• EPA says BMW i3 can travel 81 miles on a single charge
  • The i3 touts an impressive 124 miles per gallon equivalent
  • BMW says the i3 starts around $42,000 with shipping

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced official range and fuel economy estimates for BMW's all-new, fully electric i3 city car. The government agency recently announced that the small hatchback can travel up to 81 miles on a single charge while returning a combined city and highway 124 miles per gallon equivalent in the process. Those figures apply to i3 models that don't feature the range extender, a small gasoline engine designed to propel the hatchback further than its electric motor will allow.

The 81-mile range is good news for BMW, as it places the i3 among the best-performing electric cars on the market. For example, the Nissan Leaf returns an 84-mile range, while the Ford Focus Electric can travel 76 miles on a single charge. Only the Tesla Model S vastly outshines the i3, returning an EPA-rated range of well over 200 miles.

But while the Model S may trump the i3 for total range, the i3 comes out ahead in terms of pricing. BMW's electric hatchback starts around $42,000 with shipping, which makes it around $30,000 cheaper than the base-level 60-kWh Tesla Model S. The i3's base price also makes it around $10,000 more expensive than a Nissan Leaf S, or around $5,000 pricier than a Ford Focus Electric.

In addition to announcing range figures for the i3, EPA also revealed the hatchback's fuel economy numbers. Calculated using miles per gallon equivalent, which is EPA's rating system for electric vehicles that approximates electricity consumption and gasoline use, the i3 boasts a whopping 138 mpg-e city and 111 mpg-e highway. The resulting 124 mpg-e combined makes the i3 the most fuel-efficient car on the market. For comparison, the base-level Model S comes in at 95 mpg-e combined, while the Leaf boasts a combined rating of 115 mpg-e.

Maybe more important to shoppers is the time it takes to recharge an i3's depleted battery. According to the automaker, the i3 can be recharged in three to four hours using a 240-volt power supply and BMW's charging station. That figure increases to 20 hours using a regular 120-volt plug.

If you're interested in an i3, then you better head to your local dealer to toss your hat into the ring. BMW says that the first model has already been delivered to a customer in Boston, and that means more are on the way to dealers across the United States.

What it means to you: The BMW i3 offers futuristic styling, an 81-mile range and a practical interior, all for around $42,000 with shipping.

author photo

Doug DeMuro has a wide range of automotive industry experience, from work at a Ferrari dealership to a manager for Porsche North America. A lifelong car enthusiast, Doug's eclectic vehicle purchases include a Porsche 911 Turbo, an E63 AMG wagon, an old Range Rover and a Mercedes Benz G-wagen.

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