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TheStreet Open House

Tesla vs. BMW i3 Electric: First Comparison Test

You can buy the Tesla in two basic versions: 60 KWh battery and 85 KWh. They are EPA rated at 208 miles and 265 miles. Base prices are around $72,000 and $82,000; options can add tens of thousands more.

The BMW i3 comes in two basic versions: The pure electric car, which will likely average 90 miles on a charge. The second version includes a small gasoline engine with a tiny 2.4 gallon gas tank, which will take you another 90 miles.

For purposes of this price and practicality comparison with the Tesla, I am only considering the loaded BMW version with the gasoline back-up engine. BMW has yet to offer pricing for all of its options, but a somewhat fully loaded i3 will likely be priced near $52,000, in my estimation.

The BMW can be refueled to the tune of up to 2.4 gallon of gasoline in less than one minute, if electricity isn't available or will take too long time. The Tesla obviously takes much longer time, depending on what kind of electric outlet is offered -- voltage, amperage and whether it's DC or AC.

With that out of the way, now for the fun part: Let's start with the interior, before we drive.

The Tesla sits lower to the ground than the BMW, and I found the BMW driver's seat to be slightly more comfortable. I am able to get a good seating position, with the wheel, pedals and seat in a near-ideal place, in the Tesla. However, the BMW is even better, achieving a perfect seating position.

Tesla has a steering wheel more akin to a BMW M-series car; it's a fat sports wheel. The BMW i3 has a thinner wheel, but with excellent materials (leather). Let's call it a tie.

These two cars each have two of the most unique instrument panels in the industry. The Tesla is famous for its two big LCD screens, including in particular the touchscreen. It's got Apple written all over it, and I as well as almost everyone else love it. It is also the easiest to use in the business.

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