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2014 Car of the Year: BMW i3

The Chevrolet Volt gives you zero compromise: Drive it like any other car, period -- just charge it when you can. The BMW i3 with range extender is far from zero compromise, but it may be a tolerable compromise for some people.

The bonus kicker here is that the BMW i3 with range extender will be the only gasoline-enabled car eligible for the California carpool sticker for sale after late 2013. This means that once the 40,000 green stickers applicable to Chevrolet Volt, Toyota Prius Plug-In and other cars run out (probably in the second half of 2013), the BMW will be the only gasoline car sold eligible for the carpool lane.

This alone guarantees it California market sales success.

I published more details on the California "BMW exemption" for the 2014 carpool lane here.

There is also "one more thing" about the BMW i3 worth mentioning: The interior. You have not seen a car interior like this. The styling makes it eligible for display at The Museum of Modern Art. Regardless of the car's other benefits, this alone will sell this car. See interior photos at Autoblog.

For those of you who have spent time inside the Tesla Model S, you know what a radically different car interior means in terms of the "wow" factor. Well, the BMW i3 is right up there, or even ahead, of the Tesla Model S. You have to see it to believe it.

In conclusion, the electrification of the automobile means that there is a new segmentation of capabilities -- range, performance and refueling methods -- emerging in the marketplace. The BMW i3 with range extender clearly isn't the same class of animal as the Chevrolet Volt, but rather it is the first car of a new class of plug-in hybrids.

As icing on the cake, the i3 also has the most beautiful interior I have seen in a car to date. If BMW delivers on all of these items in the final production version of the car, and does it on time as promised by December 2013, I think it is a shoe-in as the 2014 car of the year.

At the time of submitting this article, the author had no positions in the companies mentioned.
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