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Thursday, December 12, 2013

BMW to Make a Limited Edition "Electronaut Edition" i3

Introducing the "Electronaut Sport Edition". Something like this would be my first preference for the Electronauts .
A few weeks ago in LA at the West Coast Electronaut i3 event we first heard that BMW was planning on making a special "Electronaut Edition" i3 that would only be available to the ActiveE Electronauts. We weren't given any details, only that we would be offered a special version of the i3 that nobody else will be able to buy and that we will get the first i3 that arrive in the US.

The MINI-E was no stranger to a flatbed
Most of the ActiveE drivers expected some kind of thank you for being in the ActiveE trial lease program. In fact, many of us have been in BMW's e-mobility test program for nearly five years now, dating back to the MINI-E days. While most of us have genuinely enjoyed our time with these special cars, it hasn't been without sacrifice. Just about all of us have been left stranded on the road at some point or another because the car broke down, and some have had it happen to them many times in fact. I don't remember exactly, but between the MINI-E and ActiveE I've probably had to have the cars towed to the dealer for service five or six times and they have been in for service for probably a combined 4 or 5 months. Besides that, we had to take the cars in for regular check ups every 3 to 6 months or 5,000 miles and with my high mileage, I've had to have the car serviced every two months or so. That adds up to about 25 trips to the dealer for me alone so far for basic service and check ups. What I'm basically saying is that we have been good soldiers. We have provided BMW with an immense amount of real world data and a tremendous amount of feedback, all of which has helped to make the i3 and future BMW electrics better cars.

Personally I was expecting some kind of generous discount on an i3. I figured we would get some kind of deal like we'd get a fully loaded i3 with any options we want for the i3's regular base price of $41,350(BEV) or $45,200(REx). That way we would still be paying for the car, but get any options we wanted for free. I'd sign up for that and feel that BMW was definitely showing their appreciation for our efforts and inconveniences during the trials. But now that they are talking about a special limited "Electronaut Edition" I'm not sure what to think. I like the idea, but a little worried that some of us won't find the "special features" so special. It's hard to please everyone.

White i3 with BWM i Blue accents
So yesterday we had the East Coast Electronaut meet at BMW's North American headquarters in Woodcliff Lake, NJ. After taking turns driving i3's and getting a tour of the battery tech department and even getting to see a real i3 battery back opened up, we had a question and answer session with Jacob Harb, manager of electric vehicle sales and service for BMW NA. It didn't take long for the topic of the special Electronaut Edition to come up. We still didn't get much details, but were told it's not just going to be stickers and a chrome badge, that the car will indeed have special equipment that isn't available on any other i3. Then Jacob asked us what we would think about it being available is a special color combination that isn't available to regular buyers and he threw out white with BMW i Blue accents. That surprised me a bit because that is one of the regular i3 color combos. I later asked a program manager about that and was told the white i3 will not be available in the US like it is in Europe, for at least the first year! So white would actually be an exclusive color here. Still, I'm not going for that. I don't really like the i3 in White and I'll have to pass on the Electronaut Edition if it only comes in white which is what Jacob was implying.

Laurel Gray is my favorite i3 color
However they weren't saying that this is etched in stone. BMW was just trying to take our temperature on the subject of color. Personally I don't think they can mandate any one particular color for the Electronaut Edition. No matter what color they choose they will get a minority approval. BMW will have to let us pick the color or at the very least offer three exterior color choices for this special edition. My favorite i3 color is Laurel Gray with the BMW i Blue trim. I like how it lessens the two-tone color scheme that stands out on all the other i3's. plus, if they really want to offer us a special color, they should use the Protonic Blue offered on the i8 or grab a unique color from the ///M division. The white with a black hood and roof looks too much like a Panda bear for me and in fact we joke about that in the i3 Facebook group all the time.

I definitely appreciate that BMW is making the effort to make us feel special, and as a group we all think that's a great gesture. However I just hope they get it right. Obviously nothing short of giving us free cars is going to please everybody - and even then some will probably say they should have given us i8's!  So I'll offer three different ideas that they could do that would be pretty cool.

