2014 BMW i3: Improved Range for 2017
by Cameron Rogers, Associate Editor on February 28, 2017
Our 2014 BMW i3 is long gone, but we recently brought in a 2017 range-extender (REX) model for short-term evaluation. The big news for this year is a redesigned battery pack with cells that yield more capacity (33 kWh) than the pack in our long-term car (22 kWh). This gives the 2017 i3 REX an EPA-estimated 97 miles of all-electric range and 180 miles with combined electric and gas power, compared to 72 and 150 miles, respectively, in our old long-termer.
That's already a nice improvement, but I found that by being a little lucky and not flat-footing the accelerator, the EPA's estimates can be surpassed.
When I left the office for home in the 2017 i3 REX, I had an indicated 90-ish miles of electric range from the nearly full battery. Since the estimated range adapts to your current driving style, I actually saw it increase as I drove.
My 38-mile journey was on the highway at moderate speeds. On the same route in our old i3, I'd usually have to plug in at a ChargePoint station near my house if I wanted to get back to the office without tapping into the gasoline reserve. I decided not to do that this time. I wanted to see how far I could get with the improved pack.
When I arrived at work the next morning — with little traffic on the way — I had traveled a solid 80 miles since the last charge, and the i3 showed an estimated 52 miles of EV range. Throw in the EPA-estimated 83-mile boost from the now fully fillable 2.4-gallon gas tank and I think an overall range of 200 miles is possible with everything topped off.
These upgrades came at just the right time, because the i3 needed a boost to compete with new and revised long-distance competitors. The Volkswagen e-Golf also gets a battery-pack capacity increase this year (from 24.2 kWh to 35.8 kWh), upping EPA-estimated range from 83 miles to 125 miles. The Chevrolet Bolt costs significantly less than the i3 and boasts 238 miles of range, and the upcoming Tesla Model 3 should rival the Bolt in terms of both price and range.
To sweeten the deal, the 2017 i3 also offers a sunroof for the first time, while a new base cloth interior helps offset the price increase driven by the improved battery pack. Bottom line? If you're considering this i3 generation, the 2017-plus version is the one to get.