Battery Options For 2017 BMW i3?

2 years ago by Tom Moloughney 42

BMW i3 Battery

BMW i3 Battery

BMW i3 Battery Module Cost

BMW i3 Battery Module Cost

Ever since last October when BMW CEO Harold Krueger stated that the 2017 BMW i3 would have an increased electric range, there’s been speculation on how they would accomplish it.

While BMW hasn’t made any official announcements yet, it’s widely believed that BMW will be using the new Samsung 94Ah battery cells for the 2017 i3, of which I first speculated here, back in November.

The current i3 uses 96 Samsung 60Ah battery cells which are 3.75v ea. This adds up to a total of 21.6kWh (96 x 60 x 3.75 = 21.6). The new 94Ah cells are the same physical size and voltage so an upgrade to these cells would mean BMW could use the same modules and battery tray, greatly reducing the cost as compared to engineering all new packaging for the new cells.

Therefore, the new pack should increase from 21.6kWh to 33.8kWh (96 x 94 x 3.7 = 33.8). If the weight of the cells is the same, that should increase the BEV i3’s range from the existing 81 miles per charge to approximately 125 miles per charge and the i3 REx’s range from 72 miles per charge to about 112 MPC.

So we know for sure that the 2017 i3 which begins production this summer will have increased range from improved battery cells, and we believe we’ve figured out which cells BMW will be using. The next logical question then is: Will that be the only battery available for the 2017 i3, or will BMW also continue to offer the current 60Ah cells as a lower cost battery pack option? We say the latter.

As a comparison Tesla has always offered different battery pack options for the Model S. That, along with direct sales and the Supercharger network been part of the fabric which has made the Model S so appealing to so many people. But there is another example of an OEM offering battery size options which is an even better comparison, and that’s Nissan. Ever since the Nissan LEAF launched in late 2010, it had been fitted with a 24 kWh battery pack. Just past Fall Nissan added a 30kWh battery pack as an option. The entry level “S” model still has the 24kWh battery pack, but if you want the higher level SV or SL trims, you also get the new 30kWh battery pack.

Lowered BMW i3

Lowered BMW i3

BMW could do something like what Nissan did and continue to offer the 21.3kWh battery pack, but only on a base i3, to offer a lower cost option. Or they could do like Tesla does and simply allow the customer to choose the battery size they want like any other option. This will however drive dealers nuts because they now have to stock four different i3’s, instead of they two they currently do.

I’m going to predict this is indeed what BMW does, and if that is correct, here’s the 2017 i3 options that will be available as early as this September:

BEV with 21.3kWh battery and 81mi electric range

REx with 21.3kWh battery, 72 mi electric range & 74 mi additional gas range (39mpg x 1.9gal)

BEV with 33.8kWh battery and ~125 mi electric range

REx with 33.8kWh battery, ~112 mi electric range & 93 mi additional gas range (39mpg x 2.4gal)

The BMW i3 (shown here in limited Shadow Sport Edition)

The BMW i3 (shown here in limited Shadow Sport Edition)

Note the gasoline range on the 33.8kWh i3 REx increased from 74 miles to 93 miles. That’s because in the US, BMW reduced the amount of gasoline available on the car to 1.9 gallons, even though the fuel tank is actually 2.4 gallons. European customers have had access to the full 2.4 gallons all along, and will continue to do so.

The reduced gas availability in the US was so the car would be classified as a CARB (California Air Resource Board) BEVx vehicle, giving BMW the maximum amount of the valuable ZEV credits, and qualifying the i3 for additional state rebates and tax exemptions. However, with the larger battery and longer all electric range, the i3 REx can now utilize the entire 2.4 gallons and still have BEVx designation, so I see no reason why BMW wouldn’t remove the gas tank restriction and give access to the full 2.4 gallons. That would increase the overall combined range of the i3 REx from its current 142 mi to 205 mi.

