BMW i3 Gets Up To 114 Miles Of Range In USA (In Depth)

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I guess the UK is more than 5 hours ahead of the USA. Days after the UK BMW announcement to boost the range of the 2017 i3 to 124 miles, BMW has announced that the US version will be rated at 114 miles of range (combined city/highway) — I’m surprised it’s just a 10-mile difference, considering how overly generous/unrealistic the NEDC ratings tend to be.

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114 miles makes the i3 competitive with the 2016 Nissan LEAF, but I think the 2017 BMW i3 is going to have a tough sales year, considering that the Chevy Bolt will be available around the same time and offer 200+ miles for a much lower price point and the Tesla Model 3 will be available approximately 1 year later (… well, for early reservation holders) and will crush the i3 on most metrics.

However, given Tesla’s long reservation queue, perhaps BMW has a decent window of opportunity to nab lessees who want a higher trim than the Bolt and didn’t get in soon enough to hold out for a Model 3. I have to admit that’s tempting, but at the same time, I’m personally more interested in getting a great used i3 as a city car for less than a 2017 lease that I can enjoy for many years to come… and a Model 3 when my place in line comes up. Well, there are several factors in my life that could change that idea as well, and I’m just rambling now, but I think these are the kind of discussions people will be having with themselves as they consider a 2017 i3.

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Back to the new (and I still think exciting) 2017 BMW i3, here’s a bit more info from BMW (h/t BMW i Admin on the BMW i forum), with some formatting changes:

The 2017 BMW i3 (94 Ah) has a capacity of 33 kilowatt hours (kWh) thanks to the higher energy density of the lithium ion cells. The BMW i team worked to ensure that the battery dimensions remain unchanged while still offering a significant range increase. Even in everyday conditions, the new Battery Electric BMW i3, in varying weather conditions and with the air conditioning or heating turned on, a range of up to 114 miles combined(1) (hwy/city) is possible as shown by independent BMW testing cycles.

The driving performance figures of the 170 hp AC synchronous electric motor remain virtually unchanged. The motor propels the BMW i3 from 0 to 60 mph in just over 7 seconds. This makes the BMW i3 both the sportiest and most efficient electric vehicle in its segment, with an expected EPA electricity consumption of 27 kWh/100mi.

In addition to the Battery Electric BMW i3, the Range Extender model will also feature the 94 Ah battery. When equipped with the Range Extender, if the driver requires additional range, the 2-cylinder gasoline engine is switched on once the battery is depleted to 6.5% state of charge and keeps the charge level of the battery constant while driving and provides an additional range thanks to a 25% larger fuel tank (2.4 gallons).

With the introduction of the BMW i3 (94 Ah), BMW i now also offers a new BMW Home Charger Connect, a residential charging station designed for comfortable and fast home charging featuring additional connected functions. Pricing for the 2017 BMW i3 (94 Ah) will be released closer to market launch.

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The battery cells for the BMW i3, unlike the large majority of other electric cars on the market, come from Samsung SDI, which is considered a leader in the stationary lithium-ion, and seems to be aiming strongly at the EV market as well. But BMW works closely with Samsung SDI on these battery cells, and also puts the battery pack together.

Here’s a bit more on the BMW i3 battery from BMW:

The high-voltage battery of the BMW i3 consists of eight modules with twelve storage cells each and its capacity has increased by more than 50% without any changes in exterior dimensions. By optimizing the cell-internal packages with more electrolyte and adapting the active material, BMW and Samsung SDI have succeeded in increasing cell capacity to 94 Ah and overall battery energy to 33 kWh of which 27.2 kWh can be effectively used. The previous battery of the BMW i3 (60 Ah) produced 22 kWh (gross)/19 kWh (net).

The lithium ion cells used, set themselves apart in the competitive field by achieving a special balance between high energy density, cycle stability and safety in the case of an accident. The high-voltage battery also has an advanced thermal management system that keeps the battery operating in the optimal temperature range, which further enhances performance. For example, the coolant of the air conditioning system is responsible for cooling the high-voltage battery very effectively, while a heating system can also be used to warm the battery to ensure the optimal operating temperature before starting off. Customers receive an 8-year/100,000-mile High-voltage Battery Warranty.

