Informative Comparison Test On Updated 2017 BMW i3 94Ah (33 kWh): Performance, Charging

JAN 1 2017 BY WARREN M 62

Several months ago, I ordered my 2017 33kWh i3 BEV, and just picked it up just this week. Outside of the range extender, the car is basically fully loaded with every option.  I am still against having any gas capability, and have been fully electric for over 4 years now, (starting with my 2012 LEAF), but can see why many would find comfort in picking the range extender version. Window sticker for my BEV was $53,345 (image below).

Even after all this time, I still feel the i3 is in a different class when it comes to interior quality, I really appreciate the leather dash stitching and dark oak wood dash of the 2017 Terra i3.

Interior of the BMW i3 (shown here in Terra) show a definitely level of refinement not commonly found in most all-electric vehicles today

Interior of the BMW i3 (shown here in Terra) show a definitely level of refinement not commonly found in most all-electric vehicles today

One of my biggest concerns was that the heavier newer 33kWh i3 would be much slower than my 22kWh i3 BEV. That car is pretty quick, clocking 0-60 in the 6.4-6.5 second range. I recently had the factory programming update, and was fearful that it would diminish the older i3’s acceleration numbers.

Thankfully, I am happy to report that today’s test numbers in the original car are identical 6.4-6.5 numbers from 0-60mph as they were before the software update.

Video (below): Impromptu ‘wet test’ of the BMW i3

The 2017 94Ah i3 on the other hand feels a little less sharp in acceleration response. But feelings aren’t always representative of reality, so I proceeded to put the test gear (Vbox) in the 2017 model for some comparison runs (see above video).

While the 2017 is measurably slower, I am happy to report it is only by about .10-.15 seconds slower 0-60 mph. This car runs 0-60mph in the 6.5-6.6 second range vs 6.4-6.5 seconds of the 2014 model. Not a huge difference.

Video (below): Quick 0-60 mph performance run between the BMW i3 and Chevy Spark EV

2017 BMW i3 Monroney/window sticker (click to enlarge)

2017 BMW i3 Monroney/window sticker (click to enlarge)

One of the biggest advantages of the 94Ah i3 is how they changed the charging taper on it. The larger battery can sustain a significantly higher charge rate even when starting at a higher SOC.

With both vehicles starting at roughly the same SOC (42.5%-%44%), in 30 minutes the 2014 i3 packed in 9.18 kWh. vs 17.14 kWh for the 2017. And significantly, even at 92% vs 82%  SOC for the 2014, when I started an extra 10 minute session, I found the 2017 was still charging at a 70% faster rate.  Above 98-99% the 2017 showed at least another 12 minutes left, but that is pretty close to being fully charged anyways and way faster than the 60Ah i3 98% SOC rate.

BMW i3 charging comparison between battery options

BMW i3 charging comparison between battery options

There has been discussion about the much vaunted no taper DC CCS charging of the Chevy Spark. Luckily I was able to take an identical road trip with a new Chevy Spark and did side by side charging time comparisons with my older i3.

Time for a quick test with the Chevrolet Spark EV

Time for a quick test with the Chevrolet Spark EV

Yes, as expected,  the Spark had the faster charging times with less taper. The predicted time to charge the 22kWh i3 from 24% to 80% was 25 minutes. The predicted time to charge the Spark from 27% to 80% was only 13 minutes. Almost twice as quick!

When the Spark hit 100% charge in just under 28 minutes, the i3 was at 88% and had an hour to go to reach 100%  So one would think that the Spark is putting at least twice as much charge in its battery as the i3 in the same time, and that is where you would be dead wrong.

Truth of the matter is with both cars starting at mid 20% SOC, by the time the Spark was fully charged just under 28 minutes, its 12.70 kWh gained was only a slim .75kWh greater than that gained by my 60Ah i3. Amazingly the 94Ah i3 in same 30 minutes puts down 17kWh+ even starting at 42.5%. Something the older Spark and older i3 in the chart below can’t come close to.

Some more data - BMW i3 and Chevy Spark EV

Some more data – BMW i3 and Chevy Spark EV

The i3 has already been around for 3 years, so I am really looking forward to the new Sport model due out perhaps within this next year. I am hoping it will have greater acceleration and more autonomous driving features to distance itself from its immediate competitors once again. The cars unique design principles and the way the i3 effortlessly zips around town with rock steady stability while accelerating is more important to me than hauling around a bigger/heavier battery at this point in time.

