100% Electric Vehicles BMW i3 and me at Arc de Triompf in Barcelona, Spain.(This image is available for republishing and even modification under a CC BY-SA license, with the key requirement being that credit be given to Zachary Shahan / EV Obsession / CleanTechnica, and that those links not be removed.)

Published on January 30th, 2014 | by Zach

7

BMW i3 Greener Than Tesla Model S, But Which Is Greening The World More?

January 30th, 2014 by
 

The BMW i3 and the Tesla Model S aren’t even in the same class, but they’re close enough that there seems to be a bit of rivalry going on between them, or at least that’s what the media likes to argue.

BMW i3 and me at Arc de Triompf in Barcelona, Spain.(This image is available for republishing and even modification under a CC BY-SA license, with the key requirement being that credit be given to Zachary Shahan / EV Obsession / CleanTechnica, and that those links not be removed.)

BMW i3 and me at Arc de Triompf in Barcelona, Spain.
(This image is available for republishing and even modification under a CC BY-SA license, with the key requirement being that credit be given to Zachary Shahan / EV Obsession / CleanTechnica, and that those links not be removed.)

BMW’s North America chief, Ludwig Willisch, recently claimed that the BMW i3 was the “greenest” car out there, apparently taking a shot at the Tesla Model S. The i3 may very well be “greener” than the Model S, but I think it’s quite a stretch (an incorrect one) to say that it’s the greenest car out there. We’re yet to see an official MPGe for the i3, but I don’t think it will beat the current frontrunners. And while the production process is important, MPGe rules the day when it comes to being green.

But aside from the above, this claim also made me think of something else — which car is “greening the world” more? In more specific terms, which car is inspiring more people to go electric?

The BMW i3 has a lot of appeal. As I noted, it’s the nicest car I’ve ever driven. Surely, it will bring many a non–EV lover into the EV fold. However, I don’t think there’s any chance it is going to do so to the same degree that Tesla has done with the Model S. Sorry, BMW, but the Model S is widely considered the best mass-manufactured car on the planet. It got Consumer Reports‘ top rating ever, and it is inches away from landing an unprecedented 100/100 on their scale. I think the i3 is a great car, but I don’t think it compares to the Model S.

Tesla-Model-S-front

Tesla Model S
Image Credit: Tesla Motors

Unfortunately, Willisch did take a pointed stab at the Model S in his recent statements. He noted that the Model S is “very heavy on the braking. Our car feels just like a normal car. That’s a big difference when it comes to driving.” Hmm, haven’t seen anyone else make such claims….

As I noted and recorded back in August, when asked about the BMW i3, Tesla Motors CEO & Chief Product Architect Elon Musk laughed. However, I personally think that laugh was blown out of proportion. If you listen to the recording, the questioner starts laughing first, which brings Elon to a sort of awkward laugh.

Nonetheless, Elon’s follow-up statement once the two of them stopped chuckling was pretty critical: “there’s room to improve on the i3, and I hope that they do.” Notably, Elon isn’t the only one to have made this statement — I’ve read it numerous times from other EV owners and reporters. I haven’t heard Elon comment on the i3 since then, but I think BMW’s leadership would be better off not starting a very public comparison of the i3 and the Model S.

In summary:

  • The BMW i3 is certainly green, but I don’t think anyone can claim it’s the greenest car on the planet.
  • The BMW i3 is arguably greener than the Model S… but I don’t think it will “green the world” as much as the Model S.
  • The BMW i3 is a superb car — I’d buy it over just about any other car — but it’s not the Model S, if you know what I mean.

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.



  • TedKidd

    “Greener” really depends how you choose to draw your spherical cow… http://bit.ly/sphericalcow

    I believe for not a lot more money you get a WHOLE LOT more car with Tesla.

    Full disclosure; haven’t driven the BMW and I own Tesla stock. But at the end of the day BMW appears to simply be a high end Leaf – with no supercharger network. Don’t get me wrong, I really like the Leaf, like all electrics driving it seem to confirm ICE automobiles are really stupid.

    But Leaf ain’t anything close to the Tesla experience. An Electric car with no range anxiety, nobody else has it.

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      1- good point.

      2- completely agree!

      • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

        addendum to 2: and that’s from driving the i3 & the Leaf, but not the Model S

        • TedKidd

          I drove the leaf for 2 days, and the Tesla for 3 weeks.

          Haven’t driven the i3, but suspect much of the ‘electric experience’ carries across all of these vehicles going all the way back to the ev1.

          • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

            Agreed. How’d you drive the Model S for 3 weeks? :D

          • TedKidd

            My aunt and uncle have one at their house in Jackson, WY. They are extremely generous. I visited for three weeks and had free access to the car.

          • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

            Sweet :D

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