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Plugging Into BMW’s Electric Concept

Senior consumer reporter and “Deal of Day” columnist Kelli B. Grant navigates the New York International Auto Show. Join her as she roams the exhibit floor Wednesday and Thursday before the show’s public opening on Friday, with dispatches here and on Twitter @kellibgrant.

Auto show “concept cars” are usually code for “you’ll never drive anything remotely like this,” but BMW says its two new electric concepts will be on the road as early as next fall.

The compact i3 will look very similar to the “quite futuristic” concept version currently on display, minus the see-through doors, says Richard Steinberg, manager of electric vehicle operations and strategy for BMW Group. The sportier i8, due out in early 2014, however, gets to keep its futuristic gull-wing doors.

BMW is one of a number of manufacturers advancing electric models at the show, says Alec Gutierrez, a senior market analyst for Kelley Blue Book. But electric vehicles “are still priced out of reach for a lot of consumers at this point,” he says, and that’s unlikely to change any time soon. Steinberg says pricing on the i3 and i8 has yet to be set, and will likely be competitive with other electrics on the market.

Neither car is meant for long distances. The i3 has roughly an 80-mile range between charges; twice that if the buyer opts for an extender option that incorporates a small gas motor. “It’s not designed for you to drive from here to Boston,” says Steinberg.


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  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to or tweet @SMPayDirt.