It seems as if the Bavarian carmaker BMW has secretly started testing the 94 Ah (33 kWh) European i3 battery pack upgrade for the US market, a market that rightfully deserves it!
To be clear, the longer-range BMW i3 arrived on the US market last year … if you want to get it new. However, for people with original BMW i3s who want a range boost by switching to a new battery pack, the battery upgrade hasn’t been an option yet.
Apparently, regional markets (US, UK, other parts of Europe) had the opportunity to run with the upgrade option or not, but lack of demand for the cost seemed to limit the interest of regional BMW execs. Maybe that’s changing now that original i3s are getting a bit older.
Testing the 94 Ah European BMW i3 Battery
It was always a bit of a wonder why the European market would receive the 94 Ah BMW i3 battery pack upgrade option and not the US, which left original buyers with the lesser-performance 60 Ah. Although no one at BMW ever gave me a good reason, the fact that the company is hush-hush testing the 94 Ah upgrade in the US is probably a good sign.
Although BMW offers little information about the testing, BMW Blog reports that a fleet of 10 no-longer-leased BMW i3s have been upgraded to 94 Ah battery packs and are being tested by the company. It’s still not clear what BMW is looking into doing — if it will be available this year, later on, or not at all; how widely this will be available if it does become an option; what the precise cost will be.
Who Needs the BMW i3 Battery Upgraded Pack?
The cost of an upgrade is around €7,000 (not sure what US pricing would be, but shouldn’t be much different). At such a price, why not just get a new BMW i3 and trade in or sell your “old” one? Considering the availability of tax credits and rebates, the fact the the 60 Ah i3 was probably satisfactory for the people who bought it (or includes the range extender if the buyers thought they needed more range from time to time), and simple human finances, €7,000 for a battery with somewhat more capacity but not nearly as much as a Tesla or Chevy Bolt must be hard to swallow. Even if the option does soon come to the US, how many people will actually get it?
It’s actually hard to think of a consumer who would clearly benefit from a battery upgrade over a new electric car with more range (and note that the i3 isn’t the only one on the market).
How Much Is a New Battery Pack Worth?
Clearly, a new battery pack comes at a cost to BMW, but what’s the genuine value for a consumer to go from 80 miles of range to 115 miles of range. How many trips extend that much further? Perhaps one, two, or a few a year? So, $7,950 isn’t that easy of an upgrade to convince people to jump on.
On the other hand … keep in mind that $15,000 now gets you a second-hand i3 with decent mileage. And that’s on a car known to have few problems or maintenance needs. Surprising me, Consumer Reports rated the BMW i3 as the most maintenance-free and maintenance-friendly EV. Nonetheless, second-hand i3 prices have plummeted, which is good news for second-hand EV market hunters. This program could allow customers to buy an i3 used and on the cheap, then upgrade to the newer battery and have almost a brand new car for significantly less than the new i3 costs. Think about it: $23,000 for a used but low-maintenance BMW i3 + a new, 94 Ah battery pack, or $44,500 for a brand-new BMW i3 with the 94 Ah battery pack? Perhaps not a bad idea to add a new pack to a used i3 for someone looking at i3s on the used market.
However, it still comes down to whether that extra range is worth $7,950 to you.
BMW i3 Battery Pack, Final Thoughts
Although we’d like to see BMW move faster with its electrification efforts and add a lot more variety for fully electric cars, a US market BWM i3 battery pack upgrade sounds like the right thing to keep the EV electric motor humming and more customers happy. Presumably, some of them would find this upgrade worth the cost.
Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.
CleanTechnica Holiday Wish Book
Our Latest EVObsession Video
CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.