Of course we’re still just speculating here, and as we draw closer to the beginning of production for the 2017 model year i3 BMW has been as tight lipped as always on new or improved models. Perhaps the announcement will happen next week at NYIAS, or BMW may wait until closer to the 2017 launch as to not really kill sales of the remaining 2016 i3 inventory. In any event, the improved range will be a welcomed improvement for the i3, if not a necessary one. The new 30kWh battery pack of the Nissan LEAF is only a temporary improvement, as it’s been strongly rumored that the 2018 LEAF may have a 60kWh battery. That, coincidently matches the 2017 Chevy Bolt’s 60kWH battery pack, and that EV will boast a 200 mile all electric range.

I’m sure BMW realizes they need to continuously improve the battery in their EV’s if they want to be competitive, and this LCI refresh for the i3 proves that BMW isn’t going to sit idle and let the competition leave them in the dust.

*Editor’s Note: This post and others on the i3 appear on Tom’s BMW i3 blog. Check it out here.

Tags: , ,

42 responses to "Battery Options For 2017 BMW i3?"

  1. Three Electrics says:

    BMW likes the i3 because it brings new customers to the BMW brand. However, thrifty customers are a liability and a strain on dealerships. Thus, I expect they will not offer the older battery at below present pricing.

    1. jerryd says:

      Three, there is nothing thrifty about the
      i3.
      It is way over priced already and at that price should have 50kwhr, not 21.
      Now they want to charge more for just 33kwhr.
      And the sales of it will drop like a rock when the Bolt comes out $10k+ cheaper with 75+ miles more range.
      And likely a similar Leaf and the nail in the coffin, the Tesla 3.
      BMW could do it easily by designing out the heavy aluminum frame and REx.
      Done correctly in 1600lbs it could get 200 mile range on just 30-35kwhr and beat all the
      others in price while making a larger
      profit.
      And the CF body shows they can do it but have chosen not to.

  2. perian says:

    Great article. Thank you!

  3. Paul says:

    I really don’t see how this should work out if Chevy launches the Bolt… Sure the i3 is more luxurious but the majority will choose the Bolt because of the range.
    Nice try BMW but you need to do a bit more!

    1. Brian says:

      Some people will choose the BMW because of the badge. Others because of the driving characteristics. Others still because of the uniqueness.

      Also, don’t forget that the REx version will have the same range as a Bolt, yet will be much quicker to refill for another 90 miles. Not to mention easier to find the fueling station while on the road. So it makes a much more versatile road warrior than a Bolt. It will also widen its lead in the EREV AER race. It is already the EREV range king, but 112 miles would be more than double even the new Volt’s 53 miles.

      1. V2 says:

        If someone thinks i3 is a “road warrior” type car they have never understood BMW’s offering.

        Comparing the i3 to the Volt is also not quite appropriate, they are completely different use cars. While the i3 can have longer electric only range, I am not sure it is anything but a city car. One has to have very specific drive pattern to manage to put more than 50 miles around town in a day. As to the i3 having a tiny 1.9gal fuel tank, IMHO, if you ever have to fill up every 1-1.5h on the highway to go another hour… I’d say you are using the wrong tool for the job. The Volt proposition is a overall better compromise and I say that as a current owner of a Gen 1 Volt and will be most likely getting my 2016 i3 in 2 months when my lease is up. My choice was not based on underlying technology but purely on i3’s looks.

        1. Brian says:

          I think you misunderstood my post. I didn’t say that it was intended to be a road warrior car, only that it is better suited than the Bolt. Of course the Volt beats both on that front, hands down. But I was responding to Paul’s question of who would buy an i3 in light of the Bolt. If I have to drive 300 miles, it is more convenient to stop once at a gas station, at my convenience (they are everywhere) and refuel for 5 minutes than it is to plan my whole trip around the 1 CCS charger (2 if I’m lucky) along my route that may or may not be available or even operational.

          On the flip side, the Volt’s 53 mile AER is still low for many people. There are a surprising (well to me anyway) number of people who would burn gasoline in a Volt every day during their commute. I merely mentioned the Volt because it has the second-best AER of EREVs available today. Again, I was not comparing road-trip capability of the i3 and Volt.

          1. Dan says:

            The same people who buy the 3 series in light of the Malibu???

            1. Brian says:

              Exactly.

            2. Stimpy says:

              False equivalence as the 3 and Malibu will go the same distance on the same amount of fuel. I3 and Bolt will not.

