Winter Driving and Accessories

Snow chains for the i3

Snow Chains

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Snow Chains

With the i3 still being new to the market, finding snow chains that fit can be tricky. The size of the i3's wheels are unusual (155/70 R19). However Roofbox.co.uk have the right chains to fit. Please click here to visit their site.

If you decide you don't want snow chains, you could opt for a set of winter tyres. Bridgestone make the Blizzak LM-500 tyre for the i3 and you can see the product by visiting tyreleader.co.uk

As yet, I have not been able to find any snow socks for the i3.

Winter tyres provide good grip in snow

Winter Tyre Sets

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Winter Tyres

If you really want to be safe this winter, you should buy a set of winter tyres from BMW. You can have them fitted at the end of October and take them back off at the end of March. Winter tyres work best in temperatures from 7ºC and below, as the rubber compound is softer. Please inform your insurance company of the modification to your car, so they have it on record.

Option 1: Swap the tyres on and off the alloys. In the long term this is going to be expensive because removal damages the sides of the tyre (the beading) and it's not a good idea to reuse them afterwards.

Option 2: Buy a full set of winter wheels. BMW sell a full set of alloys and Blizzak-500 winter tyres for £1,296 inc. VAT. I found the Blizzak-500's very good and slightly quiter than the summer tyres at speeds above 40mph. BMW will store your summer wheels for £30 per year inc. VAT, and give you two fittings in the price (and a 25-minute wait). Although buying a full set of wheels might seem expensive, the financial advantage is that both sets of tyres will last you longer, only being on the car 6 months at a time. The winter tyres will also give a noticeably softer ride and provide that protective grip in the rain that you need for stopping quickly. The winter tyres are designed to discard water much faster, helping you to stop within a shorter distance. Their 8mm treads are great for gripping nicely in snowy conditions. Winter tyres are definitely worth considering if you can afford the initial upfront cost.

Winter tyres are not just for snow

Click on the image to enlarge, then click again to zoom in.

You might also like to see that Nokian Tyres now produce the first energy A rated winter tyre specifically for electric vehicles. If you can get these delivered to your local BMW garage and have them fitted to your winter alloy set.

Road Testing Winter Tyres in the Snow and the Wet

Protective covers for the i3

BMW i3 Climate Cover

Climate Cover

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BMW make a Climate Cover exclusively for the i3, which will protect your car from overnight frost, making it easier for you to get going without having to waste power using the windscreen heater. This is especially true if you're not able to precondition your car from a charge point. It is also good to protect against intense sunshine and UV sunrays, keeping the interior of your car cooler in the summer. Visit BMW Direct on Amazon.co.uk to pick up your Climate Cover today.

If you want a full car cover for your i3, please click here to visit Carscovers.co.uk and scroll down the page. There are 4 versions to choose from.

BMW i3 Floor mats

Floor Mat

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Protective floor mats for the i3

BMW i3 lightweight and waterproof floor mats replace your summer ones for the duration of the season during the bad weather. The front mats cost £72.60 and the rear mats, £60. Please see BMW Direct on Amazon.co.uk to buy them today.

For more hardwearing floor mats visit www.weathertech.com here

Winter Battery Performance

The UK winters average a mean temperature of +0.5 to -0.1ºC.¹ So for UK electric driving, we have less days to worry about range loss than other european countries and northern American states.

It is still important to note that the capacity and range of the i3 battery during very cold spells will still suffer slightly. Fortunately, BMW i3 has built in a liquid cooling and warming system for its battery. This helps to maintain an optimum operating temperate of around 20ºC.

When it is possible you should keep your car parked inside, and Precondition it before setting out in the cold. The best way to Precondition is to keep the car plugged in. The car's computer will then use the charger to run the heat pump for the battery. This will use less of the car's range keeping it reserved for driving. For more on Preconditioning please scroll further down the page.

The battery cells are also protected by a gel which prevents any air making contact with them, should they ever become exposed. This gel doubles-up to help insulate the cells from extreme temperatures and helps to prevent freezing, this complements the battery liquid heating and cooling system.

The liquid coolant is thermostatically regulated by the battery computer circuit that also monitors each cell's performance during draw and charging. The coolant is an ozone-friendly R134a refrigerant in twin parallel circuits, compared to a traditional ethylene glycol based system. This eliminates the need for many valves, heaters, chillers or the weight of a coolant which can be substantial. It also gives the ability to use the aluminium evaporator in the battery case as a heat sink to lose heat if needed.