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62 Comments on "Informative Comparison Test On Updated 2017 BMW i3 94Ah (33 kWh): Performance, Charging"

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Was the test using different chargers? Photo seem to show that. I find some DCFC to be slower than others, some as low as 35 kW even when they are same brand and model (ABB). People generally charge to 80% before taper become severe. With high taper, cost goes up, sometimes as low as 2 MPG gas car, so it’s prudent to disconnect at “just enough”, which is about 80%. Of course, those who get free charging would plug in for entire 30 minutes even if they’re charging at 1 kW using DCFC. Then it’s better to compare power up to 80%, assuming that’s when i3 starts taper. For 2016 SparkEV, 9.29 kWh to 80% in 14 minutes is 39.8 kW on average, bit on low side for SparkEV. I measured that to 90%. 33 kWh i3: 17 kWh to 62% in 30 minutes, average of 34 kW. 12.35 kWh to 79% in 20 minutes is average of 37 kW. That’s pretty close to SparkEV to 90%, but lagging to 80%. Since different charger may have been used, it’s bit suspect, though. 22 KWh i3: 14.26 kWh to 79% in 30 minutes is 28.52 kW on average. 7.61 kWh in… Read more »

Another for 22 kWh i3 is 10.39 kWh to 80% in 19 minutes for 32.3 kW on average. That’s more like it, but still lower than what I thought i3 might do (ie, more than 36 kW on average, 0.1 kWh in 10 seconds). Charger problem?

At $ 53K MSRP, the 2017 BMW I 3 (33kWh) is going to have to be compared to a preowned 2013-14 Tesla Model S. At around $50K, the Tesla sure doesn’t supercharge or accelerate slowly.

Or a new Tesla Model 3 for $15k less, or a new S60 for $20k more, both with seats for 5 adults and luggage, fast supercharging, 5 star safety, and options that go way beyond what BMW can offer.

It’s a known fact that imaginary cars are always better than real cars.

I agree… who would buy this car if you can have a new Tesla Model S for $15K more or a used Tesla for $15K less?

“but can see why many would find comfort in picking the range extender”

It astounds me that the author of this article can still pretend that a short range EVs are suitable for everyone. I’ve taken two trips in the past week that would be impossible in this car. Meeting bare minimum requirements is not “comforting”, it’s “sane”. It’s fine if this car works for you, and you never have to travel more than 100 miles in the cold, but please stop pretending that it works for everyone! Bring on the long range (usable) EVs!

I’ve read the article a couple of times to try to understand how you could interpret the author as “pretend[ing] that a short range EVs are suitable for everyone”, but I come to the opposite conclusion. The author clearly states that a short-range EV has worked for him for the past 4 years, but nowhere does he state or pretend that it would work for everyone. In fact, he clearly understands that it wouldn’t.

Even the Bolt’s 60 kWh battery pack isn’t very usable for long-range travel for anyone other than an EV enthusiast because of poor aerodynamics, an insufficient maximum DCFC charging rate, and insufficient DCFC charging infrastructure (insufficient power and coverage).

I agree with the need to bring on long-range EV’s, but I would add “affordable” to their description. The only truly long-range, mostly usable EV’s are Tesla’s (if one doesn’t need to wander too far from Interstate highways), but they’re not affordable and they’re too large and heavy because battery cell energy density is still too low and cost is too high. But this is changing.

John, we are the exception.
Most people travel seldom (or never) more than 100 Miles a day.
This is not a car for you or me, but for the other >90% it is perfect. If they are willing to spill the money for it.

True, the vast population of the US is in or near urban centers.

Here’s the thing.
Say, you have a Used Prius and are going to buy the i3.
Don’t sell the Prius. Problem solved.
Since you’ll almost never be driving the used Prius, you will qualify for a lower insurance rate.

Thanks for taking the time to write the article Warren. Enjoy your new i3!!


Just a suggestion

I think a plot of charging rate (in MPH) is more meaningful than % charge.

Failing that perhaps kw.

Enjoy your new i3 and regards from the netherlands.
I also love my 60 Ah 2015 i3 rex which i bought 11 month old, 6000 km, MSRP 52000 euro for 32000 euro.

Rex is still very useful even for the most hardcore enthusiasts. There are way to often problems with the fast charging stations or a big head wind decreases range substantially or snow and rain do. Charging can fail all of a sudden too. Rex is needed today, no doubt about it.

“There are way to often problems with the fast charging stations or a big head wind decreases range substantially or snow and rain do. Charging can fail all of a sudden too. Rex is needed today, no doubt about it.”

I’ve used many super charger stations and I’ve never had one be down. CCS and Chademo public chargers are a different story. They have a very high “not available” problem.

Having to wait an hour in line just to start charging doesn’t qualify as being down, but it sure is inconvenient. We’ve seen plenty of videos of congestion, this being one over the holidays:

Obviously Tesla is aware of the problem — the new charges for not moving after completing a charge show that — but it still hasn’t figured out that you can never provide enough of a free good.

Basically charging electric vehicles is, at this point, still painfully slow.

“Having to wait an hour in line just to start charging doesn’t qualify as being down”

Ive never had to wait an hour.

“Basically charging electric vehicles is, at this point, still painfully slow.”

My S charges as around 344 MPH at the begining of the charge. That’s pretty decent.

