BMW Facing Lawsuit Over I3 REx Power Loss

Mark Stevenson
by Mark Stevenson
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bmw facing lawsuit over i3 rex power loss

Owners of BMW i3s equipped with optional range extenders — read: two-cylinder engine that generates electricity — are suing the automaker for an issue that could leave those drivers going slow in the fast lane.

According to Green Car Reports, the BMW i3 REx will drop down to 45 miles per hour under certain conditions, which some owners believe is a safety issue.

The class-action lawsuit alleges the small range extender isn’t strong enough keep up with motivational demand at highway speeds when the battery is nearly depleted. Engine and battery management software steps in and reduces the BMW i3’s speed to 45 mph so that battery charge can catch up with demand.

“The BMW i3 Range Extender feature is a dangerous instrumentality to the owners of the vehicles and to other motorists on the road,” said Jonathan Michaels of MLG Automotive Law, the firm handling the class-action suit. “Having a sudden and unexpected loss of power in a motor vehicle can result in a catastrophic situation for all those on the road. These cars are dangerous and should not be driven.”

Green Car Reports notes three of its editors have experienced the issue in addition to its many owners.

The outlet spoke with electric-car advocate Tom Moloughney, who is also a BMW i3 owner. He stated the issue mostly comes down to a lack of knowledge of how the range extender works, and refrained from blaming the i3 for a quirk that doesn’t affect any other vehicle on sale today.

“The biggest problem is the lack of information on how the REx works at the dealership level. I think if people understood how the range-extender system works, then there would be fewer problems,” Moloughney said.

A representative for BMW said the company can’t comment on pending litigation.

The BMW i3 REx stickers, without options, for $47,245, including destination.

[Image: © 2015 Alex L. Dykes/The Truth About Cars]

Mark Stevenson
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5 of 33 comments
  • ToddAtlasF1 ToddAtlasF1 on May 23, 2016

    The sooner the weenies that rent these new give up on them, the sooner they can fall into the hands of shade tree mechanics who can find out if there is potential for repowering their hideous carbon fiber shells with Hayabusa or K-series engines and giving them a reason for existing.

    • See 2 previous
    • Redmondjp Redmondjp on May 23, 2016

      @Old Man Pants Well, they make "range extenders" for that problem too. Now where is that empty gatorade bottle?

  • SunnyvaleCA SunnyvaleCA on May 23, 2016

    The i3 is crippled to comply with California "electric vehicle" silliness to get taxpayer funding and get single-occupant use of the carpool lanes. Part of the crippling is that the engine won't charge the battery more than some very small amount. So, when you're headed to Lake Tahoe and know full well that you'll be putting considerable demands on the propulsion unit, you can't tell the i3 to charge the battery to, say 50% before you get to the mountain climb.

  • FreedMike I suppose that in some crowded city like Rome or Tokyo, there's a market for a luxurious pint-size car. I don't think they'll be able to give them away here in the U.S.
  • TMA1 How much did exchange rates affect this decision? The Renegade is imported from Italy. I'm wondering if that's what caused the price to reach within a few hundred of the much bigger Compass. Kind of a no-brainer to pick the larger, more modern vehicle.
  • CEastwood Everytime I see one of these I think there's a dummie who could have bought a real car , but has to say look at me driving this cool thing I can't drive in the rain like an actual motorcycle that I should have bought in the first place ! It's not Batman I see driving these - it's middle age Fatman .
  • SilverCoupe I should be the potential audience for this (current A5 owner, considering an S5 in the future), but I can't say it excites me. I have never liked the vertical bars in the grilles of sporting Mercedes models, for one thing. The interior doesn't speak to me either.I would be more likely to consider a BMW 4 Series, though not the current version with the double Edsel grille. Still, I suppose it would be worth a look when the time comes to replace my current vehicle.
  • Verbal Can we expect this model to help M-B improve on finishing 29th out of 30 brands in CR's recent reliability survey?