BMW i3 Owner Quoted Over $70,000 for New Battery

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Last year, the owner of a 2015 BMW i3 REx was reportedly quoted over $71,000 to have a new battery pack installed. For reference, that particular model would have retailed somewhere around $50,000 brand new. While we’ve seen some staggering high prices being entertained for EVs in need of a new battery pack this has to be one of more egregious examples on record.

According to an invoice from a Seattle-area BMW service center shared on Reddit, the owner was quoted $64,588 for parts last August. After taxes, that amounted to $71,208 and that’s before anyone bothered to factor in labor. The invoice has since been shared by CarBuzz and is making the rounds as the latest reason to feel uneasy about EV ownership.

The post was followed by (mostly i3) drivers sharing similar accounts of how much they were asked to spend on similar battery jobs. Most cited repair bills around $11,000 with parts and labor included. However, there were a few individuals claiming to have been quoted upwards of $30,000 for having a fresh battery installed into their BMW.

From CarBuzz:

Some Reddit users believe the dealer is unwilling to carry out the repair. By presenting owners with ridiculous quotes, they will likely be put off and search for an alternative (or purchase a new car). "They can't just say, 'no, we don't want to do it,' so they make the price so ridiculous it pushes the customer into getting a new car," wrote one user in the replies. Of course, there's no proof that the dealer is doing this on purpose, so i3 owners (and those who drive older EVs, for that matter) may have to look to the aftermarket for solutions.
The battery pack in an i3 consists of eight cells. But even if one goes awry, it can still cost the owner big bucks. So, if you own an i3 or another older EV, it may be worth looking for an expert or specialist who can carry out these repairs for far less money. A single battery module costs between $3,000 and $3,500, so it's possible that the repair can be carried out for nowhere near the obscene $70,000+ quote mentioned above. With repair bills like this, it's no wonder people view EVs as throwaway items.

Some of this is rather insidious, mimicking the changes cell phone companies implemented over the last decade to make mobile devices less user serviceable. By ensuring customers cannot simply purchase a part cheaply online and install it at home (or via independent repair shops) with ease, businesses are setting themselves up for repeat interactions and likely additional revenue. In 2010, there was a nearly 100-percent chance you could change the battery in your phone yourself without much trouble. By 2020, that had become an unlikely prospect. Today, you are basically required to seek help from the company you bought the device from and they're doing their best to withhold parts to make life harder on your local smartphone repair guy.

While things are a little different in the automotive sector, meaningful overlap remains. EV batteries are indeed quite expensive, with nearly half of the new vehicle’s total cost being attributable to the energy cells, and most independent shops aren't set up to handle them. The cells also degrade over time, meaning you can’t stockpile a bunch of units like you might with certain engine components. This all adds to cost, with an industry survey conducted by JD Power stipulating that the typical price of a new battery for pure EVs and plug-in hybrids typically ranges between $4,000 to $20,000.

So then why are we seeing quotes in excess of $50,000 being reported?

As noted in the Reddit thread, sometimes shops don’t want to deal with the added hassle and overcharging customers is a good way to make their problem go away. Dealers are already fractured on whether or not to spend loads of money refurbishing their facilities to better handle EVs. But even those that have sometimes find that the sale of lower-volume electrics aren’t worth the added strain of catering to divergent powertrains. Working on them requires specialized tools, training protocols, and requires parts that definitely won’t be lying around in the back and probably can’t be shipped overnight by Federal Express.

Your author has spoken to plenty of dealer reps over the years and several have said EVs started to become a big headache for them by 2023. This later became public knowledge as sales data indicated that U.S. sales volumes had plateaued last summer. Whether the culprit was the hesitant consumers, an overeager regulatory landscape, a lackluster economy, or simply ineptitude on the part of the automotive industry, the end result has been the same for consumers.

Unless you’re driving the kind of vehicle that just needs a fresh DieHard tossed beneath the hood every few years, expect battery repair bills to be serious expenditures. But, if someone says you need to spend the same amount of money as the car originally retailed for, assume they either cannot or will not do the necessary work on your vehicle.

Assuming the price of raw materials eventually come down, the problem will presumably iron itself out as EVs become more commonplace. However, when exactly that will be is a hard to predict. Despite there being a lot of talk about electrification strategies within the industry, just about every legacy manufacturer that isn't Tesla has repeatedly had to readjust their timeline. An "affordable" battery swap may still be $10,000 several years from now.

[Image: BMW]

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Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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2 of 74 comments
  • Wjtinfwb Wjtinfwb on Feb 14, 2024

    Why would the dealer quote 71k without labor if they didn't want to do the job? They'd have happily added in 10 hours of labor or whatever the book calls for at the near $200/hr. BMW dealers charge now to further pad the invoice. My guess is, 71k is the MSRP on the batter with tax. Dealer saw no reason to discount the battery, hoping the owner will just trade the homely little box for something new from the BMW lineup. Which is probably the best bet. Even 3-4k to replace one cell is absurd considering the next cell failure is right around the corner.

  • CanadaCraig CanadaCraig on Feb 14, 2024

    I certainly would avoid buying any used EV.

  • Lorenzo Aw, that's just the base price. Toyota dealers aren't in the same class as BMW/Porsche upsellers, and the Toyota base is more complete, but nobody will be driving that model off the lot at that price.
  • Mike The cost if our busing program is 6.2 million for our average size district in NJ. It was 3.5 last year.
  • Alan What an ugly vehicle..........and it was named a Mustang!
  • Alan I do believe regulations incentivising hybrids and plug in hybrids should be greater. I also believe that micro cars with emissions below a pre determined level should also be incentivised to allow those who can't afford a hybrid or plug in can afford basic transport.This will create an environment more suitable for all ie, manufacturer, consumer and green groups for the transition away from fossil fuel powered vehicles.The problem is hybrids and EVs are not disruptive and require government support, the US 19th Century rail system had lots of government money thrown at it. Flat screen TVs were disruptive as no government money was needed for the consumer to adopt..............globally.Eventually hydrogen will become the future energy.
  • Alan V8s are nice and sound good. But I'm calling BS on most comments here.[list=1][*]How many own a V8? (truthfully).[/*][*]How many can afford to buy a new Ram pickup?[/*][*]How many can afford to run a V8?[/*][*]How many comments are just a wish list from wannabe V8 owners.[/*][/list=1]The comments regarding the reliability of a turbo 6 are naive. These engines are designed to support the loads placed on them. These engines are not just NA engines with hair dryers from the 70s and 80s..Most every heavy vehicle has a inline 6 turbo. These are the engines of choice.And why are manufacturers going with smaller displacement engines? To meet more stringent emission controls. This I do support. If this can be done with no real loss of performance, or in this case a gain in performance is a plus, we have gained, its not a loss.