The radical BMW i3 electric car has scored an upgrade, giving it a greater driving range in exchange for a small price increase.
The rather clumsily-named new 2017 BMW i3 94Ah contains a battery with denser lithium-ion cells, yielding greater energy. The range in real-world driving increases to 200km on the pure EV (up from 160km) and grows to 320km for the plug-in hybrid.
However, it comes at a price. The BMW i3 94Ah costs $65,900 plus on-road costs, which is $2000 more than the regular BMW i3 that is still on sale. Likewise the i3 94Ah with Range Extender costs $71,900, a $2000 impost over the extant i3 REX (with 300km range).
The increased battery capacity of 94 Ampere-hours (hence the name) comes despite unchanged exterior dimensions. Clearly there’s progress being made on lithium-ion battery technology by BMW and partner Samsung SDI.
The i3 is designed to allow a single battery module to be exchanged if a fault is detected. If a fault develops, this saves cost and time over a complete battery replacement. In the updated i3 application, the battery comprises eight modules with twelve storage cells each.
Cooled via the air-conditioning’s coolant system, the cell-internal packages have been optimised with increased electrolytes and the resultant gross battery energy has been increased to 33kWh, of which 27kWh can be effectively used. The existing i3’s 60Ah capacity produces 22kWh gross and with 19kWh of useable energy.
For the new i3 94Ah in EV form, the NEDC cycle range rated at 310km, while real-world range in everyday conditions – using equipment such as air-conditioning and the audio system – is up to 200km. Electricity consumption is 12.6kWh/100km.
Opting for the new i3 94Ah Range Extender increases the NEDC-rated range to 390km, thanks to the addition of a two-cylinder petrol-powered combustion engine. This translates to the aforementioned real-world figure of 320km.
Fuel consumption as per NEDC is 0.6L/100km on the combined cycle, with 11.3kWh electricity consumption.
At the core of the BMW i3 94Ah is its much-hyped carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) architecture. The CFRP Life module is said to reduce the i3 94Ah’s weight by 350kg over a comparable steel design.
The new i3 94Ah’s synchronous electric motor generates 125kW of power with an instantaneous 250Nm of torque. Drive is taken to the rear wheels via a single-speed transmission. Weighing 1245kg, the latest i3 sprints to 100km/h in 7.3 seconds.
Opting for the Range Extender adds an efficient 650cc two-cylinder petrol engine, located above the rear axle and generating 28kW. Fed by a nine-litre fuel tank, the Range Extender tips the scales an additional 120kg over the EV.
Thanks to the fuel tank’s position at the front of the vehicle, luggage volume is unchanged at 260 litres – which can be extended to 1,100 litres with the rear seats folded down. Zero to 100km/h acceleration is achieved in 8.1 seconds.
Interestingly, the Leipzig production plant where the i3 is built uses 50 per cent less energy and 70 per cent less water than the average BMW Group figures, with 100 per cent renewable energy powering the plant thanks to four wind turbines. Likewise, the construction of the CFRP architecture is powered by 100 per cent wind turbine energy.
Additionally 80 per cent of the aluminium used in the i3’s construction is either recycled or produced with renewable energy. Seat trims are made of completely-recycled polyester, sustainable eucalyptus features on interior and dash trims, olive leaf extract is used to naturally tan interior leathers and the seat cover features 40 per cent pure new wool.
BMW Australia has sold 239 units of the i3 since launch in 2014, with the majority of these being the range-extender version.
Updated BMW i3 range pricing:
BMW i3: $63,900
BMW i3 with Range Extender: $69,900
BMW i3 94Ah Electric Vehicle: $65,900
BMW i3 94Ah with Range Extender: $71,900