In its current form, which launched in Australia in 2014, the light BMW i3 claims a range of between 130 to 160 kilometres off one charge of its lithium-ion battery pack. Switch to the extra-frugal and lightly-hobbled Eco Pro mode, however, and buyers can expect closer to 200 kilometres of all-electric driving.
In most ways, the i3’s claimed range is more than enough for the average urbanite’s daily needs. But, according to Ian Robertson, BMW AG board member for sales and marketing, the 2017 update to the i3 hatch “puts it into a much more usable range”.
Speaking with industry journal Automotive News this week, Robertson hinted that an increase of around 50 per cent is on the cards. That would mean that the i3’s 200 kilometres in Eco Pro mode would become the new standard for the regular ‘Comfort’ mode.
Such an upgrade would see the i3 outdo the recently upgraded (overseas) Nissan Leaf, which now promises a range of around 172 kilometres with its new 30kWh battery. That’s up from the 120km offered with Australian-delivered Leaf models, with a 24kWh battery and regular Drive mode engaged.
The upgraded i3 would still be outdone by GM’s new Chevrolet Bolt hatch, however, which claims a comparatively huge 320km range - not to mention a hot-hatch 0-100km/h time of “less than seven seconds”. A big 60kWh battery pack and 150kW/360Nm electric motor is to be thanked for those figures.
Above: the new Chevrolet Bolt
Regardless of the Bolt’s figures, though, the i3’s updates are likely to satisfy buyers. Already, the little EV has achieved a record 24,057 global sales in 2015, representing a solid 50 per cent improvement over 2014.
BMW sold 150 of the $73,663 i3 hatches in Australia last year, its first full year on the local market.