2019 BMW i3 - Wee i3 Goes the Distance
As is the way with EV technology, it’s constantly and quickly evolving. Development in the area of battery tech is ahead full steam, or in today’s transport terminology, has been amped up to improve the distance an EV can travel between chargers. Whether this is driven by customer demand or a desire by manufacturers to put bigger numbers on the sales brochure is a moot point. Either way, more capacity lessens the anxiety over the issue of range.
And so that’s what BMW has done with its latest update of the i3, the cell capacity increased to 120 ampere hours (Ah) or, if you prefer energy content, that’s 42.2kWh. That has also allowed BMW to say the real world range for the newest i3 is 260km between plug ins, an increase of 30 per cent over the 94Ah model.
The advances in battery technology mean the increased capacity has no drawbacks, for the battery pack is the same size and weight as the old one. Electronics have a way of boggling the brain of your average lay person.
We refer to it as a bigger battery, yet it’s dimensions are no different. Best to think of it as a better battery, one that’s more energy dense.
The lithium-ion cells are produced by a supplier to BMW specs, but the battery pack is produced at BMW’s Dingolfing plants and consists of eight modules, each with twelve storage cells. Since it launched in 2013, the battery capacity has increased from 60Ah in 2013, to 94Ah in 2016, and now is double what it was originally.
We drove an i3 with the new 120Ah battery as a means of getting us from the racetrack where we had just exercised the new M340i to the airport in Faro, in the south of Portugal. As we set off, the distance-to-juiced meter suggested we had 182km of range in the battery while our route would require just under 130km of running. So no worries then.
Our journey took us over some fairly interesting trails too, ones that encouraged you to flatten the go pedal often.
If there’s one aspect of an EV that never fails to amuse it’s the hit of instant torque when you snap the accelerator down hard.
While this regular i3 lacks the Sport mode of the racier i3S, it still whizzes along from 80km/h to 120 in a spirited fashion, but the narrow eco rubber struggles to hold on in the tighter turns.
And we wished for the new suspension compliance of the 3 Series over some of the bumps; carrying the motor on the rear end is an extra burden for the suspension. While you can’t adjust the amount of regenerative braking the i3 will deliver, it’s not long before you get used to releasing the go pedal and letting the motor arrest your velocity to help replenish that battery.
As such, when we arrived at the airport for an on-time departure, we had covered 129km, while the battery was still registering 123km of range having used just over half of its charge.
So BMW’s real world driving range of 260km (officially 285 - 310km by WLTP testing) seems right on the money.
And that’s with the consumption meter reading 17.2kWh/100km (claimed average 13.6), highlighting our less than economical driving style.
The recharge times are given as somewhere between 19 hours on the slow cooker to just over 40mins to 80 per cent on a DC zapper.
The new i3 arrives locally in February with pricing unchanged.