Monday, September 25, 2017

BMW i3 Poised For 2nd Battery Upgrade. Hopefully A Naming Upgrade As Well…

The 2018 i3 Sport made its debut at the Frankfurt Auto Show. Both the i3 & i3 Sport models will start the 2018 production year with the same 33.6 kWh battery as the current i3 has. It's believed later in the year BMW will upgrade the battery to a the new 44.2 kWh pack, adding another ~40 miles of range.

Fresh off of the Frankfurt introduction of the new BMW i3 exterior refresh and new i3 Sport for 2018, BMWBLOG is now reporting that they have confirmation that 2018 will also bring a new, larger battery option to the i3, albeit later in the year.

In mid-2016, BMW introduced the current 33.6 kWh battery which was an upgrade from the 21.6 kWh battery previously available. That bumped the i3 BEV’s 81 mile range to 114 miles per charge. The new battery, which is being introduced sometime later in 2018, is rumored to have a total capacity of 43.2 kWh and offer an EPA range rating of 150 – 155 miles per charge.

Customers that opt for the range extended version of the 43.2 kWh i3 will have about 230 miles of total driving range without the need to stop to recharge or refuel. The increase in all electric range will place the i3 in a virtual tie with the new Nissan LEAF for the second longest EV range behind the Chevy Bolt, in the “everybody but Tesla” class of electric vehicles. That is of course, until Nissan launches the 60 kWh LEAF, which isn’t expected to be available until the 2019 model year LEAF is out. Audi and Jaguar are also expected to introduce their respective long-range EVs sometime in 2018, and they will also leapfrog the i3 and LEAF in range.
An i3 battery pack being assembled at BMW's Leipzig plant.

One thing I’d like to see BMW do when they introduce the new battery is stop referring to the battery by the amount of Amp hours each cell holds. It’s a completely useless metric, and one that only causes further confusion among potential buyers. No other carmaker uses the Amp hour (Ah) metric to identify their battery packs. It would almost be as if they started to distinguish their internal combustion engines by their bore & stroke instead of the traditionally-used displacement in liters. It just makes no sense.

Every electric car manufacturer today refers to the battery by the amount of energy it can hold in kilowatt hour (kWh), but for some reason, when BMW introduced the new, larger battery for the 2017 i3, they decided to use the Ah metric and called it the 94 Ah battery instead of the 33.6 kWh pack.
BMW has been advertising the current i3 as the "94 Ah Sedan". The problem is, "Ah" doesn't mean anything to most customers, and is fact just confusing to them. BMW should drop using Ah to describe which battery pack the car has. Just give us the size of the pack in kWh, and the EPA rated range. There's no need to complicate this.

Critics claimed it was intentionally done, to confuse buyers and make the battery sound larger (94 is a bigger number than 33.6), and seem like it was comparable to Tesla’s battery offerings (75, 85, 90 & 100 kWh). Personally, I don’t agree with that assumption, I think it was just a case of BMW product planners wanting to distinguish the new battery as being better, and it was the first time they ever offered a new battery option, so they used the name that their supplier Samsung, uses.
In any event, I’m happy to hear that BMW will be rolling out the second battery upgrade in two years. The i3 will then have used three different batteries in the first five years of availability, proving that BMW is continuously willing to improve the i3 as better battery technology becomes available.

My advice to BMW product planners: Drop the Ah designation, please. It’s only confusing your customers, your client advisors and in some cases even journalists writing about the i3. Simply do what every other EV maker does and call it by the total size of the battery pack, in kilowatt hour. In this case, the new i3 will be the 43 kWh i3. It’s easy, most buyers understand it, and client advisors won’t have to spend an hour explaining energy density, voltage, cells, and modules to every potential customer that asks how the battery compares to the batteries of the other EVs on the market. 


  1. but it is still a little bit overpriced

    1. The i3 is priced a little high in comparison to other EVs of similar range. But BMW products are usually priced a little higher as they are a premium brand. Also, there is no other car on the market with a carbon fiber passenger cell, so it's hard to make a fair comparison. If you simply look at the size and range, than yes, it is priced a little too high, However if you look a little deeper at the tech that went in to, the extensive use of recycled materials, the fact that the manufacturing process of the i3 uses about 40% less energy than conventional vehicle manufacturing, the carbon fiber plant that makes the CF is powered by 100% renewable energy as is the Leipzig assemble plant that produced the i3 & i8, than the premium price is worth it to many customers. Not all are willing to pay extra for these attributes than you can't really touch or see, but some are. :)

  2. Hi Tom, hey guys,

    Had an interesting but disappointing talk with a tech guy at my BMW center here in Switzerland.
    I wanted to know if I could upgrade my 2014 I3 battery pack and keep the old one to use it at home with my solar panels. The answer was quick and simple, the battery swap is not possible in Switzerland, too complicated, too expensive...
    I am very disappointed because this operation would make perfect sense in my situation where I'm looking for a solution to stock my Panels day production...

    1. Don't be naïve, manufacturers want to sell new cars, they won't do battery upgrades. Third party companies may offer upgrades but the world's battery output will be grabbed by car manufacturers for the foreseeable future so I wouldn't hold my breath.

  3. Fully agree on the Ah vs. kWh naming; I'm sure they're doing it just to "look competitive" with Tesla.

    As for the "bore and stroke" analogy, it's more like *JUST* referring to bore. "Our engine has 3.08" bore!" Because if you have both bore and stroke, you can determine liters. For electric, you need both Amps and Volts - and BMW doesn't publicize the voltage of the battery pack, so you have to really dig in the specs to figure out the kWh capacity.

    I really hope the bigger battery happens, and I really hope it stays available (and drops in price!) in the coming post-i3 years. Just got a 2015 i3 REx with only 10,000 miles, so it doesn't need a battery replacement any time soon - but when it does, I would like to replace it with something with much longer range, to refresh its utility later in life.

    I'm the kind of guy who keeps my cars a long time - the i3 replaced a 1998 Subaru Forester, and my other car is a 2004 Prius. I vowed when buying the Prius I wouldn't buy another car unless it was an electric. I almost feel like I cheated my pledge getting the REx model. Yes, in 2004, in that lull between "CA compliance" EVs and actual mass production EVs, I said I wouldn't buy another car until it was an EV. That poor Prius has been limping along for 14 years now, with nearly 200,000 miles on it, waiting for "the right" EV for me. Finally decided a used i3 was it.