NEW YORK – A new BMW program aims to curtail an unwanted feature of electric vehicles: range anxiety.

The auto maker is developing a global program providing free gasoline-powered loaner vehicles to buyers of its new i3, a 5-seat EV scheduled to go on sale during first-quarter 2014, to alleviate range anxiety on long trips.

The i3, powered by a 134-kW (180-hp) electric motor and a 32-kW (43-hp) high-voltage lithium-ion battery pack, will have a range of 80-100 miles (128-161 km) solely on battery power. The high-voltage batteries are designed to be less sensitive to temperature variations.

Dave Buchko, a BMW spokesman, says the auto maker will offer an optional 2-cyl. gasoline-fueled scooter engine modified for the i3 and designed to double the EV’s range. The gasoline engine will be a modified version of the type used in the C 650-model scooter BMW now sells, Buchko says. The scooter engine reportedly will cost $4,000.

BMW estimates this drivetrain will satisfy about 90% of the driving requirements of i3 buyers. The loaners will be available for the 10% of trips beyond the EV’s battery-only range.

The cost of the loaner program will be included in the price of the i3, which is expected to be somewhere in the mid-$40,000s, he says. BMW has neither determined how many buyers will opt for the range-extending scooter engine nor how many free loans will be included with the purchase, Buchko says.

The 2,640-lb. (1,200-kg)  i3 will be best recharged with a 220-volt power source. Charging time is expected to range from four to six hours, similar to the ActiveE demonstration fleet of 700 vehicles now being leased by BMW.

Since last June, Nissan has offered a rental car option for Leaf EV owners when needed.

The “Go the Distance” program allows Leaf owners up to 10 free days of a Nissan rental car with an internal-combustion engine.

A Nissan spokesman tells WardsAuto the auto maker currently is revising the program, offered through EV-certified Nissan dealers who participate in Nissan One-to-One Rewards and Nissan Rental Car businesses.