Welt am Sonntag: BMW Unveils New i3 EV For 2017

By klaireaustria

Nov 27, 2016 05:10 AM EST

German luxury carmaker BMW plans to launch a new version of its i3 electric car next year with a longer range and revamped design, German weekly Welt am Sonntag reported, citing company sources. BMW will rework the front and rear of the i3 and equip the car with a new battery to increase its range substantially beyond the current 300 km maximum, the paper said, adding that the increase would be below 50 percent.

BMW has been torn about whether to accelerate development of new electric cars given its expensive early investment has only resulted in lackluster sales, with 25,000 i3s delivered last year.

The 2017 model year could be the year that electric cars-of the mainstream, non-Tesla variety-make triple-digit range the norm, not the exception. The Ford Focus Electric will be a 100-mile car come this fall, the Nissan Leaf became a 107-mile car last year, and the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV is promising a range of 200 miles. And as we reported earlier and BMW now confirms, its funky i3 will come with a more potent lithium-ion battery for 2017, upping possible range from 81 miles to an estimated 114 miles.

The i3's new battery features cells with higher energy density, yielding a 33.0-kWh capacity, with the same external pack dimensions as the 22.0-kWh version. The new battery is heavier, though, and contributes to an overall weight increase of about 100 pounds, to 2961 pounds, according to BMW. Also boosting the 2017 i3's range are efficiency gains that bring energy consumption down to 27 kWh per 100 miles.

The i3 will continue to offer a two-cylinder range-extending gasoline engine tucked under its cargo floor, and that model will come with the 33-kWh battery plus an increase in the fuel tank's capacity from 1.9 to 2.4 gallons. It's actually the same tank the i3 has always used, but BMW had "locked out" the tank's last half-gallon of capacity, as the car had more gasoline-powered range than EV range, which would affect its status as a zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) in California. Since the restated range now exceeds its gas-powered range, BMW has unlocked the full tank so that i3 owners don't have to. Gas-mileage figures for the two-cylinder are currently unavailable, however, so BMW hasn't stated a revised range for the gasoline-fueled i3.

Still, BMW claims that with its carryover, 170-hp synchronous AC motor powering the rear wheels, the i3's performance remains "virtually unchanged." That means zero to 60 mph will take just over seven seconds (eight seconds for the range-extender model), per BMW; our tests reveal that the i3 is quicker than that, with or without the range extender.

A Level 2 charger should fully charge the i3's battery in 4.5 hours-one hour longer than was required by the smaller, 22.0-kWh battery-with roughly 80 percent of the pack's capacity replenished in just 40 minutes.

The 2017 i3 arrives in dealerships this fall. Pricing will be announced soon.

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