BMW is pulling a page from Tesla’s playbook and offering the BMW i3 electric car with a larger battery-pack option as part of a 2017 model-year update. While the base BMW i3 uses the same 21.6-kWh lithium-ion battery pack as i3s past, a new option increases the battery capacity to 33.2 kWh for $2050 and offers an EPA-rated 114 miles of driving range on a full charge—33 miles more than the base model.
Those extra pounds take their toll on the electric driving range of i3s equipped with the range extender, with this model able to travel just 97 miles on a charge, per the EPA. Nevertheless, the two-cylinder can take the i3 an additional 83 miles (by the EPA’s estimates) before its tiny 2.4-gallon gas tank needs a fresh batch of premium-grade fuel, so its net range is 180 miles. That’s a 30-mile improvement over prior i3s fitted with the range extender, which had the smaller battery pack (21.6 kWh) and carried even less fuel (1.9 gallons).
INTRODUCING THE ELECTRIC SIDE OF BMW.
The future is now the present and we’re living it. You can experience 420 lb-ft of thrilling torque in the plug-in hybrid BMW i8 and launch from 0 to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds in one of the fastest BMWs off the line, the all-electric BMW i3. This is pure BMW performance coupled with BMW’s innovative eDrive technology.
Rethinking mobility from the ground up, BMW decided to use Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) to construct the foundation for both the BMW i3 and the BMW i8. This material is as strong as steel, but half the weight, allowing for incredibly responsive acceleration, impressive handling, and undeniable efficiency. The use of CFRP in mass-production vehicles is truly unprecedented and speaks to BMW’s pioneering attitude toward the future of mobility.
With BMW’s 360° Electric Lifestyle Program offerings, you’re able to drive with confidence from the first day you take ownership of your BMW eDrive vehicle. As a continually improving infrastructure, 360° Electric is designed to let you focus on the road ahead by meeting your needs in the essential areas of home charging, public charging, flexible mobility, and assistance services. This range of complimentary products and services seamlessly fits into your world, making it easier than ever to experience the thrill of driving electric.
THE FRAMEWORK OF THE FUTURE.
BMW LifeDrive is a revolutionary architectural concept that was purpose-built for electric cars, designed specifically to reduce weight and increase range. Comprised of two separate units, the Life Module and the Drive Module form the framework for BMW i vehicles.
While the larger-capacity battery can take the i3 farther than before, it’s not without its trade-offs. The 33.2-kWh pack takes up the same amount of space as the smaller unit, but it weighs about 75 pounds more and takes longer to charge. BMW estimates that fully charging the 33.2-kWh pack requires about four hours and 30 minutes on a 240-volt power source, or one hour longer than its claim for the smaller battery. Using a 50-kilowatt DC fast-charging system, the i3 can be charged to 80 percent capacity in about 40 minutes, BMW says, while the smaller pack needs only around 25 minutes.
The range extender’s extra mass also reduces overall efficiency. The EPA rates the big-battery i3 at 118 MPGe combined, compared with the base model’s 124 and the range-extended version’s 111 MPGe. With the two-cylinder humming away, the last model returns just 35 mpg combined. We recorded 79 MPGe over 497 miles of mixed driving, which included use of the range extender.
The navigation system for the BMW i3, with ConnectedDrive Services, makes driving easy and convenient. At the heart is the Range Assistant with dynamic range map.5 It takes into account your battery charge level, driving style, the traffic situation and topographical information to show you the most efficient route with the current battery charge. Another revolution in routing: If you can reach your destination quicker using alternative transport such as the subway or rapid-transit train, BMW i Navigation will show you current schedules and guide you to a parking space near the train stop.
INNOVATION STARTS WITH i.
The process of building BMW i vehicles is just as important as the final result. That’s why the BMW i3 and BMW i8 are assembled in factories as smart as the vehicles themselves. In fact, the BMW i manufacturing facility in Leipzig, Germany is BMW’s most sustainable automotive plant, exclusively relying on renewable energy sources. And here in the USA, carbon fiber threads are manufactured at the Moses Lake, Washington, carbon fiber plant, which is completely powered by locally generated hydropower. Overall, the production of the BMW i3 uses 50% less energy and 70% less water.
Two option packages are available in all the 33.2-kWh i3 worlds: the $1000 Parking Assistance package and the $2350 Technology + Driving Assistant package. The former adds a rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors, and an automated parking system. The latter package includes a larger multimedia screen with a navigation system featuring real-time traffic information and active-safety features, including adaptive cruise control, automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning, and more. Our test car came with both bundles, plus a coat of $700 Protonic Blue paint, inflating its as-tested price to $55,145. The i3 is also currently eligible for a federal tax credit of up to $7500, effectively bringing our car’s as-tested price down to $47,645.
THE MOST PROGRESSIVE SPORTS CAR EVER.
Part of reinventing the sports car is rethinking its entire architecture. For BMW i, this led to the creation of the LifeDrive architecture, a revolutionary construction designed to deliver impeccable performance and superior dynamics, all while offering near-perfect 50:50 weight distribution. Plus, lightweight materials in the construction help make this plug-in hybrid vehicle as aerodynamic and sporty as possible. Its two-part structure uses aluminum and Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) for their rigidity and extreme lightness as opposed to steel.