For some time now, we’ve heard some pretty consistent rumors suggesting a longer-range BMW i3 was in the works, replacing the current 22 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack found in both the BMW i3 EV and BMW i3 range-extended EV with a more energy-dense, next-generation pack capable of dramatically improving range and efficiency. Confirmed multiple times in different interviews with BMW executives, the longer-range BMW i3 was promised to arrive by the end of summer, pushing the BMW i3 over the 100-mile range barrier for the first time.
Today, via a mass mailer sent to existing BMW i3 owners in the UK, we can confirm these rumors to be true.
Enter UK BMW i3 owner Shaun Wooten, who shared with the BMW i3 Facebook group earlier this morning that he had received a mail shot advertising the arrival of BMW’s refreshed 2016 i3 electric car, complete with a higher-capacity lithium-ion battery that BMW claims could deliver “up to 50% more range.” Following his posting on Facebook, other UK BMW i3 owners confirmed that they too had received a mailing from BMW about the new model, discovering at the same time that there appears to be two similar but not identical versions of the mailer being sent out. Sadly, we’ve been unable to fathom out why — although we suspect it has something to do with lease versus hire-purchase customers.
Designed to encourage existing BMW i3 customers to ring their local BMW dealer rather than give all the information in one go, the mailers say that the new BMW i3 will have “Up To 50% More Range” than existing models, and informs interested customers that they will be able to benefit from the new BMW i3 with higher-capacity lithium-ion battery pack from July.
As for that extra range? BMW includes a disclaimer on the bottom of both mailers, remaining customers that its 50% more range claim is based on “provisional data and may be subject to change.” In addition to giving BMW the necessary legal protection against pre-rating range claims, it means that we’ll have to wait for official EPA or NEDC fuel economy figures to see just exactly what we can expect from the new battery pack.
That doesn’t stop us from guessing though. If BMW’s claim is right, we should be looking at a range of 121.5 miles on the EPA test cycle for the BMW i3 EV, and 108 miles on the EPA test cycle for the BMW i3 REx. In the real world however, we’re guessing both figures could be a few miles less, aggressively placing the BMW i3 ahead of the 30 kWh Nissan LEAF.
What it won’t do however, is make the BMW i3 compete against the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, which is due to launch a few months after the 2016 BMW i3 offering 200+ miles of claimed range from $37,500 before incentives.
Although the original BMW sales mailers contained very little information, a BMW salesperson from Oxford stepped into the thread too, adding a little context to the refresh which gives us an idea about pricing.
“The car will cost £1,350 more than the existing car and include DC rapid charging as standard,” salesperson Steve Holmes explained. “The new battery will be in both BEV and REX models.
“The car itself will be in effect the same car visually and the main difference will be that Solar Orange will no longer be available and a new colour Protonic Blue will be available,” he continued. “The official announcement will be on the 2nd May, but the original existing BMW i3 customers that were early adopters of the new technology have been informed first.”
As for existing owners looking to upgrade to a new, more energy-dense pack? That’s unlikely to happen. As Holmes explained, retrofitting the new, larger-capacity pack into an older BMW i3 would — just like the larger-capacity battery pack for the Nissan LEAF — require a whole lot of modifications and a whole lot of new parts. Doing so, he suggested was possible but would cost “close to £10,000” in parts and labor, making the whole process far from economical.
While BMW has not officially confirmed the planned launch of the longer-range BMW i3, we’re hoping to hear more on May 2nd. And as always, when we have more information, we’ll share it with you here.
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