A lawsuit filed against BMW involves its newer i3 line of electric cars. It’s alleged that these cars can unexpectedly drop to dangerously low speeds due to a design defect in an engine feature meant to extend the cars’ mileage. The proposed class of national drivers filed the suit in a California federal court. Named Plaintiff Edo Tsoar alleges that 2014 to 2016 BMW i3 REx models contain a “range extender” feature that, when a car’s battery drops to a certain level of available power, switches over to a two-cylinder, traditional, gasoline combustion engine to extend the available drive time from 81 to 150 miles per charge.
It’s claimed that the switch to the fuel extender can happen mid-drive. When that happens, the performance capability is prone to slide off dramatically. The cars are unable to maintain speed for normal operation, a function consumers relied on having when purchasing the vehicle, the suit says. The complaint states:
Indeed, if the vehicle is under any kind of significant load (such as going uphill, or loaded with passengers), the speed of the vehicle will dramatically decrease as the battery charge diminishes. BMW knew about, but did not disclose, this sudden, significant, and dangerous loss of power that was inevitable when the range extender is engaged.
Online consumer reports are cited by Tsoar, along with a number of complaints made with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, all concerning the loss of power experienced while driving the i3 due to the fuel extender switching on. One of the NHTSA complaints was made by a driver who claimed the car suddenly dropped from 75 to 35 miles per hour while driving on a freeway in December. Another driver said their i3 dropped from 50 to 25 miles per hour while he was driving along a Northern California highway in 2014, shortly after the model hit the market.
The named Plaintiff is seeking certification of a national class of i3 drivers and a California subclass, reimbursement of car payments and out-of-pocket expenses related to the alleged defect, and unspecified damages for the automaker’s “malicious, oppressive and deliberate fraud.”
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