The electric BMW i3 is now becoming available across the U.S., offering EV enthusiasts a mid-range alternative to both the more expensive Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) Model S and lower-range, less expensive models.

Make no mistake: The hatchback i3 is not in the same class as the Tesla Model S sedan. The Tesla is a larger, more luxurious, higher-performance vehicle with a better ride. But the BMW does offer an intriguing compromise. What's more, i3 presales are off to a better than expected start, and the company has added production capacity in an effort to lessen wait times for the vehicle.

For price comparison purposes, the Tesla Model S ranges from around $69,900 on the low end, to over $100,000, depending on battery capacity and other options. The i3, on the other hand, has an MSRP of $41,350, and goes for $45,200 with the optional gasoline-powered range extender. (All prices exclude the $7,500 federal tax credit.)

The Tesla Model S EPA-tested driving range varies from 208 miles for the 60-kWh battery model to 265 miles for the 85-kWh equipped one. The i3's range is a bit more of a mystery: Some reports mention 80-100 miles for the 22-kWh battery. BMW's website lists 118 miles, and a "mean customer value" of 99 miles. Range is a squishy number, in any case, and largely dependent on driving conditions and driver style.

Motley Fool analyst Rex Moore raved about the Tesla Model S in his test drive and review several months ago. At this year's big Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, he and analyst Lyons George were able to take the i3 out for an extensive test drive. How did it do? Click the video below to go along for the ride!

Profiting from the future of autos
Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner has recommended both BMW and Tesla to our members. In his Stock Advisor newsletter, David's overall returns of 228% have dwarfed the S&P 500's 53% rise. You can see all of David's stock picks -- with two new recommendations being released next week -- at no obligation with our 30-day money-back guarantee. Just click here for more information.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.