By on September 28, 2018

Originally dubbed the “Mega City Vehicle,” BMW’s i3 garnered a lot of positive attention for its modern styling and adherence to alternative-energy powertrains when it launched in 2014. This did not translate into sales, however. As its former name implies, the i3 isn’t incredibly useful outside of an urban environment due to its meager range. Customers seem to have noticed. Despite moving 11,024 units in the United States in 2015, BMW looks to be on pace for half that volume this year.

For 2019, the automaker is offering the little EV with a new 42.2-kWh battery, which Bimmer says is good enough for 153 miles of all-electric driving. That’s a significant improvement over the the current 33-kWh model’s 115 miles of electric range and an absolute triumph over the i3’s initial 60 Ah (roughly 18.8 kWh) cell, which was only good for about 80 miles. 

BMW intends to offer the new power source on both the standard i3 and it’s “sporty” variant, which comes with additional black cladding and a faster 0-to-60 time. The standard model will continue using a 170-horsepower electric motor that’s capable of 60 mph in just 7.2 seconds, while the i3s stays with its 181 hp mill and a 6.8-second time.

The slower-accelerating models that use range-extending gasoline engines should also be available for 2019, however, BMW did not say what improvements they might bring. We’d anticipate similar benefits to the pure-electric models: an estimated 30-percent addition to the maximum range. That should be sufficient to take the current i3, with a range extender, from 180 miles to well beyond 200.

While the bigger battery is the real star of the show, BMW also added a few visual enhancements that might help the new models stand out on the road. The automaker is offering a new color option, Jucaro Beige metallic with accentuations in Frozen Grey, while maintaining all previous paint hues.

New LED headlights with cornering lights and automatic high beams are also newly available, while the brand’s iDrive 6.0 infotainment system now comes on every vehicle equipped with navigation. BMW is also including Wi-Fi hotspot connectivity for up to ten devices and wireless phone charging.

Assembly of the of the 2019 BMW i3 commences in November. However, the automaker has yet to release an official launch date. Expect an announcement on that and pricing within the next month.

[Images: BMW]

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28 Comments on “Faltering BMW i3 Gets Bigger Battery, Better Range for 2019...”

  • avatar

    Buyer: I want to buy an EV, but it needs to have a range of at least 2-300 miles in case I want to drive to the next city over.
    Automaker: you only drive 40 miles a day on average, so that is the range we sell.
    Buyer: no, I really want an alternative to a Tesla. I want 200 miles of range.
    Automaker: no you don’t want that, you want this i3. It costs almost as much as Tesla.
    Buyer: buys a Subaru

  • avatar
    Brett Woods

    If they shipped 22 000 they would sell them all. So hard to get one used up here in the North West (Canada). Resale values are sky high and son can’t find one to buy. Owners tell love stories.

  • avatar

    No buyer buys a Jaguar, which has the range and better build quality than the Tesla. At least that’s what should happen but I’m not sure people remember Jag when looking for a car, which is a shame.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, the Jag has less range. At least at the high end. 234 miles vs. 316 with the Tesla.

      Although the Jag can charge at 100 kW, most of the network it uses has only 50kW ports and they only have one or two ports at the charging station. Usually at least one port is occupied by an Uber Volt with a sleeping driver. Tesla’s supercharger network is huge with several ports and they’re mostly 120kW.

      There is also a performance gap. Model 3 Performance drivers are reporting 3.17 range 0 to 60 times (3.5 according to the factory) and the Jag is 4.5. Not a big deal for most people I suppose since 4.5 is still damned fast.

      There were also production issues with the Jaguar. They may have been resolved by now.

      For me, the most annoying issues with the Jaguar are the range and the charging network. The high-end model should have 300+ miles range and they need a decent 100+kW charging network with more than only 2 ports per station.

  • avatar

    80 miles is fine for me, and I’m on the lookout for a used one.

    • 0 avatar

      Don’t need to look to far around here for used ones. And they always seem to have at least 4 or 5 in stock.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The i3 is pretty snappy, but it’s a poor value for several reasons:

    1. Although I like the interior look, the back seat is a joke.
    2. Range is always a half generation behind Nissan, and a whole generation behind Tesla.
    3. I find the looks as polarizing as the Gen 1 Leaf.
    4. The odd-size tires are hard to find.

    OTOH, it’s a well-made car.

    Resale prices are puzzlingly high (so maybe NOT such a poor value), but maybe it’s the badge that helps.

    • 0 avatar

      All those issues *and* too expensive? Sucker buy.

    • 0 avatar

      As someone who has spent a ton of time in an i3, here are the “real” problems:

      1. The range extender sounds like a lawnmower engine inside and outside the car, and vibrates terribly
      2. Once you are driving on the REX, the i3 can lose power and lose speed if you drive faster than the REX can produce power
      3. The rear suicide doors are a nuisance
      4. Those TIRES. Only Bridgestone makes the odd sized tires, they are expensive, and only last about 15,000 miles – which is ridiculous.

    • 0 avatar

      1. How is the back seat a joke? It’s a perfectly normal back seat. I think it’s stupid that they artificially blocked off the center part and therefore now you can’t even put 3 kids there. For adults I understand that it’s for 2 only.
      But the back seat is just fine, I don’t see any issue with it. There’s even a lowered window line for the back row in order for kids to see out better. How many cars have that?

      2. Range is not behind anyone since the car was designed to be a small-battery vehicle in order to keep weight and size down. Why is this so hard to understand? Not everything is ‘bigger is better’, ‘more is better’…there is this thing called intelligent optimisation.

      How is i3 Rex range behind Nissan or Tesla?

