HOV Sticker for BMW i3 With Range-Extender Still Undetermined

By · January 13, 2014

BMW i3 electric car

If the range-extender version of the all-electric i3 is assigned a green HOV sticker in California, very few buyers will receive carpool lane access—because the cap of 40,000 stickers is quickly approaching.

There’s no doubt that the pure electric version of the BMW i3 will qualify for an HOV sticker, the decal that allows drivers to travel solo in the state’s carpool lane. But Dave Clegern, a spokesman for the California Air Resources Board, told PluginCars.com that the i3 with range-extending engine—also known as the REx version—had not yet been assigned a sticker classification. “At this point, ARB has not issued certification for the i3 or the i3 REx. Until the process is complete we can’t discuss the question” of what kind of sticker the range-extended model will merit, he said.

Yet, according to BMW North America spokesman Dave Buchko, CARB has already told BMW that the i3 REx will receive a green HOV lane sticker, not a white sticker. “The reason (CARB) may decide it does not qualify for white is because there are some evaporative emissions from the tank,” he told PluginCars.com.

The HOV Factor

Traffic in California sucks, so access to the HOV lanes is a selling point for plug-in vehicles. Not all EVs are created equal in the HOV sticker world, however. Pure electric vehicles, which count as Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEVs)—the Nissan LEAF, for example—receive white HOV stickers. Those will be issued in unlimited numbers.

Advanced Technology Partial ZEVs—producing the painful acronym AT-PZEV—for example, a Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid and Chevrolet Volt, receive green HOV stickers. Only 40,000 of the Green stickers will be issued under the current law.

Chevy Volt with green HOV stickers

Seven models, including the Chevy Volt, currently receive green HOV stickers. The BMW i3 version with a range-extending engine, could get added to the list.

In January 2012, a new “BEVx” category was added to the AT-PZEV (green-sticker) classification. The BEVx category refers to a car that has a small gasoline engine and a pure electric range of at least 80 miles. It was originally assumed that i3 REx would be classified a BEVx and get a white sticker. But the i3 REx’s small gasoline engine produces emissions, and those are anathema in the sticker world.

Given the plausible denial statements being made by the CARB, I suppose it is possible that the i3 REx will in the end be issued a white sticker. However, it isn’t looking good. If green is the color, what might that mean for i3 sales overall? “That is hard to say,” said Buchko. “For folks in California, that may be a determining factor leading them to select the battery electric version versus the range extender. We will see.”

Again, an unlimited number of white stickers for pure EVS will go out. But only 40,000 green stickers will be issued, and at the end of last year, 28,739 Green HOV stickers had already been issued in California, said Clegern. That means the green stickers, if not extended beyond the current limit, will be finished by mid-2014 (considering the current rate of sales of the Prius Plug-in and Chevrolet Volt alone).

Currently, seven 2014 model year vehicles qualify for green HOV stickers, as well as a number of older models. The i3 REx will compete against them for the remaining green stickers. As for whether or not that 40,000 quota might be increased: “It would require legislation to increase the available number and we are not aware of any at this time,” said Clegern.

i3 Price Concerns

The availability of the HOV perk for the i3 is important, considering the relatively hefty price tag for BMW’s first full-production EV.

The BMW i3 configurator—and ordering system—recently went live for U.S. customers. The price for the base fully electric i3 before any incentives are subtracted is $41,350 plus $925 destination and handling, said Buchko. Though BMW said it expects the range extender to be a popular option, Buchko wouldn’t predict what percentage of sales the REx would represent. “The market will decide,” he said.

If you select the range-extender, which starts at $45,200—or $3,850 higher than the base model—and load up all the options on the “Tera” package, including the $700 SAE DC Fast Charging option, then the price before incentives peaks at $56,025.


· · 4 years ago

Doesn't the i3 have the same battery pack, no matter if you order the range extender?

· · 4 years ago

@Neil - Yes, the i3 has the same battery pack, but the addition of the small gas engine is what throws the REx into a different category. Once there is any gasoline and ICE on board, regardless of how infrequently it might be used, it's a different animal in CARB's eyes.

The Volt has, what, 35 to 40 miles of range, before using gas. The i3 REx will have about 80 miles, so expect even less petro-combustion on the BMW. But still, there will be some tailpipe emissions, in long-distance driving, so CARB needs to decide whether or not that effectively shuts the REx version out of the HOV lane, or not.

· · 4 years ago

Well, CARB should cut down the Green HOV sticker for all Prius Plugin and then allow the i3 REx to have it. That is by far the most "electric" of the type that has an engine....

The Prius Plugin getting the HOV sticker is a "scam". So many CA buyers bought Prius Plugin b/c of that sticker. NOT a single PIP cruise around the SF Bay Area without the sticker. There are plenty of other plugins (Volt, LEAF, Energi) models that don't have those stickers on them....

· · 4 years ago

“The reason (CARB) may decide it does not qualify for white is because there are some evaporative emissions from the tank,”

Wow. That comment from BMW is mind boggling. According to the excellent article by George Betak at InsideEVs, you cannot get the State Rebate unless you have Zero Evaporative Emissions.

His article states that the BEVx rules would grant the i3 REx a $2,500 rebate instead of the $1,500 granted to the Volt and Ford Energi cars and it was confirmed by CCSE. The evaporative emissions rules are easily met by many conventional gas cars that have achieved the PZEV rating. This is just a sealed fuel system that has a charcoal canister and other methods to contain the fuel vapors. Since the Green sticker is E-AT-PZEV, one would naturally assume that if they didn't have zero evaporative emissions, they could not meet that requirement and would not get the Green sticker either. If it is true that the i3 REx has evaporative emissions, that would be a huge blow to BMW. They should re-engineer the fuel system before release in USA.

In short, I think the BMW guy mis-spoke. It is probably not EVAPORATIVE emissions (fuel vapors from the tank), it is some level of tailpipe emissions that make it ineligible for the Federal ILEV qualification required for the white sticker.

· · 4 years ago

Mike I, I think you are on the money.

· · 4 years ago

BEV i3 now appears on the CARB Carpool Sticker web site with White Sticker eligibility as expected. No listing for the REx version yet.


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