BMW i3's First American Customer: Boston Professor Charlie Rabie

By · May 02, 2014

BMW i3 handover in Boston

From left: Ruty Bakor and Charlie Rabie (husband and wife), Herb Chambers, Jose Guerrero, BMW's i brand product manager. (Dan Aguirre photo)

BOSTON—Charlie Rabie, who teaches business strategy and entrepreneurship at Tufts University in Medford, on Friday became the first U.S. customer of the BMW i3. He’s thrilled.

“It was a great party,” Rabie said. “And they threw in a nice BMW bicycle.” Also, courtesy of BMW North America, he got DC fast charging (using the SAE combo plug) and heated seats, together worth about $1,300. “The whole dealership came down and applauded,” said Melissa Steffy, general manager of Herb Chambers BMW and Mini.

An ActiveE Driver

Rabie is hardly new to BMW, since he recently turned in his ActiveE, a 1-Series Coupe with the i3’s drivetrain. “I’ve been tracking the i3 closely,” he said. “It’s a logical progression from the ActiveE, because it was built from the ground up to be an electric car. With its carbon fiber passenger compartment, it’s 30 percent lighter than the ActiveE. The batteries aren’t just stuffed in to an existing car; they’re down low for better driving and handling.”

BMW i3s

BMW i3s lined up at the port in New Jersey. (BMW photo)

Early i3s through the Port of New Jersey are all battery-only models; if Rabie had ordered a REx range extender (the weight affecting performance was a concern) he wouldn’t have been first in line. The deliveries come just after BMW got its official EPA ratings of 81 miles of range on a full charge (close to that of a Nissan LEAF) and 124 MPGe combined (138 in the city, 111 on the highway).

A Second Car

The 81 miles of official EPA range isn’t bad for an EV with a 22-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery and a 170-horsepower motor, but Rabie (who said he routinely saw 80 to 90 miles in his ActiveE) isn’t looking to make any cross-country runs. “I can live with the limited range,” he said. “It will be fine around Boston, where there’s plenty of charging, but I’d falter tremendously if I went out into the rural areas.”

Rabie said he looked at a Tesla Model S, but “the price tag scared me off. This is my second car, and the notion of spending Tesla money on a second car was really a non-starter.” Still, he got a car that drives like a Tesla. “I could have bought any number of hybrids or plug-in hybrids, but frankly they lack the excitement,” Rabie said. “I’ve heard this car referred to as an ugly duckling, but when you get behind the wheel, it takes off like no other car. The performance is unparalleled.”

BMW i3 handover in Boston

Charlie Rabie's BMW i3 ready to go in Boston. (Dan Aguirre photo)

Loves Those Regen Brakes

Since he had an ActiveE, Rabie is quite familiar with the i3’s on-steroids regenerative braking, and says he’d really miss that feature if it was missing. “Your brain gets trained to take your foot off the accelerator and just roll to a smooth stop,” he said. “I'm never going to wear down my brake pads.”

Also in the Rabie garage are a Volkswagen Tourareg SUV and a Lexus CT 200h hybrid. It’s likely that the i3 is going to get a lot of seat time, though. “It’s the ultimate driving machine,” he said.

The i3's base MSRP is $41,350, with the range-extender model going for $45,200. The car is eligible for state incentives in California and Massachusetts, among others, and the federal taxi credit.


· · 4 years ago

If you're thinking about getting a Model S, you shouldn't think of it as getting it as a second car. It will be your main car, and whatever other car you have will be your second car.

· · 4 years ago

I agree with SVL completely.

· · 4 years ago

A lot of families have a first and second car. An EV can work as a great second car, and be put to use for the bulk of commuting, leaving a longer range vehicle for weekends and occasional trips. That 80-85 mile EV is a big market. Some buyers don't want to spend big money for a car the size of a Model S. That's why Tesla is aiming for its 3-series-sized car. Until that arrives--and maybe even when it does--the questions will be: What's the best EV for people who like a well appointed, very capable car that runs on electrons? I see a battle between i3 and Mercedes B-Class.

· · 4 years ago

Your comments are well received Brad. The only little knit pick I have goes back to what SVL said originally. If your commuter/daily driver is your EV, in reality that makes it your first car. Your occasionally used gas car then becomes your second car. It's an important message to convey when educating ICE drivers, who are interested in coming over to our side.

· · 4 years ago

I'm with Mike Kamm. My Leaf is my primary car, hands down. Anywhere we go that we can take the Leaf, we do (unless my wife and I are going separate places, in which case whoever is going farther gets the Leaf). The hybrid's only uses are when we are exceeding the Leaf's range (i.e. road trip) or we need two cars at the same time. Isn't that the definition of a second car?

· · 4 years ago

Those are our patterns as well. EV is the go-to car, and hybrid is there as back-up or for longer rides. Just seemed like Mike and SVL were saying you need a big-battery Model S to make an EV your primary car. Maybe I misinterpreted. I agree that for most days of the year, an 80-mile EV can be primary. With a 120-mile EV, like my Rav (and the next generation of smaller EVs), it's even more certain that the battery vehicle becomes the first car. My main point: we don't have to wait for a 265-mile electric car, or even 200 miles of range, before zero emissions is practical for everyday use.

With i3 and Mercedes, that can hold true for luxury buyers as well.

· · 4 years ago

I think @SVL didn't say it right. A Model S can be your ONLY car. A family could use a short range EV and a Tesla as their two vehicles. My wife and I have not driven more than 100 miles from our home in about 20 months. She's starting to come to the realization that we should just rent when we want to drive out of the Bay Area. It is that rare for us.

· · 4 years ago

@Mike I
Well, it seems obvious from the article that the EV wasn't going to be their only car, so my point was that even if that EV won't cover all your needs it will be your primary car. And a Tesla as a second car doesn't make much sense, but as a primary car, it does.

· · 4 years ago

I think a solid 100-120 mile of range is necessary for people to feel more confidant with an EV. The i3 is a great car. I just could not buy another EV with under a 100 mile rang. It was just too nerve wracking. Granted the infrastructure is much better but no fast charging nullifies the advances.

New to EVs? Start here

  1. Seven Things To Know About Buying a Plug-In Car
    A few simple tips before you visit the dealership.
  2. Incentives for Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Cars
    Take advantage of credits and rebates to reduce EV costs.
  3. Buying Your First Home EV Charger
    You'll want a home charger. Here's how to buy the right one.