Skip to main content

Say farewell to the BMW i3, the kooky electric hatchback that couldn’t quite make it

Say farewell to the BMW i3, the kooky electric hatchback that couldn’t quite make it


BMW’s first EV falls victim to US car buyers’ need for bigger vehicles

Share this story

BMW i3 hero

BMW will stop selling the i3 electric hatchback in the US starting next month. It’s the latest pint-sized vehicle to fall victim to American car buyers’ insatiable appetite for huge, towering, climate-killing trucks and SUVs.

First released in 2013, the i3 was BMW’s first real electric vehicle. Always intended to be more of a city car than anything intended for long trips, the i3 maxed out at 80 miles of range from a 22kWh battery, with a modest 170 horsepower. The battery capacity grew 50 percent — to 33kWh — after a 2017 update, increasing the range to 113 miles. Thanks to its kooky, futuristic, and polarizing design, it was never a sales juggernaut, but it certainly developed a cult following over time. The i3 was able to carve out a niche in the nascent EV market and, all told, BMW has sold about 100,000 of them globally since it launched.

the i3 was BMW’s first real electric vehicle

But its relevance was certainly on the wane. According to BMW Blog, the i3’s inventory for the US was at its lowest point over the last 12 months, with customers often experiencing difficulties securing a production slot. Last year, only 1,052 i3s were sold.

In an email, a spokesperson for BMW confirmed that US production of the i3 will end July 2021. “At the time of its launch in 2013, the BMW i3 represented a pioneering moment in electric vehicles and lightweight construction,” the spokesperson said. “Not only was the BMW i3 of the world’s first purpose-built electric vehicles, but the use of carbon fiber reinforced plastic and aluminum in the vehicle’s construction, made it truly unique.”

The “success” of the i3 has helped lay the groundwork for the imminent release of the BMW iX SUV and i4 sedan, which together represent the tip of the spear in the automaker’s belated effort to recapture its early sales momentum for EVs.

BMW fans were disappointed that the automaker never made successors for the i3 or the plug-in hybrid i8 sports car in the years since those cars were released. But the company is iterating on the underlying electric technology. Now, that next-gen tech will not only power the iX SUV and the i4 sedan but also the China-made iX3 (which is now officially not destined for the US).

Of course, the iX and i4 will be more expensive than the i3, which started at around $44,000. The base model i4 will start at $55,400, while the iX is expected to sell for $83,200. Both EVs will go on sale in the US starting in early 2022.