benz executive boasted that they had developed their B Class ED for a fraction of the cost of BMW's i3. Whoa, could this really be true? Maybe BMW is serious about EV's after all, so I began reading all I could about the i3.

The first feature I noticed about the i3 was its compact size. Although it is about a foot longer and half a foot wider than the i-MiEV, its height, weight, and interior dimensions are almost identical. Its extra length is mostly in front of the driver which provides room for a small frunk in which the 120 v. 12 a. EVSE, tire air pump, emergency tire repair kit, and towing hook are stored with room remaining for a few small additional items. It feels quite spacious inside relatively to its compact exterior dimensions, just like the i-MiEV.

The i3 is also rear wheel drive with a turning circle that is only 2 feet wider than the i-MiEV. With its power/weight ratio about 2.5 times that of the i-MiEV, its acceleration is fast, but the i-MiEV is fast enough for us. A powerful motor also means that powerful regen is possible. The i3's only regen level is considerably stronger than that in the i-MiEV's B mode. With no creep mode, the i3 will stop using regen alone. I have rarely pressed the brake pedal which means that brake pads (disc brakes all around) should rarely need replacing. So one-pedal driving is the norm. I would like a freewheel option, but that's not available. I think (not sure) that pressing the brake pedal might not increase the regen level because regen is maximized by releasing the accelerator, so the i3 avoids the odd brake feel that can occur when the first bit of brake pedal movement increases regen while further movement then applies the friction brakes. With the i3, I believe the brake pedal just applies the friction brakes which makes braking feel very natural. This provides a clean separation of functionality between the accelerator pedal (purely propulsion and regen control) and the brake pedal (purely friction brake control).

The i3's Cd of 0.29 is significantly better than the i-MiEV's 0.34, but the i3's Cd could have been lower with a better design. Nevertheless, its combined city/highway fuel efficiency rating of 124 MPGe is the best of all production EV's rated. With a 22 kWh (18.8 kWh usable) battery pack, its gross battery pack capacity is 38% greater than that of the i-MiEV which results in rated range that's 19 miles, or 31%, greater. With its battery pack's temperature liquid-controlled, I'm hopeful that the degradation of its battery pack in our warm climate will be slower than that of the i-MiEV's battery pack whose temperature is uncontrolled.

I'm particularly impressed with BMW's focus on minimizing weight. Despite a considerable larger, heavier battery pack and a much more substantial interior, it weighs about the same as our i-MiEV. The i3's skateboard frame and many other parts that are usually steel are aluminum with a carbon fiber reinforced plastic passenger compartment. The exterior panels are thermoplastic. None of this corrodes which was important to us in Honolulu's salty, humid air. This reminds us of our 2000 Honda Insight which is almost all aluminum, and we like that. However, collision repair costs could be high.

We are not impressed with the i3's back doors that hinge at the rear edge (a.k.a., suicide doors) and whose windows don't open at all. This design eliminates the pillar between the front and back seats, so with the front and back doors open, the entire side of the car is open. This makes back seat ingress/egress easier than the narrow rear doors might suggest. However, with no pillar, the front seat belts are anchored on the rear doors which means that front seat passengers must unbuckle their seat belts to allow the back doors to open. Also, the back door handle isn't accessible unless the front door is open, so the front door must be opened before and closed after the back door. In a tight parking space, back seat ingress/egress can be impossible.

I am guessing that the suicide door design is a compromise that allowed the i3 to be as short and light as possible while allowing very tall wheels and tires to be used. The outside diameter of the i3's tires is about 4.5" greater than that of the i-MiEV's tires which means that there is 4.5" less space between the front and rear tires for the front and back doors (the i3 and i-MiEV have an almost identical wheelbase). Narrow conventional rear doors would have made back seat ingress/egress more difficult.

What's with those very large 19" or 20" wheels and tires on such a small vehicle? As we know, narrow tires have less wind and rolling resistance than wide tires, but they also have a smaller contact patch area which can mean less traction. However, a tire with a larger diameter has a longer contact patch, so the contact patch area can be as large as a wider tire with a smaller diameter. So the i3's tall, narrow tires (155 mm in front and either 155 or 175 mm in back) combine low wind resistance with good traction … and, unfortunately, a rather high price since no other car uses these sizes … yet. Our base trim level extended test drive i3 had the same size wheels and tires front and back, so I was looking forward to being able to properly rotate tires unlike with our i-MiEV. But I was surprised to discover that the rear wheels and tires on our mid trim level i3 are wider just like on our i-MiEV, so no proper tire rotation is possible.

