An updated i3 battery with bigger range – and what it might mean

The i3 battery pack
The i3 battery pack

It was Jens Christian Hoj (@creddy82), who first made me aware of the news that BMW’s boss Harald Krueger talked about a larger EV model for the BMW i range. Almost just in passing, the mentioned article in the german weekly Die Zeit also mentioned Krueger’s announcement of an updated i3 battery in 2016.


An excerpt of the crucial part of the interview is here (my own translation):

Krüger: The battery cell technology is evolving. An increase in range of the i3 will come in the 2016. A bigger technological leap is likely to happen in the next three or four years. You can then travel almost twice the distance without a further increase in battery weight.

ZEIT: Can I then replace the battery of my i3 against the better battery?

Krueger: We are currently dealing with this question.

Whilst Krueger is not going into any further details about actual range increase and retrofitting (ie swapping your old battery against the new one) options for existing i3 drivers, the topic is now being hotly discussed by the communities.

My POV: The following scenarios are likely here:

Range increase: I think we will be talking about an improvement in the region of 10-20%, not more. It will provide more than enough to keep pace with the next LEAF and Bolt (for which we so far only have manufacturer’s range promises), but nothing beyond that.

Retrofitting a new battery and replacing the old one (if these will be offered – a BIG IF), the next big question is: How much BMW will give you as a trade-in? In general, dealerships will be keen to once again get customers on the phone and through the door, to re-engage with them. BMW on the other side may decide to simply offer the extended battery as a new model or an extra. My guess is that the latter is more likely.

Target market for potential battery replacements: Unless the potential range increase is significantly higher than 10-20%, most REx drivers will pass on a potential battery upgrade, as they parted with more money and already get decent mileage if needed, albeit burning fossil fuel. In my mind, the main target market for a battery retrofit are the BEVs, which may be able to get a boost to a 120 mi real-world range.

“One more thing?” : If however this new i3 2016 evolution includes more fixes and updates than merely the battery, then an interesting upgrade cycle might emerge, as many lease deals will end by late 2016.

The rub: One problem that Krueger might have created for himself now is that i3 sales may be hampered or damaged for 9-12 months, as people will either wait for the next model and go elsewhere. An announcement in January or Feb 2016 may have proved wiser. Dealers (particularly in the US, where stocks appear to be high) will have to adjust prices. This could end up as a i3-deal bonanza, who knows?

Looks like 2016 is going to be an exciting year for the i3 (but we knew that anyway) !

An updated i3 battery with bigger range – and what it might mean

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