1) My #1 choice: The i3 Electronaut Sport Edition. Think Mi3. Available only in Solar Orange, Laurel Gray and Ionic Blue. Give it a special interior, beef up the suspension, add unique sport wheels with stickier tires and give it a little more torque and HP (I'm sure they can do that with the same motor they have with very little tweaking) and you'll have a 6 second 0-60 car that will have better handling than 90% of all the sports cars out there. Sure we'll have a little less range but the smiles-per-hour will increase.

2) Old school: The MINI-E i3: Start with MINI-E numbered badges. This will add to the exclusivity of the cars.  We loved our numbered badges in the MINI-E program. It gave our cars which all looked alike unique personalities. I was MINI-E #250. The MINI-E pioneers even identified ourselves by our numbers and would say something like "I saw 183 last night". That was a cool feature that we all loved. Bring it back for the Electronaut Edition! They could also have an optional  MINI-E Gray & Yellow trim color scheme(hell, all the i3 colors are gray anyway!). This edition would also come fully loaded with every option available but we would pay only the base MSRP, essentially getting all the options for free. Although I was MINI-E #250, I'll gladly take i3 #1 if offered! ;)

3) The discount deal:  A straight 20% off. Instead of trying to figure out what color we want or what options are most popular just let us order our cars in a configuration we want and simply give us 20% off. That is a significant deal, considering the cost of the car. A fully loaded i3 REx will be about $50,000 before incentives. This would slash $10,000 off the price and after we get the $7,500 tax credit it our net would be about $32,500 and in CA it would be $29,950 because of the State discount! Yes it's a big discount but it will also save BMW money in not having to make a unique color or offer options that aren't available on other i3's. Making things like that in small quantities cost's a lot. Don't do anything special and just pass the savings along to us.

If you're an ActiveE driver post what you would want the Electronaut edition to be in the comments, I'm sure BMW will be reading!

Edit: A fellow Electronaut, David Sapp just offered a great suggestion over in our Facebook group. He wrote:

I like these ideas, Tom, but I'm going to throw out one not yet mentioned: for those of us who don't want to lease, offer a LIFETIME WARRANTY for Electronauts' i3 purchases. Bumper-to-bumper, everything included, with no limit in years or coverage restrictions. If there has to be a mileage cap, it should be somewhere north of 150,000. 

I've had two motor replacements in my ActiveE in addition to a host of other squirrelly things going on. I won't have confidence in my i3 purchase unless I have an ironclad warranty for as long as I choose to own the i3. Making the lifetime warranty non-transferable is fine, but make it last as long as the original Electronaut-owner chooses to drive the car, not just the typical 3-5 years. When I buy a new car, I want to keep it longer than three years, but I certainly don't want to get stuck with a five-figure motor-replacement bill. 

I think a lifetime warranty for us would be a great perk and appropriate. Since we have been the real world Guinea pigs and driving beta test cars for years now, we all have had many technical issues to deal with. Knowing that for as long as we own the cars we don't have any worry about paying for any repairs would be awesome. Great idea David!


  1. We should have spent a little more time discussing this yesterday Tom.

    White would be a definite no for my missus. She wasn't happy there were no color choices when we went in for the Active-E.

    It is the electronauts that have helped BMW. So anything that is done should benefit them directly. In reality we are not going to hold on to the car for ever. So anything that is going to be done in the car is only going to be only for a limited period. A minor change addition to the car to distinguish it as a special edition should be sufficient. In addition, I have I have two suggestions.

    1) This has been well laid out by you in your point 3. Financial incentives. I need not say more.

    2) If it has to be a special edition, BMW can explore the option of adding additional batteries and extend the range. This would ensure we don't need to go for Rex and leave the car BEV holding the electric flag high. Also this would ensure a better resale value when we decide to let this car go for the owners.