    2. David Murray says:

      I would honestly rather have an i3 Rex than a Bolt. The 120-ish miles of EV range would be more than enough for normal driving. But that 90-mile Rex would be a lot more versatile.

    3. evcarnut says:

      I saw An i3 last week,,NOTHING LUXURIOUS about it ,, it’s Cheap woven CF interior looks like pressed Straw, Just terrible workmanship…it is really really ugly inside..when you shut the front door the rear door shakes like crazy …The car is way below sub standard,,,An extremely cheaply made car PLASTIC CAR,,,Not worth Half their selling price ….But for all the Fans with their heads Up Their *sses …It’s a BMW! W0W!!

      1. WARREN says:

        That’s funny. Wonder why it wins interior design awards? Perhaps the judges are blind??

      2. Stimpy says:

        Yeah you’re in the minority on this one. Best interior of almost any car in the world.

      3. 3laine says:

        It’s not for everyone, but the interior quality and design is quite good, in my opinion.

  4. Andrew says:

    I predict the original battery will only be available on one model, a very base BEV. BMW’s very own Leaf S, as it were.

    The base i3 will have halogen headlamps (see the new value package ZIR), delete rain sensing wipers, delete GPS, make CCS an option, and have the (cheaper) Deka interior.

    I’m guessing $34,995 for this thing. Then the other two models (BEV/REx) will drop into existing price points.

    With the 200 mile Bolt arriving for $37,500 and order books wide open for the Model 3 when the ’17 i3 arrives, BMW is going to have to compete a bit.

    1. 3laine says:

      That’s what I was thinking… Make the old one cheaper and keep the new battery at approximately the current price. We’ll see. I like the idea since 80 miles is legitimately enough for a significant number of people. Not ALL EVs should have huge range (with the associated weight and cost).

  5. MikeG says:

    Thanks for the great article on the i3 battery. I was impressed with BMW’s use of carbon fiber reinforced plastic construction materials and the extremely light weight of the i3, but equally unimpressed with the low battery energy density. This will be a nice range upgrade for the i3.

    1. jerryd says:

      Mike, the i3 for it’s size is not light with multiple steel cars the same size weighing less.
      If BMW had not put a heavy alum frame under it and just bolted the suspension, etc directly to the CF body, it would come out 1,000lbs lighter and 40% more range.
      The 365lb REx is 200lbs overweight as others like Lotus did them in only 115lbs.
      For a supposedly advanced car company, they sure blew it on design and bad use of expensive materials.
      Fact is they should have made it from medium tech composites would be lighter, stronger and better in a crash at 20% of the CF
      cost.
      BW I’ve done composite vehicles for 45 yrs and the i3 is a tiny lightly load vehicle to me. I had a CF body/chassis produced the same way 20 yrs ago, a Solectria Sunrise.
      That EV who’s sister had the 377 mile EV record for decades with lithium could easily do 500 mile range on 60kwhrs or 250 miles on 30kwhrs.
      And designed for production and passed crash testing.
      BMW should have copied that one.
      So excuse me if I don’t think BMW is that advanced or lightweight.

      1. Stimpy says:

        Jerry you continuing state this yet fail to show any examples of other steel cars that at the same weight, the i3 BEV is 2650 lbs. No 4 passenger metal car comes close.

        1. 3laine says:

          Certainly not one of similar size, performance, and features. The Mitsubishi Mirage is lighter… but it’s smaller and pretty much the cheapest, most stripped down car available in the US.

  6. Bret says:

    I don’t foresee much of a market for the 81 mile i3, once the 2017 model comes out. BMW should just ditch the old battery, instead of having four models. Buying 81 miles of range for $43k just doesn’t add up.

    More important, 125 miles is going to look pretty lame, once the Bolt and Model III come out. The bar is already set at 200 miles and anything less isn’t going to sell very well. BMW needs to move quickly to the 120 Ah batteries and provide at least 160 miles of AER, just to stay in the ballpark.

    1. Dan says:

      I would be extremely surprised if the typical 200 mile model 3 is cheaper than an i3.