My wife was really impressed by the i3's tech. The Tech + Driving Assist Package includes a front camera that is used with the adaptive cruise and stop-and-go control and with vehicle and pedestrian collision avoidance. When the cruise control is on, one needn't do anything but steer because the cruise control will maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front even when that vehicle stops by automatically decelerating and braking, if necessary. Even without the cruise control being on, if one's speed is such that a collision with a vehicle or pedestrian is likely, a warning would be sounded and braking automatically initiated to try to avoid a collision.

Our i3 also includes the Parking Assist Package. I wanted this package because it adds a rear-facing camera and sensors that are used to automatically find a suitable parallel parking space on either side of the road and to automatically park the car in that parking space (no driver steering, braking, or accelerating is needed). This parking functionality is neat, but I wanted this package to that I would have a complete set of front and rear cameras and front, side, and rear ultrasonic distance sensors. With so much of the i3 controlled by software, I wanted to have as much hardware as possible in hopes that future software updates might implement new, cool capabilities.

As a retired Apple software engineer, I really value a good user interface that is so intuitive that no manual is needed. Unfortunately, the user interface of BMW's iDrive navigation and computer system leaves much to be desired. It has apparently remained pretty poor through several versions over several years, so I don't expect much improvement in the future.

BMW has at least 4 smart phone apps whose functionalities and differences are somewhat confusing, at least so far. One of them is able to communicate with the car via the car's GSM cellular radio (10 year subscription included). Using this app, one can check on the battery charge level and charging status and set pre-heating or cooling. This cellular data and phone connection implements OnStar like emergency assistance as well as live traffic information, Google searches, navigation map updates (I think), etc. A large hard drive is included on which one's favorite music, contacts, and other information from one's smartphone can be stored (in this age of cheap solid state drives, is it really a Winchester drive?).

The i3's Owner's Manual is also quite poor. It suffers from being a rather poor translation from German, but is it also not written very well and doesn't contain nearly as much information as the much simpler i-MiEV.

Our ideal i3 was not available in Honolulu or on the West Coast. Most available i3's are mid or top trim level versions with the range-extender engine, DC fast charging, and heated front seats, none of which we wanted. Many are loaded up with an expensive Harman/Kardon sound system, 20" wheels and tires, and metallic paint. Not many include the Parking Assist Package. The best match with both packages that we wanted was a boring battleship gray mid-level trim (this turned out to be a nice upgrade) i3 that included DC fast charging (the SAE Combo plug). There are no SAE fast chargers on Oahu, and even if there were, we would almost never need to use one. Maybe this DC fast charging option will support car-to-grid power or some other benefit in the future.

I could obviously go on and on, but I've already rattled on far too long. We're really impressed with our new toy, but two i-MiEV's could have been purchased for the cost of our i3. Is the i3 really worth this much? Only time will tell. But we're happy with our upgrade.
alohart, thank you very much for taking the time to provide us with your extensive assessment and contrast of the i3 with our i-MiEV. Your contributions to this forum have been much appreciated and I'm sure at least a few of us will be peeking in on the mybmwi3 forum to see how your i3 ownership evolves. All the best to you!
Best of luck with the i3. Similar to our extended test drive, I've found that the i3 is the most closely related EV to the i-MiEV. Freewheeling is possible in neutral, pulling the lever back one click. The i3 does a very neat trick in neutral, too. It'll back the friction brakes off so that the first bit of brake pedal travel is pure regen, then they blend, all while in neutral. But be prepared when put back into Drive, as regen will come on instantly if you're not pushing the throttle.
I'd sure be interested in the numbers, if you'd care to share

What did the i3 cost and what did they give you for a trade-in for your iMiEV?

The couple who bought an iMiEV the same week we did 2 1/2 years ago traded theirs in for a Prius after the car had a charging problem that required trucking it 100 miles to New Orleans to get it serviced - I think they just lost confidence in the car. Our local dealership folded up their tent some months back which will make any major service a major pain. We're getting ready for a long distance, two day drive to New Orleans to get the latest recall done

Anyway, the Toyota dealership who took the trade has the iMiEV on the lot now for just $9500 . . . . and the car only has 8500 miles on it. I'm guessing (assuming) they didn't get too much for it when they traded

The i3 is the most interesting of all the newer crop of EV's, at least to me. If we didn't already have our car and we were looking today, it would likely be at the top of the list. I'm sure you'll enjoy your new ride . . . . come back from time to time and fill us in as you learn more about the car

Thank you for the interesting comparison - and your comments on this forum. We will miss your insights.

