BMW i4 vs i3 vs Tesla Model 3 comparison, Bimmer is back in the EV arena

After its mediocre success with i3, BMW is entering the arena again on the back of its all new i4. And it looks promising, at-least according to the limited information shared by BMW.

2021 BMW i4

BMW i3, the first all electric ‘Bimmer’

The Launch

In 2011, at International Motor Show in Germany, BMW debuted its first all electric i3 concept car under its Project-i sub-brand. Later next year, during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, another prototype was exhibited. They finally unveiled production version of i3 at a launch ceremony held in Munich in the end of 2013. It came to the US market in the second quarter of 2014 with a starting price of $41,350 before any federal or state incentives.

2019 BMW i3


BMW i3 is a 2,745 lb 5-door subcompact car currently offered in two variants; i3 and i3s. The i3 is powered by 125 kW electric motor producing 170 horsepower, and it goes from naught to sixty mph in 7.2 seconds. The i3s model is powered by 135 kW motor and produces 181 hp and it does 0-60 mph in 6.8 seconds. All models have 42.2-kWh high voltage lithium-ion battery pack with 8 years or 100,000 miles guarantee. The latest 2019 model has driving range of just 153 miles on a single charge.

Declining Sales

After its launch in United States in 2014, the annual unit sales peaked in 2015 and have been since in decline. BMW sold 6,092 i3 units in 2014 which then almost doubled to 11,024 in 2015, but saw a big drop to 7,625 in 2016, since then it has been in a slow decline as you can see in the following chart.

*Year 2019 does not include December sales


Declining sales should be of no surprise, as this subcompact car has a hefty base price of $44,450 while offering meager 153 miles of driving range. Looking at its competitors, for example, Nissan Leaf has 150 to 226 miles range with starting price of $29,990 which is 33 percent less than i3. Its 226 miles range version Leaf S Plus starts at $36,550, which is still less than base price of i3, 18 percent less to be exact. The 2020 Chevy bolt is two steps further with its impressive 259 miles range and only $36,620 base price, or you could just buy a 220 miles Tesla Model 3 for $35,000.

Looking at above chart, its clear i3 can’t compete based on its price and range, or even performance. Only the most brand loyal customers would consider this car. Although, i3 had better success in its home continent. Last year BMW sold 24,252 i3 in European market. This year, by October, 26,110 units were sold, so its clearly in an uptrend there.

BMW i4, the new beginning?

It seems BMW has learned from its mistakes and is finally gearing up to launch a proper all electric vehicle that can stand tall among its competitors. According to the information shared by the automaker, BMW i4 will come with 80-kWh battery pack, dual motors producing 530 horsepower and phenomenal driving range of 373 miles. It can do 0 to 60 mph in 4 seconds, with electronically limited top speed of 120 mph. Even this base variant is more powerful than both M3 and M4, but there is also talk of higher powered variants in the works.

While this all looks good, there is still one very important aspect they haven’t disclosed yet, the price. Many in the industry believe it will be priced around $50,000 (which is fair, considering its luxury class), but given the BMW’s track record in EV sphere, we never know if they set some outrageous price that customers are not willing to pay.

BMW i-Vision Dynamics, 2017 Frankfurt Auto Show

The BMW i4 is based on the i-Vision Dynamics concept which was first exhibited at 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show. The car was built on BMW’s proprietary Cluster Architecture platform which incorporates steel, aluminium, and carbon fibre rather than a carbon-fibre structure like in i3. The final production version will likely be debuted at 2020 or 2021 Frankfurt Motor Show. BMW has already invested more than 200 million Euros in its Munich factory in preparation for i4’s production.

Tesla Model 3 comparison

Tesla Model 3 is the top selling electric vehicle in the US by a huge margin, and quite deservingly so, considering its one of the most affordable 220+ miles range electric sedan. See sales growth chart below.

*Monthly sales chart

So, how does BMW i4 compare with America’s best selling EV? There can’t be a thorough comparison due to limited details released by automaker, but lets make a comparison with what we have.

Driving Range:

This is a big achievement for BMW. Having higher range than highest range Model 3 is something you would not expect from a company that gave us i3. This could become one of the biggest selling point for i4.


BMW i4 has a little more horsepower than Model 3’s Performance version, and Standard version is almost half compared to it.

0-60 mph:

BMW i4 lag behind Model 3 Performance version despite having higher horsepower. It could mean i4’s curb weight is on the heavier side.

BMW i4 seems like a serious contender in the EV race. Looking at its battery range, performance, sleek design and combining it with BMW’s pedigree of luxury, it has the potential to become a major player in America’s EV market.

Author: Nabeel K


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2 years ago

As the owner of both a Tesla Model S 100D and BMW X5 xDrive 40i, I would never consider buying another BMW because:
1) BMW is charging customers annually for Apple CarPlay – something they only pay for once. If BMW were an ultra-budget airline, I might understand.
2) Auto-high beam adjustment has to be turned on MANUALLY.
3) Many connection problems with phones to the BMW via CarPlay.
4) Have to hit a switch to unlock the gas tank.
5) Has dial hot/cold adjustments for heating/cooling so you can make 72 degrees a hot 72 (as in 80 degrees). WTH? Who thought that would be a good use of dashboard space?
6) Lock/unlock doors via touching the handle is finicky (and why touch it in the first place?)

In short, BMW may have a great electric drive system and battery in this new car but if you’re a current Tesla owner, you will become frustrated at all the little annoyances of the control system. I doubt the i4 will overcome the historical fussiness of current model’s controls.

2 years ago
Reply to  Andi

Andi, how does this relate to a possible i4? As to some of your points
1) This has now changed (certainly in UK)
2) It’s a button press on the stalk – don’t even have to take your eyes off the road. In addition, it is also a safety feature than can be easily accessed at any time. Want to change the automatic wiper on a Tesla – great, have to navigate menus in a screen. Maybe not an issue in sunny California; but try somewhere where it rains more that the sun shines
3) Agreed, has gotten better, but I also still have the occasional problem. Normally fixed by restarting my iPhone
4) in EU, I simply press the door for the fuel tank and it opens
5) I prefer to have fine control over my heating and comfort. Warm feet, but fresh air on my face. Each to their own
6) Newer cars have completely keyless/touchless unlock/lock

On the plus side, the finish and quality of welds/seams will likely remain ahead of Tesla’s, it will probably have a headsup display like all other BMW models; whereas Tesla requires you to take your eyes off the road and look down to the right (or left in UK). Will it be better on the overall ‘tech/geek front’; likely not. Will that improve over time? I fully expect so.