The BMW i3 is not a big hit in the United States, but it is a strong electric seller in Europe. In fact, it is the 3rd best selling plug-in car in Europe so far this year.
BMW on the whole is the #1 automaker in terms of plug-in car sales on the Old Continent. Many of those sales are sales of plug-in hybrids with small batteries and thus little electric range, but the fully electric i3 is far and away BMW’s top plug-in seller in Europe, with more than twice the sales of its #2 BMW 225xe Active Tourer.
The i3 wasn’t always a top seller in Europe, though. It has seen a strong sales boost each year that BMW has added significant battery capacity and range. So, I expect that the just announced boost to 153 miles (246 km) of range for the 2019 BMW i3 will again result in a notable increase in sales.
The increased battery capacity and range were just announced today. Here are details from the BMW press release for the 2019 BMW i3:
Range = 153 miles (246 km)
120 Ah battery (42.2 kWh)
170 hp electric motor (i3s = 181 hp)
0 to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds (i3s = 6.8 seconds)
For a little more background, here are some of the key stats for previous versions and again for the 2019 i3:
2014 BMW i3 = 81 miles (130 km) of range (60 Ah battery)
2017 BMW i3 = 115 miles (185 km) of range (94 Ah battery)
2019 BMW i3 = 153 miles (246 km) of range (120 Ah battery)
That 2019 step up is a 30% improvement over the previous version. That’s a notable improvement that is going to open the BMW i3’s doors to many more buyers — the Europe as well as the United States and elsewhere, of course.
As many of you know, my family and I have a BMW i3 REx. Our i3 is a 2015, which means we have ~70 miles (113 km) of range on a full charge. We get around fine with it even without home charging and find that it meets our needs and is a ton of fun to own. It does the job transporting us around a city in Southwest Florida. That said, I’d be nervous to drive the family to Disney World, Miami, or certainly anywhere north of Florida, even with the gasoline range extender. It is not a road trip car.
Doubling the range with the 2019 version would make a tremendous difference and would definitely make me comfortable taking such trips, even if they still wouldn’t be nearly as convenient as in a Tesla. That kind of difference is what could open the i3’s market up to a significantly larger consumer population.
More details from the BMW press release include the following:
“Complementing the introduction of the new battery, a new exterior color, a new color for the optional Mega World upholstery and full LED headlights with cornering lights and automatic high beams, are also available for the BMW i3 and BMW i3s. iDrive 6.0, previously available only with the optional Navigation Professional, is now featured on the standard navigation system. Additionally, a Wi-Fi hotspot and wireless charging tray for your personal mobile devices is available for the first time. The WiFi hotspot accommodates up to 10 devices and comes free with a 3 month or 3 GB trial offer.”
The new color choice is: Jucaro Beige Metallic w/ Frozen Grey accents. That replaces the Protonic Blue Metallic w/Frozen Grey accent, a color I absolutely love on the i3. Hopefully the new option is comparable in the flesh. It looks good in the company-provided image, but it’s hard to imagine it being as nice as the protonic blue.
BMW also released some updated details on the interior of the car: “Interior trim changes include Mega World now offering Electronic Brown Trim and Mega Carum Spice Grey SensaTec with Brown Cloth highlights. Tera World now includes higher quality Tera Dark Truffle Vernasca Leather. The BMW i3 and BMW i3s apply the concept of sustainability throughout, as other materials used are recycled plastics, renewable raw materials, natural fibers and open-pored, unbleached eucalyptus wood. Over 80 percent of the surfaces visible to the passengers are made from recycled materials or renewable resources. The available seat belts in BMW i Blue for the BMW i3s provide a splash of color in the interior.”
As with Tesla, BMW highlighted that it works closely with its battery cell provider (which I think is still Samsung SDI — I will send questions to confirm) to optimize the cell design for BMW’s battery packs and the car’s overall performance and range. Here are BMW’s own words on that topic and a bit more:
“Like the electric motors, the high-voltage batteries are an integral part of the BMW eDrive technology used in BMW i automobiles and developed in-house the BMW Group. Based on research and development work conducted in close cooperation with the manufacturer of the individual battery cells, constant improvements to the battery packs’ power output, vehicle range, safety and durability have been achieved. Installed low in the floor of the vehicle, the new high-voltage battery is produced at the BMW plant in Dingolfing and consists of eight modules, each with twelve storage cells: the latest cell capacity of 120Ah along with a gross energy content of 42.2kWh. The exterior dimensions of the battery pack remain unchanged. When launched in 2014, the i3’s battery pack provided 60 Ah and 22.6kWh, while the second-generation battery introduced for 2017 offered a capacity of 94Ah and 33kWh.”
For more details on the 2019 i3, see the full press release.
I expect the 2019 i3 will sell very well in Europe. Naturally, it’s demand may drop a bit as the Tesla Model 3 finally arrives in Europe. However, the Model 3 may also significantly raise awareness and lead to positive consequences for other electric cars like the i3. With the 150+ miles of range, perhaps the i3 will even be a hit in the US and see sales grow. However, more likely then not, the i3 will struggle now that the Model 3 is solidly on the market. It’s going to be harder than ever to convince a person to pay $44,500+ for an ultracompact teeny tiny car when you can pay more or less that amount for a hefty and Tesla broad Model 3.
Any other thoughts on the 2019 BMW i3?
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