— A BMW i3 REx (Range Extender) class-action lawsuit is working its way through the legal jungle after BMW asked the court to dismiss the original i3 REx lawsuit and the judge did just that, at least partially.
The plaintiffs went back to the drawing board and on March 6, 2017, filed their first consolidated lawsuit against BMW alleging violations of several statutes.
The lawsuit alleges 2014-2016 BMW i3 REx cars have defects that cause the cars to experience sudden deceleration when the vehicles switch from battery power to the gas-powered Range Extenders.
The plaintiffs say BMW promises the Range Extender doubles the range of the i3 from about 81 miles to 150 miles by using a two-cylinder 650cc gas-powered engine that's essentially a BMW motorcycle engine that powers a generator to keep the battery at a constant level.
The automaker says the Range Extender switches on automatically when the battery level reaches 6.5 percent, much different than a similar feature of the Chevy Volt which uses an 84 horsepower motor that kicks in regularly during the battery’s life.
The i3 REx lawsuit claims BMW charges $3,850 over the base price of the purely electric model so that plenty of energy is left for a trip, yet the car "essentially becomes a golf cart" once the Range Extender is activated. In addition to the i3 suddenly decelerating, the plaintiffs claim the brake lights sometimes don't illuminate.
According to the lawsuit, BMW added an option for drivers to activate the Range Extender earlier than normal, when the charge was 75% or less, but the plaintiffs say that well before the release of the 2014 model year i3, BMW removed the holdstate-of-charge mode from vehicles offered for sale in the U.S.
They did so because the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has issued a “zero-emission-vehicle mandate” requiring automakers to allocate 15% of sales to zero-emissions vehicles by 2025. Under this mandate, BMW can earn credits for range-extended i3s as if they were pure battery-electric cars rather than hybrids, but only so long as the electric range meets or exceeds the gas range.
Allegations are also made that in 2013 or earlier, BMW negotiated with the California Center for Sustainable Energy, which administers the clean vehicle rebate program of CARB, to be able to make necessary changes to the U.S. model of the BMW i3 REx so that it qualifies under the clean vehicle rebate program.
The original version of the European BMW i3 REx did not meet this criteria for approval, so the automaker modified the software of the European model to fit under the special criteria. Then BMW allegedly removed the function enabling a manual start of the Range Extender, limited the use of the fuel tank to 1.9 gallons and programmed the Range Extender to start only automatically when the car charge drops to 6.5 percent.
These modifications to the software allegedly enabled the U.S. version of the BMW i3 REx to become eligible for the rebates and tax credits defined by specific criteria under federal and California regulations.
The plaintiffs argue that while the Chevy Volt and the European-market BMW i3 are reportedly able to maintain full performance under virtually all conditions, the U.S. BMW i3 goes into “limp mode” where the vehicle slows rapidly, cannot accelerate and may not have functioning brake lights.
According to the lawsuit, the car is a danger on the roads when it enters limp mode and experiences a severe loss of power without warning. One plaintiff claims they experience limp mode frequently and the hazard lights must be activated because of how slow the vehicle is moving.
Another plaintiff says in the summer of 2015, he was driving on a two-lane freeway at 75 mph and after just a few minutes of driving in the Range Extender mode, the i3's power appeared to abruptly cut out and the speed was suddenly reduced to 35 mph no matter how much he smashed on the accelerator pedal.
The plaintiffs say owners of 2014-2016 i3 REx cars have been defrauded by BMW as the automaker engaged in unfair competition under state and federal laws and caused the cars to diminish in value.
The BMW i3 REx class-action lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California - Barry Braverman, Hakop Demirchyan, Joel Green, Chevay Jones, Dr. Glynda Roberson, Edo Tsoar, Peter Weinstein, Thomas Munk, Peter Bernard, Lawrence Curcio, Naveen Parmeshwar, Adeel Siddiqui, Charles Olsen, Robert Desatnik, Eric Wonderly, John Lingsweiler, Steve Ridges and Brandon Redmond, v. BMW of North America, LLC, and BMW AG.