Machine vs. Mountain Showdown: How Far Can the 2018 BMW i3s Travel on a Single Charge? [Video]

We pitch the brand new BMW i3s against the range-sapping grades of the Rocky Mountains – will this electric car emerge victorious?

Electric cars offer a fantastic proposition to urban commuters. Driving from home to work and back with no emissions and charging up for less than the price of gas is hugely appealing. Depending on where you live, the government may even chip to cover part of a new electric model. That all sounds great on paper, but how does a car like the BMW i3s perform in the real world? Specifically, outside the city. Somewhere the roads aren’t perfectly flat. Happily, we have just such a challenge for an electric car right in our own back yard. In this TFLcar video, Andre takes on the steep grades of the Rocky Mountains in the 2018 BMW i3s. The mission? Make it from TFL headquarters in Boulder, Colorado to the summit of Loveland Pass – about 80 miles – on a single charge. The trip computer says a full charge provides 125 miles of range.

2018 BMW i3s
2018 BMW i3s on Loveland Pass. Can Andre make it to the summit from TFL HQ on a single charge? [Photo: TFLcar]

What’s new in the 2018 BMW i3s?

You may be asking what makes the i3 “s” different from its predecessor. BMW made this sportier model to add some flair to the i3’s overall performance. To that end, it has slightly wider tires: 175 millimeters in the front vs. 155 in the normal i3, and 195 millimeters in the rear. The wider rubber gives the BMW i3s a larger contact patch that helps it hold on more aggressively in the corners. They also redesigned the front bumper to give the car a wider look, and fitted 20-inch wheels, as opposed to 19-inch wheels on the standard model. The overall dimensions are the same on the BMW i3s as the normal model.

In the performance department, you’d expect the i3s to pack a more punch, and you’d be correct. It does have the same size battery pack – at 94 amp-hours – as the standard i3. However, it has a more powerful electric motor. While the standard i3 puts out 170 horsepower and 184, the BMW i3s offers a bit more thrust. The sport model makes 184 horsepower and 199 lb-ft of torque. The 38 horsepower two-cylinder engine and 2.3-gallon fuel tank that comprise the range extender remains the same.

2018 BMW i3s
The 2018 BMW i3s offers the same cockpit layout as the standard i3. [Photo: BMW]

Upping the ante

Despite the odds and the steep gradients of the mountains outside Denver and Loveland Pass itself, Andre makes it to the summit…nearly. The range extender just kicks in on the home stretch to the summit, but he hardly uses any fuel in that, or any part of the journey from our home base to the top of the pass.

So what if we up the ante a bit? Even though the car is out of electrical charge at the summit, this i3s has a range extender. The range extender, on paper, offers up to 180 miles of total range (including the electric charge) for the i3. That means, after 80 miles, Andre should make it back to TFL HQ on just the range extender.

The saying “what goes up, must come down” also applies here. From the 12,000-foot summit of Loveland Pass, it’s mostly downhill back to our office in Boulder, which is at about 5,200 feet. Electric cars use regenerative braking to regain electrical charge while the car’s traveling down a hill. Will that be enough to get back to the office without running out of fuel? Watch the video above to find out! We think you will be pleasantly surprised, as was Andre, as you can see below.

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2018 BMW i3s
The 2018 BMW i3s with a range extender can still get you to the slopes and back, and that’s a reason to jump for joy. [Photo: TFLcar]