If you are just having to top off then it’s perfect and soon tesla will double their charging rate.

If this is for real, I can’t believe the twelfth car in line has any hope of getting a charge before sundown!

Hi there, can you comment on your typical range per charge, typical non hypermiling miles per kWh and what the usable kWh range is? I’ve seen a good article on the rex version but not the Bev. Thanks!

Another car in the same league as those mentioned in this story is the VW e-Golf. I have a 2015 e-Golf and did some testing with the same ABB SAE Combo chargers. In a single 30 minute session, I was able to go from 13% SOC to 93% SOC adding 15.4 kWh. That is more energy added than either the original i3 or the Spark. Also, putting a little effort into making some charts would make the story much more interesting. I did that with my e-Golf data.

You can read about my e-Golf fast charging tests on the e-Golf forum here:

I also tested with the BTC chargers that are limited to 100 amps DC.

I should also note that the bigger the battery is, the more kWh you can get in a 30 minute charging session. You can see that with the 33kWh i3, you can add about 17kWh in those 30 minutes. My RAV4 EV with JdeMO can add about 19kWh in 30 minutes because it can take 125 amps for the full duration without any charge tapering. That is purely due to the fact that it has a battery of more than 40kWh total capacity.

Your plot shows eGolf to be less than SparkEV. SparkEV is almost 40 kW to 80% in this article and hover 45 kW in my tests, but your plot shows maybe 36 kW for eGolf. That would be quicker (or comparable) to new i3 with bigger battery, but definitely not quicker than SparkEV.

But I must say, I am impressed with eGolf. Despite lacking TMS like Leaf, it does quite well. But I wouldn’t keep it plugged in at hot weather if I have eGolf.

At low SOC, the charger’s current is the limiting factor. I think the ABB chargers are limited to 120 amps DC, but my data above indicates something closer to 110 amps. Since it is limited by current, the battery pack voltage is what determines the kW delivered. The e-Golf has a 360 VDC max voltage as you can see in my charts. I’m pretty sure the i3 and the Spark have higher voltage packs, so they take more kW from the same charger.

Also, the temperature issues are significant. My data was taken in a best case scenario where the battery was at 1/8 SOC and had sat overnight in 60 F weather prior to charging. Freeway driving and prior fast charging will heat up the e-Golf battery and the car will limit the charging rate to avoid overheating the battery. This can be severe since the pack has no active cooling. I sincerely hope that VW has fitted an active cooling system to the larger pack coming in the 2017 model, but I’ve not heard anything either way on that issue.

Nice detailed write up.

Thanks for the information!

Congratulation on the nice new ride!

I i read the BMW starts to tapers by 65%. This is consistent with my observations in general.

Please please , do not compare the i3 with Tesla.

U can possibly compare the engineering , but as to the software U cannot.

The software is like compare a simple software in motorola flip phone ( with added bugs) to a iphone.

They are 8 years of difference

I own a i3 , and i feel BMW not only did not invest in developing software , but did not even do a QA.

The car insist on showing odometer when plugged in instead of showing the SOC

The self parking will fail 75% of times. The auto cruise will get u killed.

Pls , do not compare. One is a car, the other is a computer

If u mean to say ,EACH TIME , when u plug in your car, flip the button 7 times , to see SOC as user friendly (if I want it to) , then I am wrong , and u r correct.

Its not “if” , its like “Please flip 7 times , each time”

Not sure, if u do not know , what user experience is. or u never experienced it.

Also if u can compare the granulated bar graph without any numbers to a SOC of any modern alliance with exact % of SOC , then again …

Please read reviews about parking or the fact that i3 does not recognize Dodge cars from rare

Yes I ma sure u will wait for 1 year for next firmware upgrade , by physically giving the car to BMW –lol


Your review confirms that there is no advantage to me to buying a 94 Ah i3. Outside of hurricane evacuation and very occasional out of town trips, I can go months without needing more than 12 mile round trip range. But in a hurricane evacuation, 110 miles is inadequate (try recharging at few road side stations when EVs grow to 0.1% of vehicles !)

So I am waiting for prices for 2014 i3 with range extender to drop to $15k to $18k. Hopefully in another 9 months.

I’m not sure why the big fuss about the i3 entering into 2017. The car is lightyears away from the range of 200 plus miles the new chevrolet bolt has and is even slower than the previous year it replaces. I think its silly that BMW can be easily outdone in acceleration and range by GM. How about the author compare the 2017 bolt to the 2017 i3 and not to the 2014 chevrolet spark EV. Then their wouldn’t be much to talk about anymore I suppose.

Thanks for going through the trouble of getting data.

The taper seems mostly due to the battery capacity to me, not any kind of strategic or chemical change. Not that that’s a bad thing.

This does show that a car with a large battery and a charger with high current capability are critical to getting the fastest fill at the low SoCs. And active cooling helps too, as you see lacking on a LEAF or e-Golf.