When you park, try to plug in again so that the thermal management system can keep the battery warm during the day. The charging time will increase, but your car's battery will stay protected.

[Source] 1. UK winter temperatures 2014/2015 Met Office
Lithium Ion battery graph, Johnson Matthey Technology Review Fig.6

Traction Control

This feature can be turned 'on' and 'off' in the car's 'Settings'. Once you have Traction Control enabled as 'Normal', your car will provide the right amount to traction on snow covered surfaces and also help to prevent you making icy cornering errors. I have noticed it working very well in snowy conditions as it limits the power to either both or one or other back wheels (rear-wheel drive). With no Traction Control enabled the regenerative braking might, if applied very quickly (instantly lifting the foot completely off the accelerator), lock the back wheels momentarily until the ABS kicks in, this can feel a bit disconcerting. So for a more comfortable drive on top of snow, it is important to turn Traction Control on to 'normal'. In combination with a full set of (Blizzak LM-500) winter tyres, you will be very well set up for driving your i3 on snow.

As instructions indicate, there will be limited driving stabilisation and driver assistance, such as collision warning and lane holding, because of the slippery nature of snow and ice.

ABS will trigger occasionally, but this normal and no damage is being done to your wheels, it is to prevent skidding as you lift off the accelerator (quickly), brake hard, or corner (too fast for conditions).

How to prevent your car windows misting up on short journeys

If you're like me and want to conserve range, then you don't want the air conditioning or window demister running all the time during your journey. Throughout the winter, if your windows mist up more easily and more regularly during your journey, it is not only because the warmer moisture trapped inside the car condenses on the cold glass, but is also probably because there are one or two other things you could do to help limit it from happening all the more. If you start out right, your windows shouldn't keep misting up and you can conserve your battery.

A few good tips here will help prevent your windows constantly misting up:

  1. Clean the inside of the glass really well with a car glass polish and microfibre cloth to remove fine dust particles, oils and grease that cause the moisture to form more easily on the glass. Spend a bit of time doing this and you will be amazed how much this helps.
  2. When you've run the aircon to demist, don't then open the window and let damp, cold air inside again.
  3. Run the aircon with the air recirculation turned on. Switch the circulation button to 'M' – you don't want to bring in new, cold air which you then have to heat up again, wasting battery. The recirculated air is still filtered to take the moisture out of the cabin.
  4. Don't wear wet clothes in the car, try to put wet raincoats, jackets and umbrellas in the boot.
  5. Lastly, precondition the car so that the windows demist before unplugging from the charger. This will save you range and make for a warm and comfortable start to your journey. You can set preconditioning to turn on automatically at three different set times or days.

What is 'Preconditioning'?

This is a really sensible way of getting your car ready to drive in cold conditions (and in the heat of summer too). You should be doing this before every trip in freezing temperatures, even if you are plugged into slow/fast (but not rapid) public charger. You can access the preconditioning through the BMW iRemote app or the Connective Drive app; or through the car's menu system. If you do it from an app, you won't need to go outside on a cold morning to warm your car up. Stay indoors until you're ready to go!

You can save yourself mileage anxiety and retain your electric range by warming your car's battery before you unplug from your charger. This way you will use the charger's power to preheat, as well as de-ice/de-mist, or air condition your car before setting out. Please note that preconditioning the car's battery takes around 2-hours hence why it would not work properly when using a rapid charger (20 mins is not enough time). But de-misting and de-iceing from the interior cabin's heater can still be performed and this only takes 10-minutes to thaw out a windscreen.

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4 Comments

  1. Interesting, but are you sure the Traction uses more battery?

    1. Yes it does, but not a lot. This is because the car constantly monitors that huge amount of torque to its rear wheels, so has to stay computing and alert to the slipping tyres all the time it is driving.

      1. Im still not so sure, but I guess that makes sense. Thanks.

  2. I can't find snow socks either. But I think it is safer, as you say, to fit the winter tyres. Better grip in rain and snow. I imagine these tyres create more road friction, so lessens the range by a few miles, would you say?

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The i3 new owner's guide

What you may or may not know about owning your first BMW i3. This guide will help you through the blind spots, inform you of the things no one explained and left you to discover for yourself, reveal the nice little surprises, and help you correct the things that don't seem right at first. This is a guide for new owners, and we hope that there will be a lot more of you who follow.