  2. #3 is the best bet. It would probably garner the most orders AND it would actually not cost BMW as much money as custom cars. Throw in scuttle numbers I think you have a deal.

  3. I'll choose my own color, thank you very much, so a generous discount would be greatly appreciated. Throw in my MiniE scuttle #187 and we have a deal!

  4. #1 for me too Tom. There are some great suggestions here I hope BMW is reading!

  5. #1 for me too Tom. I think Laurel Gray or even a darker shade makes the i3 much more sportier looking. As all us Electronauts have mention many times the White with black looks like Shamu or a Panda...very econoboxie...nothing special....a pathetic sheep following the herd....

  6. Opinion of the i3 Test Drive from a Non-Electronaut:
    When I was invited to attend the i3 test drive as the guest of an Electronaut , I said “Absolutely”. As a suburbanite that deals with a brutal 14 mile commute from Wayland, MA into and out of Cambridge during rush hour each day, I long for an electric car that fits my needs. So…does the i3 fit the bill? Well, yes….and no.
    The 80 to 100 mile range is certainly all that I would need. I have no desire for the range extender since we have a 2013 Honda Odyssey for skiing, visiting friends, etc. There is also a Chargepoint Level 2 EVSE in the public parking garage in Cambridge so that I could be fully charged when leaving work for the day. Adding weight and cost to the vehicle to suppress range anxiety is not needed for me at all.
    Is it fun to drive? Heck, yeah! I was thrilled with the acceleration and nimbleness of the i3 and really wished that they had set up some cones in the parking lot for a little slaloming or more spirited handling exercises than we could/should do on public roads. That said, I have no doubt that this car contains a more-than-adequate fun quotient to put a smile on my face.
    Would I buy one? Currently, no. The deal breaker for me is interior room which is probably not as much of an issue for most people, but I am 6’7” tall and have a 9 year old daughter and 11 year old son that are, unsurprisingly, growing like weeds. Although I was totally comfortable while piloting and being a passenger in the i3, there is definitely not enough room behind me for either of my kids to sit comfortably (let alone another adult). In addition, I must say that the exterior styling, specifically the two-tone paint schemes just doesn’t do it for me. Especially in conjunction with the super-narrow tire profiles. For a vehicle that BMW is hoping the masses will flock to, it seems to me that offering monochromatic paint schemes and more conventional looking tires would help attract more customers. I know that the skinnier tires have significantly lower rolling resistance, but aesthetics are important in car design and the i3 looks like it needs to find a frozen lake to go racing on.
    From a build quality perspective, the only part that I didn’t think matched typical BMW offerings was in the interior door panels. I think the quality everywhere else was as high, it’s just that perhaps highlighting the actual materials makes the interior seem a little bit too “granola-ey” for my tastes. I know that there are parts of the market that ARE concerned about renewable resources, etc., but I hope that the highest trim level vehicles will utilize enough leather in them to satisfy the customers with traditional expectations of a luxurious interior. One last little nit to pick: the location of the Start/Stop button and the ergonomics of the gear selector struck me as over-engineered and slightly awkward.
    In summary, I loved the way the car drove but find the exterior styling to be a little too radical for my liking. I really think that offering monochromatic paint schemes would attract many more people to at least get in the car and give it a try. I fear that its looks will prevent this wonderful little car from getting the fair shake it deserves.
    P.S. Since initially drafting the above, I have seen on the blog a rendering of a sporty i3 which some of you are voting would be a great Electronaut exclusive version. I LOVE IT! I sure hope that all of you pioneers get a car that knocks it out of the park for you, you certainly deserve it. I also hope they build something similar, but different for the masses!
    Respectfully Submitted,
    David Melvin

  7. I wish I could have made the event Tom but a little thing called work got in they way. Do you know why they did this during a weekday? Anyhoo just give me a nice big discount and maybe number the cars like the electric minis were with a signature series (#285 of 500 or something like that) and I'll be happy. As you said above they can't limit it to one color that won't work

  8. I like the idea of three colors so we aren't locked into one that many people won't like. Three is good. One dark like the Laurel grey or perhaps all black? The white and the third could be Santorini blue.

