BMW's new i3 steps on Tesla's toes

The $41,350 all-electric hatchback has a range of 80 to 100 miles, compared with the 300-mile range of its rival's Model S.

By Julie K Balise Jul 29, 2013 3:20PM

Tesla Motors (TSLA) has fresh company in the all-electric space.


Its new competitor is BMW, which unveiled the all-electric i3 hatchback Monday. It's a lightweight vehicle with a carbon-fiber body, blue accents and 19-inch forged-aluminum wheels.


The car has a starting price of $41,350 and a range of 80 to 100 miles. It's also available with a range extender, which doubles the car's working range, for $45,200.

Compare that with the Tesla Model S, which has a starting price of $62,400 and claims a range of 300 miles on one charge.


While a new competitor may not thrill Tesla founder Elon Musk, the i3 could spell growing confidence in the electric-car sector, Niranjan Thiyagarajan, a consultant at Frost & Sullivan, told Bloomberg.


"It's really key to us that a big manufacturer like BMW is investing big money and getting into the sector," Thiyagarajan said. "That means the prices will actually go down, because you're talking of volumes potentially."


BMW spent $2.7 billion designing the i3. It plans to introduce i8 and i5 models in the coming years, Thiyagarajan said.


The new BMW i3 electric car is seen after it was unveiled at a ceremony in London on July 29, 2013 (© Andrew Winning/Newscom/Reuters)"They're investing a lot of money, and they're looking at it in a big way," he said in the report.


BMW's electric car accelerates more slowly than the Model S. The i3 can go from zero to 60 mph in seven seconds, while the Model S delivers that speed in 5.4 seconds.


The i3 will be sold worldwide and comes to the U.S. next spring.


Because of its limited range, the i3 is being marketed as a city car. This makes sense in Europe, Thiyagarajan said, but could be a turnoff to American buyers.


"That's something they would have to work around," he said in the report.


BMW is not the first well-known manufacturer to try electric. The i3's less expensive competitors include the Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, and the Chevrolet Volt from General Motors (GM). Those are all on the market now.


Tesla is different from BMW's traditional competitors, Thiyagarajan said. Its founder, Musk, is responsible for startups like SpaceX and Solar City (SCTY). He sits in Silicon Valley -- not a traditional manufacturing location -- and reaches customers without traditional dealerships.


There are likely several engineers at BMW trying to think like Tesla, Thiyagarajan said.


"When you talk of connected cars, connected services, quick data, more diagnostics, BMW are really good at what they do," he said. "But they would have to really look toward Tesla to show them the way, because Tesla's already there."


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Jul 29, 2013 3:44PM
This isnt competition for the Model S. It is more competition for the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf vehicles.  It is s small car while the Model S is a full sized sedan.
Jul 29, 2013 3:43PM
I cant wait to pay $41k for a car that will get me 100 miles before I have to charge it!
Jul 29, 2013 4:19PM
Less than half the range small and ugly. No compition at all.
Jul 29, 2013 3:46PM

why do electric cars and hybrids all have to be so gay and ugly looking??


Jul 29, 2013 4:28PM
The more electric cars on the market  - the more gains you will see for the Volt. Range Anxiety - not actual range - is the real issue with driving an electric car in a world where charging stations are not widely available. This is particularly true for actually replacing a gasoline car with an electric, not just for rich people adding an electric to their fleet so they can appear "green". The Volt, with a built in generator that uses regular gasoline, CAN replace a regular car without huge sacrifices, the others cannot.
Jul 29, 2013 4:33PM
Forget about it at night in the winter, in a snow storm. You'll never get home.
Jul 29, 2013 4:38PM
Everything really depends on the quick charge or battery swap so anyone with an electric vehicle can feel secure they won't get stranded. If Tesla gets the battery swap stations set up as planned everyone else will have a hard time catching up.
Jul 29, 2013 6:07PM
Comparing the i3 to the Tesla Model S is a joke. the Tesla Model S is the car of the year, an i3 is a luxury Nissan Leaf.
Jul 29, 2013 5:27PM
Its major fugly.  Looks like a 3 series hood on a kia.
Jul 29, 2013 5:06PM
To much money for an electric car and only can go 100 miles and they never tell you how long the batteries will last and how much will it cost to replace them.
Jul 29, 2013 11:15PM
BMW spent almost 3 Billion to design this piece of crap? Tesla is laughing about this vehicle as it clearly isn't even in the same Ballpark as his Teslas. BMW has to do a whole lot better than this if they want to be serious.
Jul 29, 2013 6:14PM

Wish these "writers" would stop comparing the Volt to all-electric vehicles like the Tesla lineup and this new Beemer.  The Volt is a HYBRID.


An all electric would be useless as a primary vehicle here in Michigan.  Too far to drive for most things, if you live outside of a metro area at least.  And for 9 months of the year you NEED heat in the vehicle!

Jul 30, 2013 12:27PM
I own a new 2013 BMW 325Xi, and have owned several BMW's in the past.  The newer they are the  more they suck.  BMW is going down the sewer fast.  They better get their act together.
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