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BMW unveils i3 battery upgrade for ‘over 160 miles’ (260 km) of range

BMW is announcing today that it is introducing a battery cell upgrade to 120 Ah in the 2019 BMW i3, which should result in a range of ‘over 160 miles’ (260 km).

2019 BMW i3 battery upgrade

The last upgrade happened in 2016 when it went from 60 Ah cells to 94 Ah cells for an overall battery pack upgrade from 22 kWh to 33 kWh.

This new battery upgrade has been rumored for a while, but BMW is now making it official.

The German automaker says that the new 120 Ah cells will result in a 42.2 kWh battery pack, which should result in about ‘160 miles’ (260 km) of range “in everyday conditions without any loss of brand-based driving pleasure.”

That’s up from 114 miles of EPA estimated range for the current version with 94 Ah cells.

Here’s how BMW breaks down the range of the new version with the different standards:

“The range of the BMW i3 (120 Ah) is 359 kilometres* (previously 290 to 300 km) according to NEDC, and 285 to 310 kilometres** (previously 235 – 255 km) according to WLTP. For the BMW i3s (120 Ah), a range of 330 to 345 kilometres* (previously 280 km) has been calculated according to NEDC, and a range of 270 to 285 kilometres** (previously 235 –245 km) according to WLTP. In everyday conditions, both models now achieve a range of 260 kilometres*** (previously 200 km).”

When can I buy the 2019 BMW i3?

The 2019 BMW i3 (and i3s) with the new battery pack is arriving in November 2018.

The update however pales in comparison to the aftermarket high density 100kWh battery added to an i3 by Lion which gave it a 700km/434mile range.

On top of the battery upgrade, BMW says that the 2019 version will also have “a new body finish, a new colour for the optional interior design Loft and adaptive LED headlights with matrix function for the high beam are also available for the BMW i3 and BMW i3s.”

BMW is also planning a few other packages and features to be offered “in the future”:

“In future, a sports package will be available for the BMW i3 that includes black wheel arch surrounds and a sports suspension with specific dampers, springs and stabilisers, lowered suspension, a widened track and 20-inch light alloy wheels. The optimised guidance system in the tile design of the iDrive operating system is now available in conjunction with the optional navigation system Business. In future, the options telephony with wireless charging and wireless LAN hotspot will also be available for the BMW i3 and BMW i3s.”

The automaker hasn’t confirmed new pricing yet, but BMW has historically been good at updating the specs of the i3 without increasing its MSRP significantly.

Right now, the BMW i3 is listed at a base price of $44,450 before incentives.

Electrek’s Take

We are talking about a significant improvement in overall range no matter how you look at it.

BMW has been consistent in doing that since it is the second battery cell upgrade in about 5 years of the i3 being on the market.

While it’s a good thing for the program, which is still finding some success in a few markets, I think it falls short.

Even though I don’t think it’s necessary, with new EVs in that price range, like the Bolt EV and (soon) the Tesla Model 3, most people now see 200 miles of range as the minimum for electric vehicles.

There’s the Nissan Leaf, which has yet to get its own battery pack upgrade, and now the i3 is more competitive with it, but it is still a much more expensive vehicle.

To be fair, it also offers a more premium experience, but I think the proposition will be a tough sell.

What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below.

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