    Definitely number them in some way to display the limited availability like Tesla does for the signature series Model S

  9. Option number 3 please. Just give us a big discount. I took the stickers off my ActiveE because I didn't want it to stand out and I don't want the i3 to either. I realize the futuristic look of it will make it hard to blend in to begin with. There is no need to make it even more unique looking

  10. I like the grey version too and could totally get behind a sport version like you described. That said, I think the big-discount makes the most sense for pleasing the most people and is probably the easiest for BMW as well. I also think the idea of a long-term warranty is a great idea.

    It seems that BMW is in flux with what exactly they want to, which surprises me a little bit. I'd have guessed that they'd have this worked out by now.

  11. Agreed, keep it simple BMW just give us the discount please.
    Thank you for making this test drive event/tour happen, it was very well planned and executed!

  12. I like the idea of option 3 best. As for a lifetime warranty, I suspect that may be more expense than BMW would want to spring for. If so, maybe they'd consider a lesser amount like double the normal warranty.

  13. My partner, Bob, is the actual Electronaut. I'm only the co-pilot but I'll comment for both of us. He's retired now so when our current Volt and ActiveE leases end soon, we want to consolidate on one car. That car could be a Volt, which we both know and love after three years of enjoying it, or it could be an i3 - probably with a REX. (Seems to make the most sense for a one car family that likes to do longer weekend trips now and then.)

    We left the stickers on his ActiveE and he enjoyed getting asked questions but honestly the i3 is enough of a standout without anything else. And I think the standard suspension will be quite tight enough for me; I don't want a "sport" option at all. Frankly, we want to pick the colors and options we want and be done with it.

    Haven't decided on lease vs purchase yet. BMW has a lot of flexible options in that regard and the buyback offer is just like a lease, with or without the $7500 delayed payment (to allow you time to get your tax refund). So heck yes, a 20% discount would be the best way I can think of to reward our Electronaut service and to make us really feel good about picking the cutting edge i3 over the tried and awesomely true Volt.

  14. For an Electronaut only color, I would love the ///M blue. But if that isn't available then my next choice would be all black, with black wheels. As they already have the black for the hood and other accents, one would think it's possible to get the rest of the panels in black easily enough.

    For an Electronaut package, my one wish would be the ability to replace the REX with a few more kWh of battery. Even if they aren't heated/cooled, and need to be switched in manually when needed. I'd much prefer that over an ICE REX any day.


  15. Tom, it was great meeting you at the BMW event.

    I was pleased to see the top line trim on display, even if the vehicle had its side panels removed and the electric motor removed. It was good to see how much better the all-leather interior looked versus the standard granola interior of the European base models available for our drive. I liked the sunroof and the leather seats. I would therefore vote for your option #1, even if the sportier aspect were 20" sticky tires and rims.

    Keep up excellent blog as we approach the US Launch of the I3. BMW is listening (I hope).


    1. Hi Larry,

      Yes it was great to finally meet you! The top of the line "Tera World" trim is very nice and I expect I'll end up ordering mine with it also. Thanks for following!

  16. Tom, thanks for organizing this. I happen to like option #1 the best (perhaps in conjunction with option 3). That rendering looks incredibly sharp (for an i3)! I loved driving the car last week and I'm definitely getting psyched to own one but I have to say, there are a few aspects of the car that I'm still far from enamored with - one being its curb appeal. My wife and I watched the new Larry David movie on HBO last week (where he's the inventor of a very boxy electric car called the "Howard"). I couldn't help thinking of that as I looked at all the i3s parked together in a row in Woodcliff Lakes,

    BTW, I say in conjunction with option 3 in order to accommodate those electronaughts who don't want such a sporty version. Perhaps the way they could do that is charge more for the Mi3 but then give everyone the same 20% discount.

