TEST DRIVE: Is The BMW i3 Good In Winters?

I live in the Midwest and we get some pretty nasty winter weather with temperatures down to -5F/-20C and plenty of snow every winter. In fact, we have been daily driving a BMW i3 since 2014 when they first came out.

Electric Range In The Cold

I must admit, the first winter, I had some trepidation to what it would be like to rely on our BMW i3 BEV  to get to work. Batteries, after all, can get pretty cold in the winter and when they get really cold they are less efficient. Plus electric vehicles use the battery to heat the cabin, which can be more problematic the colder it becomes.

Thus, range subsequently can be impacted. How much really depends on how cold it is and what your state of charge is on your EV.

I find, especially in the winter, it is important to keep your electric car charged up for an extra safety buffer. This is true even if you have a Range Extender i3 (i3Rex). The reason is that when batteries are freezing cold, they are slow to charge as well.

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BMW does allow you to set a time to “pre-condition” your car where you can use electricity from being plugged into warm up the battery pack, so when you set out the batteries are at optimal temperature and the cabin of the car is already warmed up.

You can also trigger preconditioning with your mobile app whenever you want. This preconditioning helps lessen the impact of the cold weather on the i3’s range and is highly recommended in the worst winter weather.

Interestingly, BMW graphically shows on the i3’s dashboard that max acceleration and even regen sides are limited until the battery warms up. This means when you mash on the accelerator, the output/acceleration can be much slower than what you are used to.

Again, BMW shows you how much it will be limited, but it is definitely a good thing to keep in mind when you want to merge on the freeway or if you want to blow someone off the line.

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Winter Tires Are Needed

If I had one other “pro tip” for living with an i3 in the winter is to make sure you have winter tires. Our 2018 i3s came with 20 inches sport tires for maximum grip in a corner, but those tend to do terribly in the snow. Snow tires for the BMW i3 only come in 19 inches so we had to use a dedicated set of winter wheels.

During our six winters with the BMW i3s, we have driven on Hakkapelitta winter tires and Bridgestone Blizzak LM500 and found that both work great.

With the winter tires on our BMW i3 and during a huge winter storm, I literally zipped right around SUVs stuck going uphill who gave me quite a look.

So Can I Drive It In The Winter?

Keeping our BMW i3 fully charged, shod with snow tires and pre-conditioning has helped us navigate the worst midwest winters for the last 6 years. The best part about our i3 in the winter has been the preconditioning it to warm up the car before we even get in it.

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Nothing like booking across a freezing parking lot and jumping in a warmed up car and knowing my BMW i3 can get me to home or work with no problems.

Winter EV Driving Tips

  • Keep Fully Charged
  • Precondition the battery and cabin
  • Use seat heaters more than cabin heat
  • Wear a coat and gloves
  • Use snow tires

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