  7. agzand says:

    I think the i3 REX is a nice car if they drop the price a little bit once Chevy Bolt is available. Offering the old battery makes no sense with new competition from Chevy.

    1. kubel says:

      The REx has terrible reliability compared to the BEV. Think carefully before choosing it.

      1. agzand says:

        Thanks for the heads up. It is a simple mechanism, I am sure they can sort it out with time. A 120 mile range is not enough even for a family with another car in my opinion unless you live close to your work.

  8. Texas FFE says:

    I just got back from the Dallas Auto Show. BMW was completely absent. There were only four plugins at the show; a Leaf, a Volt, an ELR and a Fusion Energi. It’s surprising that plugins were so poorly represented at the show because the ones that were there were getting a lot of attention.

    1. Texas FFE says:

      The Mitsubishi rep said that the Ioniq would be at the New York Auto Show.

      1. AlphaEdge says:

        I think you meant Hyundai and not Mitsubishi.

        1. Texas FFE says:

          Your right, I meant Hyundai.

    2. Stimpy says:

      If it’s not a major show it won’t get manufacturer support. What your seeing is a show put on by local dealers. They are significantly lower quality shows.

  9. ModernMarvelFan says:

    Yes, all the range upgrades are nice.

    What about the price?

    Will the price increase from $42K to $45K to $50K-$55K?

    If so, then it won’t help the sales at all considering that $50K will potentially get you a very nice Tesla Model 3 already.

    1. ModernMarvelFan says:

      The problem with the new i3 will be the fact that Bolt will take away the price sensitive BEV buyers and Tesla Model 3 will take away the “high end” buyers.

      So, the only remaining buyers left would be BMW loyalist who wants an EV which will be a very small slice of the market.

  10. ModernMarvelFan says:

    If BMW improves the car without price increase, it would just effectively killed off its previous generation i3 residual values… It won’t help its attempt on “discount leasing” price.

    1. Mxs says:

      This the way electric cars will alway be …. Look at phones, computers …. The same “problem” for the people who has to have a new car every 3-4 years … For us who mean to keep the same vehicle for 10 years, it’s really not if they warranty the battery for min. 8 years …

  11. Mxs says:

    Dealers actually “stocking” cars in 2017????

    Made to order is the only way forward. Dealers (showrooms) only need one car for a customer to sit in and try ….

  12. wavelet says:

    Interesting speculations.
    I suspect there won’t be an 21kWh BEV i3 (that is, REx-less) for two reasons:
    1) In Tesla’s case, the models with smaller batteries cost Tesla less to make: less cells in the battery, as well as smaller motors used — see
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tesla_Model_S#Specifications
    While we don’t know the cost of the new Samsung cells for BMW, I doubt they cost much more, if at all, per cell than the old cells.

    2) In general EV terms, the current i3 is a pretty weak value proposition. It’s one of the most expensive of the current gen, but has one of the weakest AERs, smallish cargo space and is only a 4-seater. It’s only a leader in energy efficiency, which isn’t that important to most owners.

    BMW can’t really cost reduce it by much given the expensive CFRP and platform that isn’t used anywhere else in their lineup.
    I guess a case could be made for the current 21kWh REx version living on, but that also adds quite a bit to the price.

    1. Nemo says:

      Energy efficiency is probably important to the average *EV* buyer.

  13. techguy says:

    Apologies for the repeat post. Can anyone here help? Is there a graph or study out there, showing the relative wh/miles per Mph speed driven? Many thanks

    1. jerryd says:

      techguy, no. It is different for each car, it’s aero, Rolling drag, etc.
      If you know the aero/CD and the frontal area together make the CDA then you can find power required formulas.
      Easiest is test drive an EV of your choice and the electronics will tell you how much it is using and make your own graph.
      It’ll go up fast as speed increases over 35mph about where most cars switch from rolling drag to aero drag being more.
      Air drag goes up the cube of speed.

      1. techguy says:

        Thanks! I was hoping had made a graph for the i3 BEV just like the “Zoe Range Rule” which we have in the UK.

  14. Lou says:

    There is another possibility. BMW could also offer an upgrade path to the 96 Ah cells.