Originally published on EV Obsession.
Update: this article has been updated to indicate that the 2017 i3 range estimate is based on the NEDC.
Jo Borras of sister site GAS2 has reported that the 2017 BMW i3 will have over 124 miles of range on the NEDC — up a solid 30% over its current range — with more details coming “by the end of the year.” (Note that the NEDC is much more lenient than the EPA when it comes to mileage ratings, so expect the new range to be considerably lower according to the EPA.)
Interestingly, this matches very well with information I got from the Nissan rep who leaked to me that the 2017 LEAF would have 130 miles of range and the 2018 LEAF 150 miles. When I wrote that article, out of caution, I didn’t mention this bit, but it seems like I should now: the Nissan rep told me that the LEAF range increases were essentially to keep up with the BMW i3. I was a little bewildered when he told me this, because there had been no announcement that the i3 was going to get a range boost to 130 miles in the 2017 model, and not many people see the LEAF and i3 as competitors anyway.
In fact, at the time the BMW rep told me this, BMW had just announced that the 2016 i3 would be getting a range boost, one that was completely unspecified (7 miles? 30 miles? 100 miles?). And this followed news that the 2016 Nissan LEAF would have up to 107 miles of rated range.
This latest information from BMW hints at a couple of important things for me: 1) My Nissan source seems more credible now, which gives me more confidence in the claim that the 2017 LEAF will have 130 miles of range and the 2018 LEAF 150 miles (though, I’m still not assuming anything until there’s an official announcement), and 2) this seems to imply that the 2018 BMW i3 will itself have ~150 miles of range on the NEDC (assuming Nissan had enough knowledge to realize that it needed a 150-mile LEAF in the 2018 model year to “keep up with” BMW).
While plenty of Nissan LEAF buyers aren’t considering the BMW i3, and vice versa, if you think about how important more range is to buyers, you can see why Nissan would think it’s imperative to raise the range of the LEAF if BMW is raising the range of the i3 (and vice versa). There would be a clear and often strong incentive for potential LEAF buyers to pay more for an i3 if it had considerably more range (+ all that fun acceleration). Again, I’m not 100% certain this is the story, but the latest news from BMW precisely lines up with the leak I received.
All in all, I’m happy we have at least two (or 3?) conventional car manufacturers who are serious enough about being leaders in the EV transition to compete with each other on range… even if neither are yet ready to compete with Tesla (put out 200-mile EVs that can use a super-fast-charging network). While many people like to hate on all manufacturers other than Tesla, I think it’s important to remember that BMW and Nissan have put a great deal of money into their EV programs, built production EVs from the ground up, sell them in dozens of countries around the world, sell them all across the United States, offer good tradeoffs between range and price for many customers, and are apparently working to increase their EVs’ range to satisfy a lot more consumers.
Back to the BMW i3 itself, note that it accounted for 8.4% of BMW of North America’s passenger car sales in September, and is the 3rd-best-selling EV in the world since its launch (only trailing the Nissan LEAF and Tesla Model S, I presume). Furthermore, 80% of buyers are coming to the BMW brand for the first time. I imagine that has opened the eyes of more BMW executives, and as James wrote in an article published earlier today, “I’m guessing that the company is fairly happy with the investments that have been made.” Carmakers don’t like many things as much as conquest sales.
With GM planning to roll out a 200-mile Chevy Bolt across the US at the end of 2016, and a Tesla a >200-mile Model 3 at the end of 2017, Nissan and BMW still have a big challenge ahead of themselves if they want to attract more than a niche segment of the market to their electric cars in a year or two.
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