BMW will boost the i3’s range

As other automakers work to increase the ranges of their electric cars, BMW may follow suit with improvements to its i3. The luxury electric city car will get a range boost for the 2017 model year, one BMW executive says.

This summer, the i3 will get an upgraded battery pack and other changes, Ian Robertson, BMW board member for sales and marketing, told Automotive News at last week’s Detroit Auto Show. While he didn’t get into specifics, Robertson said the i3’s upgraded battery pack “puts it in a much more usable range.”

The current i3 gets an EPA-rated 81 miles of range in all-electric form. BMW also offers an i3 REx version with a range-extending gasoline engine, that’s rated at 72 miles of electric range and 78 miles on gasoline power. Those figures put the i3 about mid-pack among non-Tesla electric cars when it launched in the U.S. in spring 2014, but BMW will likely need to improve its performance to keep up with the competition.

For 2016, the Nissan LEAF got a new optional 30-kilowatt-hour battery pack, increasing the car’s range to 107 miles (the old 24-kWh pack and 84-mile range remains standard on base models). Volkswagen is also planning to boost the range of its e-Golf over 100 miles. And right now, the 93-mile Kia Soul EV beats the more expansive i3. Granted, the Volkswagen and Kia aren’t as widely available as the BMW.

Further down the road, the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV will offer 200 miles of range when it goes into production later this year. It will be followed by the 200-mile Model 3 sedan Tesla plans to start building next year, and probably by a 200-mile second-generation Nissan LEAF as well. It’s unlikely that BMW will be able to match the ranges of these cars with its 2017-model-year update, but breaking the 100-mile barrier seems possible.