2017 BMW i3 Electric Car: 100- To 110-Mile Range, Battery Pack Retrofit?

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2015 BMW i3

2015 BMW i3

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The BMW i3 electric car is due for a range boost in the near future, Harald Krüger--the company's CEO--said recently.

But BMW hasn't publicly discussed the matter further.

Now, a new report claims the range boost will come courtesy of a new battery pack, which could also be retrofitted to existing i3 hatchbacks.

DON'T MISS: BMW i3 Electric Car To Get Longer Range Next Year, CEO Says

The new battery pack will take advantage of efficiency improvements realized since the car's launch, according to Autocar.

The range improvement will come from what's described as an "optimized driveline" that will retain the same 22-kilowatt-hour battery capacity as the lithium-ion pack in the current i3.

We think that may have been a misinterpretation on the part of the Autocar author, since the article also suggests that the longer range will come from "higher power density."

2015 BMW i3

2015 BMW i3

Enlarge Photo

That's unlikely, since power density is the ability of the battery to deliver higher output at any given point. Longer range comes from higher energy density, or a rise in the total energy content of a cell of the same size.

Cells with higher energy density are able to hold more energy into the same form factor, so a longer-range battery pack is all but certain to hold more energy--meaning not the same 22 kWh, but likely between 26 and 30 kWh.

There will also reportedly be some efficiency-related improvements, including an "upgraded electronics package" with new software mapping for the battery-cooling system and electric motor.

ALSO SEE: BMW i3 'Shadow Sport' Limited Edition Electric Car Offers Moonroof At Last

These changes will result in a range of "well over 124 miles," as measured on the European testing cycle, according to the report--higher than the 80-to-100-mile range of today's i3 on the same cycle.

That would work out to a somewhat shorter range on the more-stringent U.S. EPA testing cycle, but could still mean a significant boost over the i3's current rating of 81 miles.

An increase of 25 to 30 percent would push the i3 over the 100-mile mark, perhaps bringing it close to par with the 107-mile 2016 Nissan Leaf (whose battery pack rose from 24 to 30 kWh within the same form factor). 

2015 BMW i3

2015 BMW i3

Enlarge Photo

However, a BMW competitor for the 200-mile 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV isn't likely to appear until around 2018, according to sources.

Interestingly, Autocar also claims the new, longer-range battery pack will be offered as a retrofit option for existing i3 hatchbacks.

MORE: Some BMW i3 Electric-Car Owners Get Expanded Free Fast Charging

This would be fairly unusual, as the only other example of battery retrofitting is Tesla's upgrade program for the discontinued Roadster.

Cost would be a major factor in the viability of a battery-pack retrofit option for the i3.

2014 BMW i3 REx owned by Tom Moloughney

2014 BMW i3 REx owned by Tom Moloughney

Enlarge Photo

"I'd love to have the option of upgrading the battery pack," said BMW i3 owner and advocate Tom Moloughney, "but I just don't see how BMW can make that financially viable for owners of relatively new i3s."

"I won't mind spending a few thousand dollars on a battery pack upgrade when my car has 130,000 miles on it," he said, "but not after only two years of driving."

However, given that the i3 has only been on sale in the U.S. since 2014, fewer owners may be willing to invest more money in their cars to boost the range only by 20 to 30 miles.

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