      3. Yes, even though of course the design work is done very well the overall shape and partly the design language is unnecessarily stupid. The shape especially is idiotic and not only from a design standpoint. The car suffers so much from stupidly being tall, then again that’s what most people want these days: a stupidly raised car. Most people driving from A to B don’t care one bit that it’s dynamically compromised, especially since BMW has in fact managed to make it drive pretty well. Much better to drive than all of its competitors and most regular cars, even premium ones.

      4. There is this thing called the internet. The odd-size tires are of course a slight negative in the sense that if you want the newest and a specific tire brand and type then you might have to pay too much for it. I could’ve bought several different makes and models of winter tires for the i3 but I wanted the best and newest ones, the Continentals. I ended up paying more for that set of winter tires than I ever paid for tires for my Porsche…

      I’d add one reason that it’s poor value:
      When its out of warranty and especially once it has a few more years on it I suspect that if the market is intelligent that the value will plummet. I’d never own an i3 or any electric to PHEV car out of warranty. At least here in Europe it’s a VERY ominous sign that BMW has cleaned out ALL old hybrids of the first generations from their pre-owned listings and definitely don’t offer their certified warranties for them!!!

      I’ve been monitoring the situation with ActiveHybrid 3:s for a long time (in Europe) now and BMW has completely disowned them all! They simply do not list them in their used car searches.

      Then there’s the fact that i3 Rex is iffy at best, meaning that the gasoline engine I wouldn’t trust to be reliable (not the engine itself necessarily, but it’s correct functioning with all the complex systems) since it has had some reliability issues from the start.

      So far people seem to be keeping the used i3 values up, but I suspect that’s due to several factors:
      -So much demand for used electric cars because people can’t afford the stupidly high new vehicle prices. (or don’t want to overpay). Therefore they overpay for used i3s. Hardly any new i3s sold for good reason (price), and now later on therefore hardly any offerings to meet the demand of used i3s.
      -People who buy electric cars are not car-people and definitely not very car-savvy.

  • avatar

    This is oddly the only BMW I like.

  • avatar

    an Asian neighbor bought one of these for his teenaged daughter to drive to school. I lol’d.

  • avatar

    This is a fun car, but priced stupidly high even after incentives and government/taxpayer sugar is factored into the math.

    It’s range is meh, it’s interior is cool, it’s back seat is small and it’s ugly.

    If you live in a congested city and live in an apartment with a quick charging station and don’t have kids and have a short commute and will pay up for the badge, this is a good option. Otherwise the smart money is elsewhere.

  • avatar

    The whole point of the i3’s small dimensions and carbon-fiber construction was to create a very light car that would offer a “sporty” drive and wouldn’t need a huge (heavy) battery pack to provide competitive range. Yet it seems they need to keep larding up the car with much bigger and heavier batteries to get somewhat close to the range that most customers want and most competitors offer. Thus the i3 is now a heavy small car with small dimensions (i.e. small back seat and cargo area) that is very expensive to produce (i.e. big battery and carbon-fiber body), and still offers shortish range and an uncompetitive price. I don’t see a big sales turnaround or a route to profits on this one.

    • 0 avatar

      Has the weight of the i3 increased?

      • 0 avatar

        bigger capacity battery = more weight. The last increase in i3 capacity had the same physical size due to higher density batteries, but battery pack weight increased, so I expect the same again.

        • 0 avatar

          From the 60Ah to 94Ah the battery weight went up 26kg according to some random source, and vehicle weight went up 50kg apparently (which seems to be a more reliable way of looking at the weight change, though some of it might be due to charger changes).

          Vehicle weight change from 94Ah to 120Ah seems to be 25kg.

          Hardly a big weight difference.

  • avatar

    I sat in one two years ago. The interior did not seem to have any level of BMW refinement. It had the fit and finish of a 70’s Merican car. I know it was supposed to be high tech weight savings, but it just loudly spoke “cheap”.
    I think that alone is enough to put off a purchase after looking at the price tag.

    • 0 avatar

      I’d say you’re wrong. The i3 actually has a very high-quality interior. Higher than that of a 1-series or 3-series in many ways. In some ways it has been made slightly simpler to be fair. But overall I’m certain that it’s considerably more expensive for BMW to make than for example the 1- and 3-series.

      When driving there is a bit of a feel that makes it slightly less ‘cushy’ and quiet than the latest 1-series and 3-series. But in some ways it is at least at the same refinement level.

      Source: I owned an i3 for half a year, and have now driven a new 1-series for a few months (and have rented and driven 3-series and 5-series BMW’s a lot in the last 9 months).

  • avatar
    George B

    Matt, you repeat a couple of points about electric vehicles that make no logical sense to me. First, you assert that the BMW i3 is primarily a city vehicle, but I can’t even imagine a customer buying an EV if they don’t have a house with a garage where they can charge it. They probably have to own a house with a garage if they want to install a 240V electrical connection for fairly rapid charging. No practical way to own an EV if you park in shared parking. Second, I can’t imagine that range >100 miles but <300 miles makes any practical difference in being able to use the EV for even the shortest of road trips and charging the larger battery moves the customer to the world of 240V charging. The cost of the battery pack, not the range, is the primary limit on EV sales and lugging around a bigger, more expensive battery pack reduces the EV value and utility as a commuting vehicle.

  • avatar

    An argument can be made that most i3 buyers are well off and probably also own a convetional car (or a Tesla) for extended driving. The i3 is their grocery-getter/city car; big enough for a week of groceries and small enough for ease of parking. For such a scenario the range is more than sufficient.

    If only it looked sharper.

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