BMW sells its future-think i3 as both a regular EV and as an EV with an onboard gasoline engine that functions as a range-extender. The current, EV-only version has a stated range of 81 miles, but according to a report in Automotive News, that figure is set to increase by 50 percent—to approximately 120 miles—come the 2017 model year.The article quotes BMW board member Ian Robertson, who says that the 2017 model’s enhanced lithium-ion battery pack “puts it in a much more usable range.” A BMW North America spokesman confirmed the report and added that the more powerful battery would be an option; the current version, with its 22-kWh battery pack and 81-mile range, would still be offered.
A range of 120 miles would put the i3 at the top of the currently available sub-Tesla class of EVs—which is fitting given that the BMW’s price tag of $43,395 (2016 model, before tax incentives) also is at the top of that class. The only issue for BMW is that Chevrolet is claiming a range of at least 200 miles (the final figure isn’t in yet) for its $37,500 Bolt EV, and that car goes on sale late this year.
Still, a more robust driving range will make the i3 EV a more attractive proposition; currently the range-extender version slightly outsells the regular EV. The i3 in total managed 11,024 U.S. sales in 2015, its first full year on the market. That number is less than that of the Nissan Leaf or the Chevy Volt, which has to be somewhat disappointing for a model that, at its launch, was hailed by BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer as “more than the birth of a unique car. It’s a milestone in the automotive history.”