    1. Hey Brett: Nice suggestions. Sorry we didn't have much time to chat last week, the day went by so quickly I barely got to say hello. You'll have to bring the family by Nauna's sometime again so we can catch up! ;)

    2. Will definitely do so.... We thoroughly enjoyed our meal there last time! It was just too much food to finish in one sitting but the good news is that my kids were the beneficiaries. We might just have to wait for this snow storm to pass.... ;-)

  17. I would most like a big discount please. Number three sounds good to me and they can throw in whatever special equipment they were talking about gratis. I'm not going for another white car other. Please don't restrict the color to just white or any single color for that matter. It would be cool to offer one special color but not to require us to get it. However I would be willing to pay for a larger battery. How about $ 500 per extra kWh!


  18. A combination of #1 throgh #3 is what is going to keep me going BMWi...

    I started with the program as a classic BMW driver just wanting solo access to the carpool lane left and leaving it a rEVolutionary. After 49,000 miles of Active E driving I would love to still be able to keep my Active E. I agree that all the tech and improvements of the i3 ARE impressive, it's just that I am emotionally invested in my Active E.

    I think special badging on our choice of colors would be fine, as long as it includes additional capabilities. Extra batteries are what I've been asking for. The REX is fine and dandy, but I just need it to go farther on batteries.

    I like the numbered deal you guys got in the Mini-E program... I've resigned to the fact that you have the mileage lead, and don't mind holding on to the West Coast lead and perhaps #2?

    Was there any word on the lease extension normalization?

    1. Hi Dennis,

      The lease extensions will be at the same rate you are currently paying. We were told it's the only way to do it other then letting the current lease expire and then applying for a new lease which would reset everything. Problem is there is no set term that is known. You may need 2 months, I may need three months and someone else may only need 1 month till the i3 comes in. This will just be a simple extension, no change in terms.

    2. Thanks Tom. Sounds like they didn't move from the original position on that.

      In that case... Looks like I'm returning the Actve E at expiration. Now, what we need is a ruling on mileage status of

      That will put me at exactly 24 months for when I return my Active E... Do we continue to count the miles AFTER the 24 months or are we fixing it at the anniversary.

      The West Coast group might need an extension to catch up to me, but there are some that are pretty close in the East Coast group!

  19. I think that a combination of a big discount, a unique # and different color pallete would be a great thank you. I also think that complimentary lease extensions would be greatly received as some of us had our ActiveE's in the shops for over two months (me included) and a few extra months gratis would help get me over the fact that I drove a 3 series loaner which would have been about a $200 less a month plus gas, for two months of my lease. Getting a fully loaded car at Base Price would also be a great throw in considering we are all technology early adopters and would like all the options anyway.

    They would probably have to do any discounting as some kind of "rebate" program like they do with BMWCCA and "Drive Event" discounts.

    I am actually pleased that they haven't quite come up with what they would want to do yet because that means we get to influence the process.

    They did say we would hear about this sometime in January so I guess we will all find out soon.

  20. Thanks for the info on this Tom.
    I'm looking forward to seeing what they will offer.
    Ideal world for me:
    - unique package options (and or all inclusive Electronaut Package). Sport package would be awesome! Love the rendering. Would chose this in a heartbeat.
    - unique badging. Not some cheap-a$$ plastic "sticker" that they sent us last time. Something that a designer has worked on. This could be up-to-and-including unique paint options. Though this may be expensive for them, it would also be of marketing benefit...I see promos and adverts etc...."see how well we treat out Electronauts! See how special they were to us". Also...this is the only option that will remind us every day that we were among the first to support a BMW/MINI EV initiative.
    - Financial. This would be great as well. And could come in the form of "free" upgrade to tera world trim. Or, could be loyalty incentive of x% off. I see this as the least likely. They'll want some "bang for their buck" with whatever they chose. And this option would a) be more of a hush-hush thing and b) be forgotten about after ~1-3 months.

