BMW 33 kWh Battery Retrofit For Older i3s Won’t Be Offered In U.S.


2017 BMW i3 Cutaway

2017 BMW i3 Cutaway

Just days ago, BMW announced that the 2017 i3 would get a battery upgrade with capacity of 33 kWh (compared to 22 kWh In today’s i3).

Concurrent with that announcement, BMW made it known that “select markets” would offer 33 kWh battery retrofits for old i3s. No pricing information was announced, nor where specific markets stated, but we’ve now learned that the U.S. is excluded from this retrofit program.

Hector Arellano-Belloc, a BMW North America spokesperson, told BMWBLOG the following:

“A battery retrofit is only available in select markets and at this point, the US market is not participating in a retrofit option. However, BMW of North America remains open to changes in market demand and will continue to research and develop all possible options for our customers.”

Again, as we noted above, there are zero details on pricing for the retrofit, so without that information we really can’t say if a retorfit program would even make sense here in the U.S., but we do know that the new 33 kWh pack is a direct fit replacement for the old pack, so it seems it would be rather easy to make the swap, thus possibly keeping costs to a minimum.


Categories: BMW


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68 Comments on "BMW 33 kWh Battery Retrofit For Older i3s Won’t Be Offered In U.S."

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BMW and Nissan better get with the program and not obsolete their own vehicles. I’ll be jumping ship at some point from my Leaf if they don’t do the right thing. Would be a shame if these cars ended up being scrapped due to no used market demand because public deems the current batteries as too small.

Fellow LEAF owner here. I completely agree with you. If Nissan turns its back on those of us who supported their foray into EVs, I will consider the bridge burned and not look back.

Nissan has stupid management that still thinks the Leaf is a ICEV and makes their policy accordingly so I can almost understand their stupid decisions. However, BMW is all set up with standard form factor batteries to offer upgrades. It would be almost a slam/dunk.

The uded 80 mile range evs may popular cars to give to teens. Cheap, no gas costs, and they can’t go off on any long road trip.

I’m a month away from 5 years of LEAF ownership.

Unfortunately, I’m about 3 months away from triggering battery replacement under capacity warranty.

Needless to say I’m pretty pissed as it’s also going to have lost enough range to make it unusable for my commute in about 5-6 months without charging leaving it only usable for grocery getting.

The cost for a replacement battery of the same original capacity ($5500 + labor and install kit, about another $1000) is simply not worth it with the vehicle only worth about $7000 after 5 years and 50k miles.

Nissan erred not providing heating/cooling for the battery considering the chemistry. They should give new packs to every owner after 5 years, they blew it.

E-nv200 uses same battery, but its air cooled.

Who makes the decision to “not participate”? Is the dealer network or US corporate?

Dan i believe the US dealer network showed their hand in this. BMW Corp is on recent public record stating clearly that the US is their most important market for the i3.

That can only mean corporate was ready for retrofits but the powerful dealers got in their way.

For those who think dealers are not capable of such behaviour, just look at Tesla’s predicament.

We’re planning to return our i3 BEV to the dealer when the lease is up in late 2017. I assume the value for used i3’s with the 22 kWh battery will be WAY below the residual value used to calculate the lease payments since there will be so many 100+ mile cars on the market by then. Once enough i3’s with 22 kWh batteries start coming off lease, I bet BMW will rethink things if used i3’s with brand new 33 kWh batteries would sell for enough of a premium vs. used i3’s with the original 22 kWh battery.

Same here, hope nissan comes to there sensés and offert thé up grade,or à trid

When I asked will I be able to get 30kwh battery later on to change my 24kwh (I do a lot of miles), been told NO. Different shape, size, weight, connections, so the van would need certification etc

I have a french correctement

That’s OK. We are tolerant of such disabilities here.

Does it hurt?

I know, you’re tolerant specially if we speak of gallon or mph:-)

While retrofitting batteries is a great idea it would probably make more sense to wait until BMWs next battery upgrade in another couple of years…

There is not enough differences in the range to justify if the original range was good enough…

Plus the current cars probably dont have enough miles on them as far as battery capacity degradiation…

that ^^

They could sell you a new battery for your car, as well as a dock to turn your old battery into a home energy storage system. 🙂

Yeah, I know, not going to happen, but it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

Yup. Unlike Nissan, BMW has a TMS which should minimize degradation. My 2015 Leaf is down 10%

From a “dog eat dog” business perspective, it would make sense for BMW to get as many of the 22Kwh i3’s back in their (dealer’s) posession before making the 33 kwh upgrade available. They will then be able to offer them under their Certified Pre Owned program.