I too have looked longingly at the i3. If it weren't for the cost and odd rear door design (I have two kids and they are frequent backseat passengers), I would probably do what you did. But, the iMiev is still doing all we need and any pure non-Tesla EV can't do a lot more without lots more charging stations and more cargo space. (So we keep the gas car for those instances, and would still need it with an i3, so there's no point in going upscale, for us.)
Danpatgal, there is also the i3 REx, which has a similar range to the i3 (tad shorter due to weight), but with about another 60-70 miles on gas. It actually goes further on electricity than gas :lol: . You get a weird look at the gas station when you put $5 (prepay) on a pump and come back for change :lol: :cool: .

For frequent back-seat passengers, the i-MiEV wins easily, IMO. We found the rear doors to be a pain, requiring an abnormal amount of force for them to close properly, even compared to the i-MiEV's featherweight doors.

Alohart, we will miss your input. Hope you check in every once in a while, let us know how the i3's treating you.
PV1 said:
Freewheeling is possible in neutral, pulling the lever back one click. The i3 does a very neat trick in neutral, too. It'll back the friction brakes off so that the first bit of brake pedal travel is pure regen, then they blend, all while in neutral.
I'll have to give that a try.

PV1 said:
But be prepared when put back into Drive, as regen will come on instantly if you're not pushing the throttle.
I haven't learned the best way to switch smoothly from cruise control to manual control due to the strong regen that occurs if one isn't pressing the accelerator just the right amount. One can press the brake pedal to switch back to manual control, but that brings on full regen and rapid deceleration when one might merely want to gradually slow down. Maybe shifting to neutral, then turning off cruise control, and then braking as necessary would be the best way to avoid unwanted regen deceleration.
Don said:
What did the i3 cost and what did they give you for a trade-in for your iMiEV?
The i3 closest to our ideal i3 was a mid trim level model with DC fast charging, neither of which we wanted in Honolulu. Those options added $2,400 to the MSRP which was $48,200 including a $950 destination charge. I told the salesperson that we would buy this i3 that day if I didn't have to pay for the $2,400 in options that we didn't want. His counteroffer was $2,000 off MSRP if we would trade in our i-MiEV for $8,000 thus saving us ~$380 in general excise tax (similar to a sales tax). That got us close to what I was willing to pay, but doing so would mean that I would take a $15,000 bath on our i-MiEV after only 22 months of ownership and 2,800 miles of use.

I knew that another i-MiEV owner in Honolulu had had no serious interest in selling his i-MiEV for $12,000 (he finally sold it to a friend for $11,000). If I tried to sell our i-MiEV myself, I would have not been able to purchase an i3 until our i-MiEV had sold because I have no place to park 2 cars in our apartment complex. With so few i3's available here or on the West Coast equipped close to what we wanted, and only one in Honolulu, I was afraid that if I waited until I sold my i-MiEV, I might have little to choose from until 2015's become available in a few months. But by then, we'll be returning to Sweden, so I wouldn't buy a car only to park it for 6 months until we return to Honolulu.

We needed to solve our range problem sooner rather than later, so I swallowed hard and took a bath. I knew that i-MiEV resale values would plummet after the 2014 drop in the MSRP. The same will happen with our i3 as better battery tech becomes available and EV prices continue to drop. So one either keeps an EV for many years or takes a bath if the need to sell comes early. In some small way, my financial sacrifice has resulted in one more EV having been sold which should help the EV market a tiny bit.

The BMW dealer has our i-MiEV listed for $13,995.
I've enjoyed reading your posts here . Wish you well with the i3 .
Please share you i3 experiences with us here from time to time.
Alohart! Sorry to hear we are losing a fellow Hawaii resident i-Miev'er. Thanks for your great posts. My wife would like her own EV and has been admiring the i3 for a while. As much as we love our i-Miev, we might be a fellow i3 member one day. My biggest disappointment was that you didn't offer to sell your car to ME! That would have saved me about $35 over a new i3. ;) Oh well, thanks for your contributions! -John