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100% Electric Vehicles

Hacking A BMW i3

After a steep drop from the Tesla Model S, the BMW i3 is the most expensive electric car on the US market (just slightly above the Mercedes B-Class Electric). It is an attractive electric option with a lot of benefits over other EVs. But it has some irritating features as well.

BMW-i3-closeup

Some of these irritations are just regarding the US range-extended version of the i3 (aka BMW i3 REx). Confused? First of all, to qualify for California ZEV credits, BMW artificially limits the gas range of the i3 REx. Additionally, in the US, the i3 REx doesn’t have “hold mode,” which allows the driver to use the gasoline engine for a period of time in order to conserve battery capacity. The gas engine only kicks in if you fully deplete the battery.

John Voelcker has caught word that some US owners are now hacking their BMW i3 REx vehicles in order to “get the European version.” Aside from the above, the i3 could have AM radio but doesn’t due to quality concerns BMW had with the offering, and there’s also a hack to activate that, which some have implemented.

Black & silver BMW i3 at EVS27 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.) Silver and black BMW i3 at EVS27 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.)

Naturally, while definitely not a guarantee, John notes that your warranty could be considered void for some issues if you decided to hack your BMW. There are plenty of arguments on both sides of that, but it would likely come down to details of the hack and the car’s problem in such a scenario.

Also important to note is that a BMW service tech installs an official software update, that could wipe out your hack and reset your car to the default setting. It’s still unclear if such service techs would notice that you had hacked your car, though.

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.)

Getting back to some specifics of the hacks, John made this list of some of the things that can be done:

  • Allowing fuel tank to accept full capacity of 2.4 gallons

  • Adding suppressed European “hold battery charge” function

  • Enabling suppressed AM radio

  • Suppressing U.S.-mandated seat-belt warning tone

  • Permitting video to be run from USB storage device

  • Changing startup image (one owner found “a cool Alpina” emblem hidden in the car’s software)

Interesting. I have to say that if I had a BMW i3, I would be tempted to implement some of these… but I probably wouldn’t.

All images by Zachary Shahan | EV Obsession | CleanTechnica

 
Written By

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. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, SCTY, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB. After years of covering solar and EVs, he simply had a lot of faith in these companies and felt like they were good companies to invest in as a portion of his retirement strategy. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.

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