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Future models - BMW - i3 - 94Ah

BMW boosts i3 battery

Leading the charge: A second BMW i3 version will replace the current pure electric version late this year, bringing a higher-capacity battery which has added another 50 per cent to its emissions-free range.

New 94Ah battery extends the BMW i3's electric range out to 300km

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BMW logo2 May 2016

BMW has packed more lithium ions into the battery on its i3 electrified hatchback, boosting capacity from 60 ampere hour (Ah) to 94Ah, and increasing pure electric range to as much as 300km.

Despite the range increase of about 50 per cent over the original model, the new battery is no larger than the 60Ah found in the original i3 and has no significant impact on the model’s performance or practicality.

While the new version will be offered alongside the original 60Ah i3 variants in Europe, BMW Australia will only be taking the upgraded version when it arrives in the fourth quarter of this year, with both pure electric (BEV) and range-extended (REx) benefitting from the upgrade.

Speaking to GoAuto, BMW Group Australia corporate communications general manager Lenore Fletcher confirmed that the updated i3 would arrive in the fourth quarter of this year, but explained the upgrade was not because customers were dissatisfied with the original electric range.

“BMW launched the i3 in Australia with a range-extender version and a pure-electric version and a majority of clients have so far opted for the range-extender, but the feedback that we are getting is that people do that to ensure they have the security and lack of range anxiety,” she said.

“A lot of the feedback that we are getting indicates that people are realising they actually didn't necessarily need to buy the range extender because average commutes are well under the range of the battery.” Ms Fletcher explained that the upgrade was part of a technology development process and that BMW was continually refining systems such as alternative energy.

“Technology is constantly developing within the low-emission vehicle forum. What BMW is doing is concentrating on the R&D, extracting the maximum usage out of the alternative power sources and bringing that to market as it becomes available. As we move forward we will see this continue to update along the way.

“The extension of range on this particular vehicle is merely the result of ongoing innovation.” As customers continue to realise that a majority of their travel if not all could be under electric only power, Ms Fletcher said the pure electric version of the i3 could “quite possibly” become the more popular version, especially with an even greater range.

“There are two things here greater awareness and people are more understanding of their own commuting needs, and the fact that the ranges on the vehicles are extending, so yes quite possibly,” she said.

The 300km range resulted from the European NEDC testing but BMW says that even with unfavourable weather conditions and with either heating or air-conditioning switched on, the i3 will still manage a range of 200km in realistic day-to-day driving scenarios.

Like the current i3, customers opting for the new range-extender version get a rear-mounted twin-cylinder petrol engine that adds another 150km to the range.

In Europe, existing i3 customers are being offered the option to have their original 60Ah cars retrofitted with the new battery, but the service is yet to be confirmed for Australian customers.

Working with its technical partner Samsung SDI, BMW increased the battery capacity by optimising the 12 cells with more electrolyte and an adapted active material, boosting total battery energy to 33kWh.

A full charge time is unchanged at three hours when using a 7.4kW single-phase mains socket, but with a larger capacity, the amount of energy that can be loaded into the battery per hour is greater than the outgoing version.

When plugged in to a DC fast charger, the new i3 can take an 80 per cent charge in just 40 minutes. To put that into perspective, that’s 4km of range per minute.

BEV acceleration from zero to 100km/h takes 7.3 seconds thanks to its 125kW/250Nm electric motor. Power consumption is rated at 12.6kWh per 100km – best in class says BMW – while the REX version takes a little longer at 8.1s due to the extra weight of its 650cc engine and 9.0-litre fuel tank.

No structural or mechanical changes were necessary to incorporate the new battery, thanks to the i3’s future-proofed design, which predicted battery technology advancement within the model’s lifecycle.

However, the battery upgrade gave BMW an opportunity to refresh the i3 with a range of new interior and exterior themes.

BMW’s Protonic Blue has previously only been available for its i8 flagship sportscar, but the metallic hue is now being offered for the i3 alongside two flat and three metallic colours.

On the inside, the updated i3 has four new interior themes in addition to the Atelier range of Loft, Lodge and Suite. Materials include a mix of naturally treated leather, wood and wool as well as other renewable raw materials.

The addition of Driving Assistant Plus completes the 2016 update with camera-based cruise control which works down to stop and start speeds, traffic jam assistant, speed limit information, pedestrian and collision warning with city brake function and proactive driving assistant.

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