BMW has revealed a new variant on its i3 electric vehicle — the 2017 BMW i3 (94 Ah). The upgrades build on what was already a solid little car, adding a bigger battery as per the '94 Ah' tag, as well as an option for faster charging. Owners of the current 60 Ah model i3 may also be offered the option to upgrading their batteries, though the details of that option have not yet been released.
The current i3 model has a standard range of up to 160km in Comfort mode, stretched to a maximum of 190km in the frugal, power-saving EcoPro+ mode. BMW also offers a Range Extender model, with a small petrol engine that will take the i3's range up to 300km. The new all-electric i3 can now match this 300km range without the petrol engine, however, thanks to improvement in battery technology.
The 300km figure is only achievable under optimum conditions, however — BMW estimates a more modest 200km range for 'everyday driving', taking into account weather conditions and the use of air-conditioning.
While the new 33kWh lithium-ion battery has been designed to fit within the same dimensions as the old 22kWh model, the higher density batteries do add an increased weight to the i3, bringing its kerb weight up to 1245kg from the current model's 1195kg. BMW claims that the new model is 'subjectively as agile' as the 60 Ah model despite the weight increase, and points out that it is still by far the lightest car in its segment.
Despite a significant increase in capacity, you'll only see a small increase in charging time with the i3 94 Ah. The 7.4kW charger will fully charge the battery in around 4.5 hours — a modest increase on the 3.5 hours needed to charge the current model. On regular mains power, the 94 Ah will charge in a little under 10 hours at 2.8kW, while the 60 Ah takes around 8 hours in similar conditions.
When hooked up to a DC fast charging station, the battery can be charged up to a minimum of 80 per cent capacity in less than 40 minutes, a process which takes around 25 minutes for the 60 Ah model. This correlates to a 24 minute charging time for 100km of driving.
The new i3 will also be getting a Range Extender variant which will not only feature the upgraded batteries but also a larger fuel tank, improving the range further from the previous model. We don't have any exact figures on the range or availability of this model yet, however.
The new i3 is scheduled for an Australian launch in late 2016, and is set to replace the current model on our market, meaning it will be known only as the BMW i3 rather than the full name of BMW i3 (94 Ah). Unfortunately, it doesn't seem likely that the 'retrofit' option for current owners of the i3 will be coming to Australia.