    I really hope they'll for at least something that makes the car "exclusive". Cash off; nice, but not unique. Upgrade; nice, but not exclusive. Car nobody else can purchase; ....priceless.

    Thanks also for the lease comment above. You've got more info than my dealer!


    1. more thing....if white IS the unique color...I won't be going for it either. Not attractive, IMO.

  21. Very intersting and detailed resume! Test of BMW i3 from a female swedish perspective

  22. Well today we got our first look at the price and ordering guide for the USA.
    I am in California and did the math. It isn't pretty. The good, the bad and the ugly, look like this for a California buyer.
    The base i3 without rex, equipped with leather and the parking pkgs, plus license, registration and tax comes to $51,180. The same configuration with Rex comes to $55,415. The Rex model equipped as above plus the addition of some other things you might find useful such as: Navigation, Heated Seats, DC Charger, and Harmon Kardon Audio, brings the total to $60,189.00.
    I see 700 Electronauts saying, "we will take a pass, no color, or badge is substancial enough to make up for the failure to price this car for the market.
    BMW would have us believe that eucalyptus veneer and fabrics from recycled this and that are "Cool." "Just watch the eucalyptus darken as it ages." Truthfully, I find it austere in the extreme with it's buck board interior.
    Just wait until you run through a set of those tires that are only made for this car and only made by one maufacturer. I'm guessing $500 each. Life expectancy for these tires, unknown. To my way of thinking, the Rex has not yet been evaluated on a USA certified car. In Europe where you can choose to run the motor at any level of the batteries existing charge, we have been told that you can travel at 80+mph. Yet, there are stories circulating that the Rex when used after the battery is nearly exhausted, a requirement for it's State side certification, will limp you up a hill at 45mph. That should make us very popular on a busy highway!
    Conclusion: Now that we are getting a real world look at the final product, I find very little to be excited about, with todays pricing reveal being the final straw.
    Sign me, "Disappointed"

  23. I'd like option #3. Let us order it anyway we want and give us a nice discount. It would be cool if there was some kind of unique quality to the car that others can order as mentioned but to me it comes down to cost.

    I disagree with the previous comment that said the Electronauts will pass. That's not happening as far as I see it. Most of the Electronauts I know are definitely getting one and I bet the conversion rate is more than 60%. Maybe BMW will announce how many of us bought an i3 once the Electronaut Edition ordering process is complete

  24. After just getting a call from my dealer today about a soon to be released email from BMW about the special edition BMWi and seeing the 60K pricing it is hard for me to justify the looking to get the new car. I am hoping that we as Electronauts get a very substantial discount and something unique. If not I am not really interested in purchasing the I3.

    This is a sad statement for me to make as I currently own 3 other BMW's including a vintage 533i and am very loyal to the brand (15+ Years) which has been tough with all of the dealer visits and months of not having a car with the special white California sticker. But I was "cool" for the last 24 months having one of only 700 cars made and I did find that I could have an electric car and still survive in LA traffic.

    Hopefully BMW will have a great big thank you ie Discount, for all of us and include a very long warranty with the car for us chosen few so that we can buy them. If not I could only recommend a lease to friends and family who might be interested.

    BTW in the interest of full disclosure I also own a 500e Sport w/ Sunroof. Great little car and very hard to beat the subsidized program going on right now.

    My Last thought as my wife had a drive train error light recently: Wonder if it make the turn in process easier at lease end if the dealer already has it in service or do they need to release it from service to turn it in?

  25. Tom,
    We know you know ;) what is the Electronaut special package???

  26. The pricing/packaging details are now on the BMW website for the i3 ... what is the DC fast charging (SAE) for $700 vs. the AC fast charging (which is standard eqpt) ?

    1. AC fast charging is really the 7.? kw onboard L2 charger for the US. The pack being smaller than the Active E makes this charger finish sooner. (assuming that BMW doesn't degrade the charge speed again, like they did on the Active Es)

      The SAE for $700 is for the CCS which has been deployed to very limited areas.

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