It's the age-old question/complaint: if you drive an electric car with a limited range, what do you use when you need to drive long distances? BMW is joining a growing number of manufacturers in promising to loan conventional, fuel-burning cars to i3 owners starting next year.
The i3 is BMW's first all-electric model that isn't a retrofit, and the first model to come from the BMW i electric sub-brand. Unlike electric BMW/Mini products that came before it, like the Mini E and BMW ActiveE, the i3 is all new and all futuristic, from the carbon-fiber reinforced plastic body panels to the aluminum chassis. As you might expect, the car is suited for first adopters with big pockets: the i3 hatch will cost something around $50,000 when it goes on sale later this year.
For that $50 grand, however, you'll get two cars (sort of): BMW promises that it will offer use of a conventional car for longer road trips. The Bloomberg report on the matter calls the loaner program one of a few "extra services," although it didn't explain how much, if any, the loaners would cost. Considering that Fiat just promised a handful of coupons to Enterprise Rent-a-car for anyone who buys or leases a Fiat 500e, let's hope that i3 buyers (who may spend double the 500e's after-tax-rebate sticker price) receive similar benefits. The program is only confirmed at this point for European buyers; BMW North America says that it's currently looking at how to implement the program, although nothing is set in stone yet.
Speaking of benefits, it looks like BMW has learned its lesson from Tesla Motors--or at least the two are on the same wavelength. BMW says that it will install a series of quick chargers that can charge the i3's battery pack (likely to 80 percent or more) in just 30 minutes. The first run of stations will be placed in a chain along the main thoroughfare between Munich and Berlin, a 367-mile journey. Seeing as the i3's range is estimated at 100 miles, drivers would have to stop about three times along the way for a charge boost.
The BMW i3 goes on sale (or lease) in all 50 U.S. states late this year.