Accessing the hidden information in your i3

The BMW i3 is packed with technology and an array of sensors to calculate performance and keep you safe. To keep things simple (or maybe not to reveal too much) not everything is on display. Maybe some hidden data will eventually be more accessible but there are ways to take a sneak peek.

Some of these techniques are a bit techy, and there is no guarantees what they do to your car although I believe they are all harmless.

Trip secrets

The most useful source of hidden information is probably accessed by long pressing the trip reset button for more than 10 seconds. When the hidden menu system appears it has only four choices and you can iterate through them using the trip button.

If you go to the last one called ‘Unlocking’ and then long press the trip button to select it you will be asked for a code. Add the numbers in your VIN together (e.g. if you have XX12345 your code is 1+2+3+4+5=15) and click the trip button an equal number of times and then long press again. Voilà!

My favorites are:
13.08 Batt. Kapa. Max. (maximum battery capacity)
13.09 State of charge (SOC, battery %)
13.10 Batt. Ladung (battery charge in kWh)
14.05 Batterietemp (battery temperature)

The State of Charge (SOC) was made available on the instrument panel in the last software update (without any hidden menus), but frankly this is just a number telling me exactly the same information as the blue bars.

However, what I really miss on the normal instrument panel is the battery charge in kWh and this I can now see in the hidden menu. With this I can calculate energy used by different functions and also do some simple range calculations that (at least in some circumstances) will be better than the i3 range prediction (that will only use historic driving pattern to predict the future). The BMW GuessoMeter (GOM) is good but if you normally drive short and fast, and the next day start a long journey, it is not the best at predicting the range. The GuessoMeter will deserve a separate post in the future.

Batt Ladung

Software version

A need I had the other day was to check what software version I was upgraded to during my visit at BMW. It turns out the easiest way is to download your profile on an USB (iDrive Settings > Profiles > Export) and then open the file in a text editor, e g Notepad. It will also show the VIN in plain text but most of the other information is encrypted.

<header>
  <date>2016-01-21T17:23:54</date>
  <version>1</version>
  <username>YOURNAME</username>
  <vin>XX12345</vin>
  <i-step>I001-15-11-504</i-step>
</header>

iDrive service menu

Another secret found on Bimmerfest is the hidden iDrive service menu. You access it like this

  • Call up Start menu
  • Push controller in up direction for at least 10 s.
  • Controller 3 notches to the right
  • Controller 3 notches to the left
  • Controller 1 notch to the right
  • Controller 1 notch to the left
  • Controller 1 notch to the right
  • Press controller once.

The Service menu is now added as the last submenu to “Settings”. Four submenus are available:

  • Navigation
  • Telephone and BMW Service
  • TV
  • Gracenote (music database)

Under these menus it is possible to see which versions of the various services that are installed, e.g. the map version in the car.

Eavesdropping the iRemote app

For those interested in accessing the information on the BMW server used by the iRemote app there is an excellent post called Reverse Engineering the BMW i3 API (or Github). It basically shows the same data as the iRemote app, but some JSON responses such as lastTrip provide a little bit more understanding. Example:

{
   "lastTrip":{
      "efficiencyValue":0.53,
      "totalDistance":141,
      "electricDistance":100.1,
      "avgElectricConsumption":16.6,
      "avgRecuperation":2,
      "drivingModeValue":0,
      "accelerationValue":0.39,
      "anticipationValue":0.81,
      "totalConsumptionValue":0.79,
      "auxiliaryConsumptionValue":0.66,
      "avgCombinedConsumption":1.9,
      "electricDistanceRatio":71,
      "savedFuel":0,
      "date":"2015-12-01T20:44:00+0100",
      "duration":124
   }
}

Hardcore hackers

The hardcore programmers will of course not stop at eavesdropping some JSON or sending simple ‘Unlock’ commands but will instead plug right into the OBD (on-board data) port and start improving the parameters that BMW got wrong. With this technique it is “only” possible to change the values used by set functions and not the code itself, but there is still a lot that can be changed. There is a great tutorial that walks you through the basics called Coding Tutorial for the BMW i3 Electric Car, but before you start you should understand that warranty is long gone.

