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.

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