BMW i3 is surprisingly keenly priced

23 July 2013

BMW i3 in light disguise - front view

I guessed wrong when I predicted that BMW might punt its i3 electric car out into the market with a premium price. North of £40,000 seemed likely, or roughly 5-Series territory, justified by its bleeding-edge, carbon-fibre and aluminium construction. Instead the company has confirmed a price below that of a conventionally built 320d Efficient Dynamics saloon.

The first i3s will arrive in November with a UK retail price of £25,680 on the road, admittedly after a £5,000 contribution from the government’s plug-in car grant. That’s just a couple of hundred pounds adrift of a Nissan Leaf in top-of-the-range Tekna trim – though no doubt the cost of the BMW will be inflated by options that come as standard in the Nissan.

BMW i3 in light disguise - side view

Alternatively, customers can lease the i3 for 36 months by paying a one-off £2,995 followed by monthly payments of £369, with their usage capped at 24,000 miles. The rental works out at £15,910 over three years, after which you hand the car back to BMW. That may not sound very attractive but having consulted a handy car finance calculator it seems pretty competitive, and lands in the same ballpark as personal-lease deals for the 320d mentioned above.

The best payment route depends on depreciation. Which naturally demands a dose of guesswork for a new class of car not yet on sale. The first Leafs, for comparison, are now three years old and worth about £11,000. The i3 ought to fare better.

BMW i3 in light disguise - side view doors open

Assuming BMW’s lithium-ion battery survives at least as well as Nissan’s, there ought to be plenty of life left in an average-mileage, three-year-old i3. And indeed the battery should have a better chance at longevity, given that the Leaf’s 24kWh bundle of cells is passively air-cooled, while the i3’s 20kWh pack is actively kept at optimum temperature using a fluid that can be both heated and cooled.

As standard, the i3 will support charging at a 7.4kW rate – roughly double what can be drawn from a standard domestic socket – sufficient to take the BMW EV from flat to 80% full within three hours. BMW has designed its own wallbox for home charging at this rate. The car can also be hooked up to an ordinary three-pin outlet, requiring eight to ten hours for a full charge. A 50kW direct-current option is also supported, sufficient to provide 80% of charge in 30 to 60 minutes.

BMW i3 in light disguise - rear view

The long-awaited launch of the i3 is still a week away, so for the moment some details remain unclear. For example, the lease costs may or may not include access to BMW’s DriveNow, a car-sharing service that provides access to alternative cars when the battery-powered i3’s 100-mile range isn’t sufficient. DriveNow is currently live in four German cities plus San Francisco, but has yet to launch in the UK.

Costs for the alternative extended range i3 – one with a 650cc two-cylinder petrol engine that can generate its own electricity on the go – are also yet to be confirmed.

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