During the development phase of the BMW i3, the entire architecture of the electric drivetrain was designed with the next technological steps as well as serviceability in mind. For example, if necessary a single battery module can be exchanged which distinguishes the BMW i3 from other competitive offers and represents an integral component of the holistic BMW i concept of sustainability. From the production stand point, sustainability is achieved to a large extent through the CO2 free electricity supply of the BMW i production sites in Leipzig (assembly) and Moses Lake (CFRP production) as well as through the use of 70 percent less water in the production process compared to conventional automobiles.

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The charging speed is also improved due to the improved battery: “The 7.4 kW charging electronics of the BMW i3 (94 Ah) can charge the 33 kWh battery in approximately 4.5 hours using a Level 2 charger, which is slightly more than the approximately 3.5 hours required to charge the battery on a BMW i3 (60 Ah).” 4.5 hours is quite adequate, imho. You’re not going to get down below 20% in most cases anyway, but even if you have to for regular trips to work or home, you can likely charge back up to 100% during work or overnight. Naturally, the i3 still isn’t ideal for long-distance trips — it’s more of a “regional car.”

Regarding “fast charging” (which I think should really be termed “medium-speed charging”), BMW writes: “The BMW i3 is equipped with the future-proof 50 kW direct current (DC) fast charging technology. When the BMW i3 (94 Ah) is connected to a DC fast charging station, the battery cells are charged up to a minimum of 80 percent of their capacity in less than 40 minutes. In the BMW i3 (60 Ah) this takes around 25 minutes. This means that the BMW i3 (94 Ah) achieves a charging speed of 2.5 mi/min which corresponds to 24 minutes charging time per 62 miles of range.”

2017 BMW i3 blue

Like with the UK model, the 2017 BMW i3 for the US gains the “protonic blue” color and drops the “solar orange” color from the option plate. “The BMW i3 (94 Ah) customer can also choose from two non-metallic paint colors (Capparis White and Fluid Black) and, in addition to Protonic Blue, three metallic paintwork colors (Mineral Grey, Platinum Silver and Ionic Silver).” More details on colors and extra features:

The Deka World is now part of the standard profile of the BMW i3 (94 Ah) and features a lightweight dark cloth fabric interior made from recycled materials. Other changes to the standard profile include the addition of the Universal Garage Door Opener, Advanced Real-Time Traffic Information, and Comfort Access.

As part of the Tera World, a Dark Oak Wood trim is also now included, with an alternative Light Eucalyptus Wood trim available as well. These trims are also available for ordering with the Giga World.

The highly anticipated electric moonroof is also available for ordering for the first time in the US. This option features individual shades and adds to the great set of convenience features that the BMW i3 has to offer.

Standard profile and equipment for the BMW i3 (94 Ah) includes: Automatic climate control, Dynamic Cruise Control, LED Headlights, HD Radio, DC Fast Charging, Navigation Business System, BMW Assist and BMW Teleservices. Other standard features include: the iDrive operation system, the BMW i RemoteApp functionalities, the Driving Dynamic Control switch, hands-free telephone operation, leather steering wheel and Park Distance Control (PDC).

This is a BMW, after all.

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Another really interested stat is that 80% of BMW i3 buyers worldwide are new to BMW — “conquest sales” like these are like gold to automakers, so I imagine BMW is 1) quite happy with the car’s success, 2) aiming to make it an even more attractive car year after year, 3) eager to address any customers problems with the car and keep them as BMW customers going forward. But again: it’s going to be tough to not lose them to Tesla, with the Model 3 offering much quicker acceleration, more space, Supercharging (which is about twice as fast as DC fast charging), over-the-air software updates, more-advanced autonomous driving features… and all at a lower price.

There’s one more quote in the long press release that I’d highlight as well: “The impressive electric motor, small turning circle of 32.3 feet, – a major benefit to driving in the city – BMW’s near-perfect 50-50 weight distribution, precise electric power steering and the stable suspension set-up help to make the i3 as satisfying to drive as every other BMW.”

Well, in my opinion, the i3 drives better than any other BMW I’ve driven, and has innate driver benefits over BMW’s gas and plug-in hybrid counterparts. But hey, I’m addicted to one-pedal driving enabled via excellent regenerative braking, amazing acceleration enabled via the instant torque of a superb electric motor, and the smooth and quiet ride enabled by a highly efficient electric motor.

BMW i3 Kyle Field

All images by BMW except last one, which is by Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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