Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA) challenger? Why BMW says i3 tops Model S

Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) CEO Elon Musk and other senior executives broke out in laughter when asked about BMW’s new electric car, the i3. Elon Musk said the i3 still needs a lot of improvement, and hoped the German automaker would do so. But BMW North America CEO Ludwig Willisch told Business Insider at the Detroit Auto Show why he thinks the i3 could be a better EV than the Model S.

Tesla doesn’t talk about emission in the production process

Willisch said if you look at the whole concept, you’ll find that Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) emits more carbon while making Model S than the production of i3. The German company produces carbon fiber with hydropower in Moses Lake, Washington, and uses completely recyclable materials to build the car. The i3 is manufactured with wind power, making the entire production process fully sustainable.

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In contrast, Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) builds its Model S the conventional way. So, looking at the total carbon footprint, BMW is far more environment-friendly than the California-based EV maker. Tesla Motors doesn’t highlight carbon emissions in the manufacturing process.

Tesla leads in drive quality, but i3 no laggard

When it comes to drive quality, Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) definitely has an edge, but the i3 is well-positioned to hold its ground very well. The i3 weighs less than 3,000 pounds as its body is made of carbon fiber. In contrast, the Model S weighs above 4,600 pounds. With less weight, the i3 gives you more out of each kilowatt, like instant acceleration and instant torque. But Tesla Motors is unmatched here because the Model S is an absolute beast when it comes to driving. That’s why it has been named the Best Car of 2013, and Consumer Reports has given it a perfect rating.

But the i3 has also been applauded by critics. Car and Driver says that it’s hard to find a fault in BMW’s i3. It’s capable and thoughtful. The Model S gives a range of 208 miles compared to just 80-100 miles in the i3. But the German luxury car maker has been marketing its electric vehicle as a city car. So, an 80-100 mile range seems fine.

BMW ahead of Tesla in pricing

Moreover, says Willisch, pricing is the key. While the cheapest Model S is priced at $63,570, BMW i3 costs $35,325 after the $7,500 federal tax credit. With an affordable price tag, it is likely to attract more people who need a city car. And if users need to go on road trips, they can save $30,000 in price difference and purchase a 3 Series.

Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) shares plunged 0.76% to $177.56 in pre-market trading Thursday.