With their composite/aluminum construction and greatly simplified drivetrain (vs. regular ICE car) I expect these cars to be continually refurbed and on the road for a long time.

I think BMW is anticipating the same, and they want to be part of, and will likely control the bulk of the resale on these vehicles. With the way BMW has switched over their CPO warranties, it may be that you can’t afford to trade a plug-in BMW outside of a BMW dealership. (We’ll have to wait until some of these upgrades take place, and we can read the actual fine print).

BMW Will “Un-Certify” Your CPO Car If You Don’t Purchase From BMW


Which would be a shame, of course, because any independent BMW EV shops will effectively be “nipped in the bud” and BMW EV owners will have to “pay the man” anytime they want to trade out of their car.

Like a leaf, new I3 make no sense to buy.
It is obvious that BMW has on interest in supporting it properly.

Tom Moloughney needs to go to Woodcliff Lake and knock some sense into these people… in a brand new Tesla!

How do they still not get it?

Well, I do have a Model 3 reservation…

I actually don’t think they should be offering a battery upgrade at this point. I’ll have a post here dedicated to my reasoning here next week.

I think if the battery upgrade allowed the car to have 40 or 50 kilowatts I would do it. But if it’s only 33 kilowatts compared to 22 kilowatts I would kind of hold off on upgrading if I had a Rex gas back up version in till a 50 kilowatt version comes out.

Now the next question I have is when will Mitsubishi offer something like this for the i-miev?

Even less chance for the imiev unfortunately. Only sold around 2,500 in the USA. They haven’t upgraded the new ones to the lev75 cells over the lev50. That would bump the the range to almost 100 miles.

It’s really a shame that Mitsubishi is only using the new LEV75 cells in electric versions of cargo vans made for PSA group, like Citroën Berlingo and Peugeot Partner.

The i-MiEV really needs an upgrade, but it looks like Mitsubishi is happy with only selling the Outlander PHEV.

Can you retrofit old Tesla’s? The BMS is in the pack, right? Seems like ot might just work.

(Serious question)

Yes, you can replace the battery, I even know that you can also get an upgrade, as I know one fellow who went from a 60kwh to an 85kwh battery.
Also reported today was that some 70kwh batteries can be software-upgraded to 75kwh batteries, because they were 75kwh batteries all along. This is the second time that Tesla sand-bagged battery sizes. The first was the announcement that all 40kwh batteries were, in fact, 60kwh batteries.

Different business model from BMW to Tesla.

I think what Nick means is can you fit an old Tesla battery into BMW i3. Answer to that is no.


That would be quite a thing.

Start by stretching and widening the body. Okay, that was the easy part. 🙂

As far as I know, Tesla is the only EV manufacturer to offer substantially upgradable packs for all their EVs. Kudos to them.

I can see if there was an engineering reason for not allowing retrofits. But if some markets can and other can’t really sucks. I would be pissed if I was an owner that wanted to upgrade.

I’m not an owner and I am pissed. BMW is squandering such an opportunity here to lead, to add value to their customers, and to add value to their pocket books. It contradicts their claim of making an environmentally responsible car by obsoleting it or at least limiting its potential. It’s rather sad really.

It somewhat makes sense…The stat was what, in the U.S. 55% of people lease this? Upon turn in odds are the res. payoff, will be far higher than the car’s value…It can be negotiated, yet that isn’t exactly common knowledge and it’s not known how much the lender is willing to go down…If you bought the current i3 REX, you probably don’t want the extra battery if it’s thousands if not ten-thousand…So that leaves BEV i3 owners, probably around 25% of all i3s sold who originally bought it accepting the current range…Some of those buyers may have got the BEV vs Rex because they couldn’t afford the difference…So take your pick, probably less than 10% of all i3 deliveries in the U.S. would be even remotely interested in paying BMW $5K-$15K for the larger battery…

Yet I do hope that if your current battery fails, they’ll approve of a paid upgrade at the very least…

Bacardi said:

“…probably less than 10% of all i3 deliveries in the U.S. would be even remotely interested in paying BMW $5K-$15K for the larger battery…”

I certainly agree that most U.S. i3 owners won’t want to pay a substantial sum for an interim upgrade to the battery pack, but why the “No soup for you!” policy toward the relative few who would want to?

This seems to be one of those “What were they thinking?” moments.

Well at least this move will guarantee residual value will be so incredibly low so as to guarantee market penetration of used EVs to the middle class. 🙂

Not offering retrofit in US probably has something to do with the ZEV credit BMW received from the i3’s sold there.

