Will the BMW i3’s new 120 mile range bring new buyers?

BMW i | March 20th, 2016 by 12
BMW i3 i8 photoshoot bucharest images 10 750x500

Th BMW i3 tends to get a bit of flak from the EV community for having quite a low range in comparison to some of …

Th BMW i3 tends to get a bit of flak from the EV community for having quite a low range in comparison to some of its key rivals. Tesla and Chevy Bolt fans will mock the i3’s pure BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle) range of around 80 miles, as it doesn’t even sniff at their cars’ 200-plus range. While the BMW i3’s range is incredibly inferior, in fairness, that’s not really the BMW i3’s goal. The i3 isn’t meant to be a commuting car or long distance cruiser, it’s meant to be a city car or a second car, a car for people who don’t drive every far. And you’d be surprised how many¬†Americans fit into the latter category.

The BMW i3’s 80 mile range is actually far more than enough for most buyers, being that the average commute of the average American is less than half of that. But that hasn’t stopped the majority of BMW i3 buyers choosing the REx variant, with its gasoline range extender to help rid range-anxiety. In fact, BMW claims that almost 60 percent of i3 buyers choose the REx model. But BMW is trying to change this and¬†get the i3 BEV to become the more popular model of the two.

BMW i3 Shadow Sport Edition LA Auto Show 3 750x500

To do so, BMW is increasing the range of the standard BEV BMW i3 from 81 to about 120 miles. That’s a significant bump in range, one that puts it way ahead of most Americans’ daily needs. While it’s still not the 200 mile Holy Grail of EV range, it’s almost 4-5 time what the average American would actually need. Adding the REx to this new i3 will bring the range up to about 160-180 miles, getting the i3 very close to that 200 mile range sweet spot.

However, the impressive part of this improvement is how BMW did it. BMW switched Samsung batteries that now have a much increased capacity. However, they aren’t any bigger or heavier at all, so they fit in the same battery tray, reducing costs, and their lack of added weight only increases the i3’s range even further. That’s the way to increase range, not just adding more batteries.

But will this increase in range bring in new buyers that may be less anxious over the i3’s range? We think so, actually. While 200 miles of range is the sweet spot that every automaker wants to hit, the 100 mile mark is very important as well. If a car can’t even go 100 miles on one charge, it looks pretty bad on paper. But if it tops 100 and even gets as far as 120, it’s going to look increasingly more attractive to buyers who are on the fence about the BMW i3 and EVs in general.

BMW will now be able to market the BMW i3 as an everyday car that can go some pretty far differences. Most i3 owners can typically charge their cars every 2-3 days, depending on use obviously. But a 120 mile range will extend that period even further, thus greatly reducing the range anxiety of i3 owners. Plus, a REx option will still exist, giving i3 REx owners a car that can do almost any trip.

BMW i3 i8 photoshoot bucharest images 8 750x561

Now, this new BMW i3 with its further range will cost more money than the previous i3. We haven’t heard exact pricing, but we think that the new i3 BEV will cost around the same as the outgoing i3 REx, giving a decent price hike across the board. However, the fact that the new i3 BEV will still be cheaper than the new REx variant and still get over 100 miles per charge, we think that BMW will be right in saying that BEV sales will increase REx says. There just doesn’t seem like there’s as much need for the REx anymore.

We think that there are a lot of potential BMW i3 buyers that are scared of and putt off by the car’s lack of at least a 100 mile range. But now that the range has been increased past 100 miles, it’s very likely that on-the-fence customers feel like the new i3 is worth buying.

12 responses to “Will the BMW i3’s new 120 mile range bring new buyers?”

  1. HYYPE BERLIN says:

    i’m just waiting for model3

  2. 181 says:

    Personally I think the i3 is going to get killed in the market by other second-gen BEVs. I say this as a current i3 owner. Sorry, but I’m not going to pay MORE for significantly less range. At minimum it needs to be similar range.

    I don’t buy the red herring that “5 series buyers could buy a Chevy Malibu for less too, yet they don’t” because of one huge difference: the 5 series and the Malibu will go (approximately) the same distance on the same fuel! The i3 and the upcoming competing BEVs do not.

    Eventually range won’t matter as much but today, with most buyers being new to EVs, range is *everything* and then some.

    • mckillio says:

      You might be right and while range is certainly a big factor in one’s purchasing decision, it’s not everything. The 200 mile range vehicles are much more likely to be primary vehicles, whereas this is more likely to be a secondary vehicle. You also have to figure that some people will not buy a Chevy Bolt strictly because it is a Chevy and others may very well buy the i3 because it’s a BMW.

      • 181 says:

        To be honest, I don’t know anyone that has more than just a “primary” vehicle, so I’m not sure what your point is there. Why would someone buy a car not capable of being primary?

        Average household in the US has 1 car per person of driving age. Exceptions being large cities where mass transit is workable.

        • mckillio says:

          Primary meaning for the household, not the person.

          • 181 says:

            Ok, with that meaning I suppose that’s how my current i3 is now, though we tend to prefer it over our ICE for obvious reasons.

            Also if it’s truly a secondary vehicle then they are even less likely to spend more on a luxury brand.

            There’s just no way I can twist this to look positive for BMW.

  3. BMW4ME says:

    What’s not widely discussed: Larger battery capacity means greater charging time. Watch what you wish for! Having owned an i3 for almost 2 years–call me an early adopter–I can say that 80 miles is not sufficient. Why, because it’s hardly ever 80 miles. In winter months the range drops down to 50-60 miles making it difficult to plan trips to visit clients on the outskirts of the city. And even in more mild weather, the range rarely reaches 80 miles, unless one drives the car very moderately. Since this is a BMW, which has razor sharp steering and brisk acceleration, why would I drive it like a something it’s not? I’m not sure 200 miles is the right answer either. Why carry more charge than you need? Especially when it means carrying a lot more weight around. I don’t think that there’s a simple answer. Maybe providing capacity choices is the best solution so that individuals can balance range vs. weight vs. local charging infrastructure.

  4. mckillio says:

    Absolutely it will bring new buyers. The two biggest reasons people are hesitant about BEVs is the range and the price. And a lot of the issue with range is psychological as the latest reports of how often REX drivers actually use the REX. But I picture many people having different stages or tipping points for their levels of range anxiety and breaking the 100 mile barrier is one of them.

    As to the price, the increase seems reasonable in a vacuum compared to the current model but certainly not great compared to the future competition, especially given when this will be released. I’ve read that for every $5k you reduce the price of a vehicle, you double the number of potential customers. So I would really like to see BMW use this new battery tech in the base variant and pass along some of those savings to customers.

  5. johnbl says:

    As much as I love my BEV i3 and the 80-90 mile range is just fine…I’m sure that the only folks who’d considering any of four i3 variants will be those who will not want to wait the 12-18 months turnaround for delivery of the Model 3 once production starts. I’ll get my $1K deposit in 3/31, and see what will happen.

  6. hersey33 says:

    Other than to reinforce a low self concept and an urge to “look successful”, why would I pay nearly $20,000 more to drive a car with a range of 80 less miles than a Bolt? Also, to me, the range extender does not allow one to eliminate all of the ICE maintenance. You still have all of the oil & filter & other visits. What’s the use of that? I could justify a BEV i3 IF the price was similar to the Bolt. But it isn’t anywhere close.

  7. Mike333 says:

    To answer the title. Of course, 120 miles of range will bring in new buyers, for the REX version.

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