The changes that have been accomplished include getting the US version just as good as the European version (as reported by John Voelcker):

  • Allowing fuel tank to accept full capacity of 2.4 gallons
  • Adding suppressed European “hold battery charge” function
  • Enabling suppressed AM radio
  • Suppressing U.S.-mandated seat-belt warning tone
  • Permitting video to be run from USB storage device
  • Changing startup image (one owner found “a cool Alpina” emblem hidden in the car’s software)

Airbags deployed – no electricity

Well this should not be a secret at all. An important indicator that the i3 has shut down the High Voltage battery in a crash is that at least one airbag has deployed. So not only has the HV battery been designed to be as safe as possible in a crash but there are also systems that shut down the high voltage in the event of a crash. It can be read in the The BMW i3 Rescue Guideline

 

Share the joy
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

12 thoughts on “Accessing the hidden information in your i3

  1. Should be made clear that Max.Kappa is not an indication of battery health or real capacity. It is a guess for that particular time, and is calibrated at service intervals, so if for example it read 19.1kWh and then after a service 18.8kWh does not mean you have lost capacity. Nor does a reading of 17.4kWh mean you have lost capacity over the warrantied 18.8kWh.

    1. Good point, Jack. I would not be surprised if the battery capacity (kWh) is calculated based on continuous measurements of the battery voltage (V) and resistance (R) and then taking it through some advanced BMW formula to convert it to estimated capacity. Battery technology is not an exact science but chemistry influenced by many factors.

      Another point is that the reading is only the usable battery capacity. The total capacity is 22 kWh, but only some of it is available to the car in order to prolong battery life by avoiding deep discharges and over charging.

  2. Lägg ihop siffrorna i din VIN: Vad är det?
    Om du går till den sista kallad ”Unlocking” och sedan trycker in trippknappen länge för att välja det alternativet så blir du tillfrågad om en kod. Lägg ihop siffrorna i din VIN (till exempel om du har XX12345 så är din kod 1+2+3+4+5 = 15) och klicka på trippknappen lika många gånger och håll den sedan intryckt. Voilà!

    1. Hi Eva,
      VIN is the Vehicles Identification Number. Each car has a unique number, usually two letters and five numbers like this XX12345. Export the profile to USB as described in the post or ask your BMW dealer.

  3. In the united states, The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act makes it illegal for companies to void your warranty or deny coverage under the warranty simply because you used an aftermarket part. This also applies to after market software changes. The dealer/vehicle manufacturer has the right to deny a warranty repair but they must demonstrate that the aftermarket part caused the problem. The warranty remains in effect for all other covered parts. Translation: Don’t worry about coding, but if you break your car they can charge you to fix it. But in NO SHAPE OR FORM is your “warranty is long gone.”.

  4. The hidden menu , battery temperature item leads me to ask ‘ Has anyone monitored the battery temperature during a DC Fast Charging session ? … and if so what was the outside ambient temperature at the time , did the battery temp rise to a point and then hold there etc. . ‘ I guess this is really asking ‘ How well does the Battery Thermal Management System work ? ‘ Thank you for any information .

    1. I have been curious about the same thing. However, I have never heard the cooling compressor running during a DC fast charge. Interestingly, I have only noticed the compressor run during a level 1 charge when the car was in hot garage (~98F)

  5. I wonder if I can get help on this excellent site. I own a BMW i3 which I bought in Iceland. Iceland has a very unique problem when it comes to BMW – they sell them through a dealership here but at the same time neither support navi or allow the SIM card to work in the territory. Both navi and ConnectedDrive are hidden in my menus leaving the car as intelligent as a AA battery. No app, no connectivity, no navi. Cars bought in the grey market and imported from other countries work fine.
    Here is my question. Is it possible to download a full set of software and basically re-install the OS in my car??
    Here are my basics:
    VIN: V883418
    Media: MV-130.008.003
    Phone: TV-130.008.003
    All help on workarounds greatly appreciatied. Anything to warm up through the app this coming winter.
    Magnús Ragnarsson
    Iceland

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *