BMW i3: Comfort or Eco Pro+ What's the Difference?

It’s Monday morning again – it does come round awfully quickly. Seems like it was only Thursday yesterday!

Opening the garage and there waiting for me is my BMW i3. It’s full to the brim with electrons ready for me to do a little test to see if there really is any practical difference between its three driving modes;  Comfort, Eco Pro and Eco Pro+… We don’t think that there is. I mean, after all, the battery is the same size regardless of what mode you are in*. The theory is that the only things that can affect the range are, how you drive and whether you have the HVAC on.

To carry out the test, I’m going to alternate each day of the week between Comfort and Eco Pro+ before driving the exact same route at the exact same time of day. All being well, if the weather and traffic conditions remain the same, I should be able to see any difference. Oh, and we didn’t test in Eco Pro as it might be too subtle a difference.

Monday, I set off in Comfort mode – this is the mode I drive in all the time and over the last two years the car has settled at an average of 5.2 miles/kWh. For me comfort mode works, I know how to control the accelerator, a little press and my acceleration is nice and gentle, press it a bit harder and we’re certainly on the move, press it a bit more and we are off, a further shove and well, ‘What just happened!?!’

I drove my usual route and at my usual speed and arrived at my expected time. So far all was good. I arrived at my exercise class with the results, in terms of miles/kWh, that I would normally expect to see in Comfort Mode.

After class I had to get back home for a meeting. I didn’t need to rush but couldn’t dally either. Still in Comfort Mode and still driving the same as I always do, I turned at one of the traffic lights to find a Tesla Model X waiting at the light. He smiled at me and I smiled back. Now I wonder – was he smiling because he knew he had a rather nice car, because he recognised the i3 as another electric car or because he just smiles at all women drivers? Hmm – which could it be?

Sorry got distracted there – I arrived back home having completed the trip at an average 6.2 miles/kWh and 90% of the battery remaining.

ElectraGirl Comfort v ECO PRO results 69

Tuesday was the turn of Eco Pro+. To be honest I was not expecting anything to be that different. Eco Pro+ dumbs everything down for you, the accelerator, the HVAC and maximum speed. What I don’t understand is what is the point of it really? Surely you can just do these things yourself. I can put less pressure on the accelerator and I can turn of the HVAC all by myself and reduce my speed to give me potentially more range. Hmmm!! Let’s find out without trying extra hard to influence the result.

I took my usual route to exercise class and back without issue. No Tesla Model X sightings that day. I drove exactly the same as I did on Monday and my results were an average of 5.9 miles/kWh.

Wednesday, and I am back to Comfort Mode and I managed 6.3 miles/kWh.

Thursday and it’s back to Eco Pro+ with an average of 6.3 miles/kWh.

Friday and Comfort mode sees 6.5 miles/kWh.

You can see from my results that there really isn’t any difference in the modes at all. We’ll discount Tuesday’s poor showing for Eco Pro+ mode as it was raining that day.

So why bother having the different modes is my question to BMW? They don’t make any sense to me. If I need to increase my range then I can easily lift off the accelerator and reduce my speed, I can easily turn off the HVAC. It’s all easy and totally under my control. Yes, Eco Pro+ mode does place all of the shut-down controls into a single button but, I’m worried that it’s more of a marketing trick than any real science and, that bothers me, why? Because I’d rather people understood how to reduce their consumption than believe in magic.

There are a lot of variables that come into play when looking at the total range available to the driver – the estimated range is a complicated number – adding further confusion with a magic button doesn’t help.

We’ve previously tested the theory of Comfort versus Eco Pro back in the ActiveE days with the same result and found, as we do with the i3, that the estimated range shown in each mode will always, at a certain point, converge.

You see, it just comes down to the way the car is driven and the external factors like temperature, weather and of course the terrain. Past experience has shown that there is no magic bullet to increase range and Eco Pro+ Mode is simply an updated estimate. For me, range available in comfort mode always shows an underestimation and in Eco Pro+ it’s closer to reality. It’s all quite simple and straightforward really.

Did I hear someone once say that Eco Pro+ was the cars nanny?!!

Just to double check numbers the following week I did a couple more tests and here are the numbers.

Tuesday – 6.7 miles/kWh in Comfort Mode

Wednesday – 6.4 miles/kWh in Comfort Mode

Thursday – 6.4 miles/kWh in Eco Pro+ Mode

I think I’ll be sticking with Comfort Mode and just controlling everything myself as and when I need to, after all it is called Comfort Mode for a reason!

ElectraGirl Comfort v ECO PRO results 64
ElectraGirl Comfort v ECO PRO results 74
ElectraGirl Comfort v ECO PRO results 221
ElectraGirl Comfort v ECO PRO results 68







* Some EVs do allow access to more of the battery in different driving modes.