BMW i3 REx Extended Range Electric Car Stuck in Limbo: Here’s Why

Back at the start of May, BMW began deliveries of its all-electric i3 to customers all across the U.S., proudly sharing pictures of hundreds of BMW i3 electric cars sitting at U.S. docks ready for U.S. deliveries.

With official gas mileage ratings still MIA for the BMW i3 REx, hundreds wait on docks in the U.S.

With official gas mileage ratings still MIA for the BMW i3 REx, hundreds wait on docks in the U.S.

Yet three weeks on, the only cars which have been delivered are the all-electric BMW i3 EV version of BMW’s first mass-produced plug-in. And while many happy BMW i3 EV drivers are getting to know their new cars, many more BMW i3 reservations holders — specifically those who ordered the i3’s range-extended sibling, the BMW i3 REx — aren’t allowed to pick up their cars yet.

As BMW Active E electronaut and BMW i3 REx reservation holder Tom Moloughney explains on his blog, that’s because the BMW i3 REx has not yet been given its official gas mileage rating by the EPA.

Mandated for every new car on sale in the U.S. today, the EPA rating is calculated using a pre-determined set of test cycles, and lists a car’s city, highway and combined gas mileage in miles per gallon (MPG).

For plug-in cars, that figure is given in miles per gallon equivalent, or MPGe, based on the established energy figure that one gallon of gasoline is equivalent to 33.7 kilowatt-hours of electricity.

These figures, along with information detailing the vehicle’s safety ratings, environmental impact and a QR code for more information form the basis of the official window sticker — or “Monroney Sticker” you see in every new car.

No window sticker = no sale.

Moloughney, just like many other BMW i3 REx reservation holders, has been able to track his car since it left the factory in Germany several weeks ago. BMW’s reservation system shows the cars as being in the country, yet until the EPA ratings are released, not a single i3 REx can be delivered.

Without official window stickers, BMW can't sell the BMW i3 REx in the U.S. yet.

Without official window stickers, BMW can’t sell the BMW i3 REx in the U.S. yet.

Of course, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen new cars — of any fuel type — held up at port until official EPA ratings have been given. But in the case of the i3 REx, things are complicated by the fact that BMW’s range-extended i3 variant is the first of its kind.

We’ll explain.

The Chevrolet Volt, like the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid and various plug-in hybrids from Ford, will function quite happily on gasoline or electric. The BMW i3 REx’s range-extending engine is only meant to be an emergency backup source of power: something designed to get you to the nearest charging point without being stranded at the side of the road.

It isn’t designed to run continuously and it isn’t designed to run for extended periods of time. Moreover, unlike the European specification i3 REx, the U.S. market version can’t even run in charge-sustaining mode to enable the driver to save electric-only power for future use.

For the EPA, who hasn’t ever tested a car of this type before, calculating the correct fuel economy figures for the i3 REx takes extra time since it not only has to test the vehicle but decide on the appropriate methodology to be used.

Here at Transport Evolved, we’d like to think that the EPA is just about to release official gas mileage figures for the i3 REx so that all of the reseravtion holders who are patiently waiting for their car will be able to get theirs soon.

But with no word from BMW or the EPA it really is a waiting game for now.

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