You have it perfectly backwards, they’d need to decrease the battery size (or offer a larger gas tank retrofit)…I don’t know the retrofit ZEV rules…If I paid Lingenfelter to put a hellcat engine into my Tesla, I don’t see CARB taking the ZEVs away…

Good point, Bob.

Selling a new car with a battery pack earns BMW some ZEV credits. Selling a new pack to retrofit to an existing car does not.

Since batteries are a finite resource*, it only makes sense for BMW to use them where they’ll earn the company the most. But then, why are they offering a retrofit in some markets? It’s that which doesn’t seem to make sense, at least not to me.

*Not a limited resource, like fossil fuels, but finite in the sense that battery makers only make so many kWh of batteries every year, and demand keeps increasing faster than supply.

As long as most of batteries in modern EVs are covered by warranties there is not going to be much of a market for retrofit batteries. In five or ten years when the warranties have expired and the batteries become seriously degraded the aftermarket vendors are going to step in and start offering battery upgrades with warranties. As I’ve said before, modern EVs are robust and can be expected to last through many battery replacements.

You’re assuming that an independent can still work on your “laptop on wheels” in five or ten years. That may be over-optimistic.

Automakers to gearheads: Stop repairing cars

I could see how the upcoming advanced safety and autonomy features may require regular updates — any sort of “CCL” (check computer light, which an aftermarket battery would probably trip) may disallow the periodic updates.

Dealerships will lose a huge chunk of their ICE repair cash cow as we switch to electric. They are gonna want to make it back somehow.

Negative Nancy, .. out.

Oh, yeah,…

As Carticle mentions below. I think the battery IS considered part of the car’s crash structure (crumple zones and all that). It would be a HUGE hurdle for aftermarket battery suppliers to get their product approved/authorized so they weren’t risking liability in the event of crash.

Kind of like if a body shop were to work on the “rollover” part of a damaged car. That’s basically a no-no due to liability.

Even if the i3’s battery pack is part of the crumple zone (probably not because it is between the axles), replacing the battery cells with upgraded cells of the same dimensions and electrode positions would not affect the battery pack’s structure. The cells in each battery pack’s removable module would simply be replaced by upgraded cells with the same modules installed back into the same battery pack container. This would not affect the crumple zones. BMW’s design of the i3’s battery pack seems very flexible.

Nothing about this sounds that simple to me. But hey, … I’m no expert. You can find out what the experts think, … but it’ll cost you $496,000.

BMWi3 Battery Pack (Munro & Associates teardown)

There were intrepid mechanics building electric vehicles long before these latest production EVs. We should never underestimate the intelligence and ability of entrepreneurs. If there’s a will they will find a way.

True. Evidence: Cuban cars.

I’ve already talked to a couple of guys about upgrading both the batteries and charging system of my FFE. My FFE is still a little too new for me to be making those kinds of changes but there are some very smart and dedicated guys out that would help me. I feel comfortable enough with battery packs that I would not be opposed to rebuilding the packs myself but I would prefer having the packs rebuilt or replaced by someone that does that kind of thing every day.

Besides, I’m still seriously considering buying a Bolt. It’s not that I don’t think my FFE is a great car, it is. It’s just that the Bolt is a better car in so many ways. I still might decide to keep my FFE and just improve it through upgrades.

I’ve post before about buying wrecked EVs and using parts for upgrades, you can buy wrecked EVs at auction for a song plus shipping. If I can’t buy a ready made kit to upgrade my FFE maybe I could buy a wrecked 2017+ FFE with DCFC charging and a 30kWh battery and use parts to upgrade my 2013 FFE.

Those wrecked EV are not available all the time; you have to wait patiently for such opportunity. Even then, wrecks won’t guarantee you good battery.

Current crop of EV battery replacement business doesn’t make sense. Taking Nissan Leaf battery price of $5500 as an example, labor could run $1000 or more. 5 year old used Leaf is selling for as low as $6000. You get a new battery with replacement, but in a market awash with 200 miles range BEV, current crop of EV will be practically worthless, not just worth less.

Now if you want to do this as a hobby, that’s fine, though I’m skeptical if you can do it without spending a fortune on labor. I suppose it’d be like people driving around in collectible Model T.

Once cars go out of warranty they go into the used car market. People get hundreds of thousands of miles out of cars they find in the used car market. It’s common for cars in the used car market to get engine and transmission swaps and we can expect battery swaps for EVs in the used car market. It’s just a simple matter of economics. If someone can find inexpensive or owns a paid off EV that’s in perfectly good condition except for a depleted battery then they will need to pay $30k+ for a new EV, buy another used EV with a marginal battery, buy a new battery with a warranty that might last another 100,000 miles for maybe $6k or buy a used battery for very little money and hope for the best. A lot of people will choose to hang onto what they have got and just replace the battery, that’s just how the world works. Speaking as a sustainability advocate, repairing what you’ve got is always preferable to replacing it. Anything that’s discarded goes into the landfills or gets recycled, both of which are harder on the environment than repairing what you’ve got. If the car… Read more »

Can you upgrade the LED light to the old Tesla, can you upgrade the front?

You want answer from service center?
No. And the battery upgrades Tesla offer prices which are around 1/3 from a new one.

End of the day car manufactures want to sell cars.

Pete said:

“…the battery upgrades Tesla offer prices which are around 1/3 from a new one.”

A third the price of a new car? Can you give a citation from that? Sounds like quite an exaggeration to me.

I wonder if this has something to do with crash testing.

I believe Nissan mentioned that as the main reason for not offering retrofits.

I don’t trust Nissan…sounds like smoke to justify screwing the customer.

BMW, you suck. Making your cars upgradable would’ve been a huge selling point.

they made the cars upgradeable. They just don’t sell the upgrade in the US (now).

Would it though? Sounds great on paper until you see the price and do the math…It’s like everyone saying it’s awesome the Volt offers a wifi hotspot, sounds great on paper until you see how you pay for and how little GBs you get…

I’m sure BMW just didn’t see enough demand to make it profitable and has stated this decision is not final…


Too often the discussions here turn to how great something would be without regard to cost. Adding 40 miles extra range (120 miles) for $15K (or more!) in an era of 200 miles range EV lease simply won’t work.

It’s ALWAYS about the money.

“BMW of North America remains open to changes in market demand and will continue to research and develop all possible options for our customers.”…except for the option of a battery upgrade. So not ‘all possible options’.

Most of the i3s are leased… so doesn’t BMW actually own most of the cars and hence BMW is the ones that suffer by not doing this?

Not exactly, the lender/bank buys and owns the car and lets you rent it off them…Even if the lender is BMW financial, it’s separate from the dealership, aka you if default, the car won’t magically appear on a BMW dealer, it must be sold and they’ll usually use a wholesale auction since it’s the fastest…Might be bought a BMW dealer, might be bought a small local used car dealer…

I found this:

Total cost is $13725 reported a year ago for the OLD battery and all parts…There’s still labor but probably a CORE but who knows how generous BMW would be with the core or how much labor along with testing takes…Probably at least $10000-$15000 for the new battery with labor and CORE

Why are you people surprised?

This is an old, luxury manufacturer who generates profit from selling cars. If you want a car with more range, buy the new car.

Maybe in the future there will be offers when replacing batteries to have them backwards compatible with old models. Of course by then, the auto industry will have change and no one will really be owning cars anymore. Too many renters (lease) who brag about “their” car when the dealership is the one with the title and not them.

Wow, it’s hard to imagine any other company policy that would make its customers as mad as this one. (Well okay, aside from Volkswagen practicing wholesale fraud in its so-called “clean diesels”.)

It’s bad enough that auto makers routinely practice planned obsolescence, to force people to buy a new car instead of continuing to maintain their old one. I fully expect most plug-in EV makers to refuse to upgrade an old car’s battery pack. There is even a reasonable explanation for why they wouldn’t: That with battery supply limited, auto makers need to use what they can get for new cars rather than upgrading old ones.

But for BMW to offer a battery upgrade to customers in some regions, but not others… Wow! What are they gonna offer as an excuse for this “No soup for you!” policy?

Color me boggled.

Thank you to whichever InsideEVs staff member edited my post to correct my blunder in wording! 🙂

And not for the first time, either.

Given that the details of the upgrade are not known for any region (availability dates, price etc.) , it’s really shooting themselves the foot for a spokesperson to say something like this.
S/he should have just said “We do not know any details at this time”.
Its’ just as silly of whomever in BMW (corp. HQ, I assume) who said it would only be “offered in select markets”. Until they are ready to publish the details, they should have just said “BMW is considering a retrofit program, availability and details will be provided later”.

BMW i3 is a compliance vehicle. If you had any doubt in your mind about that, this should clarify things. They don’t get zero emission vehicle credits for selling batteries. They get Zev credits for selling cars. Once you understand that, you will understand their logic.

A tremendous amount of effort and money has been spent by BMW in development and production of the i3. It’s not a compliance car. They might be ramping up at a controlled pace, … but I have to think BMW is serious about selling this car in volume.

BMW i3 Factory Production Tour

Possible for carb to give ZEV credits in the future for battery upgrades and responsible core repurpose?