One of the selling points of the BMW i3 electric car was the optional Range Extender. The REx in the BMW i3 supplements its battery pack with an 0.6-liter 38-hp 2-cylinder from the BMW C600 scooter and a 2.4 gallon fuel tank. In the US, the fuel tank was restricted to 1.9 gallons so the i3 REx can qualify for incentives. The Range Extender could add anywhere from 40 to 80 miles of range based on the driving mode. While the European i3s dropped the REx option in 2018, thanks to the increased battery capacity in the latest models, the US-bound electric BMWs retained this option.
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Photo: Tom Moloughney
The future of the BMW i3 is still uncertain. Initially the BMW EV was supposed to be phased out in 2020, but the arrival of Oliver Zipse at the helm of BMW might change those plans. The new boss in Munich alledgedly has plans to keep the i3 on the market, in order to compete with the latest offerings in the segment, such as the VW ID.3. But does that mean that the i3 REx will survive? Or will the i3 be upgraded again with a new battery pack and longer range?
According to Jan Freimann, BMW USA’s manager for connected e-mobility and one of the company’s battery experts, the Range Extender technology – not necessarily in the i3 – “has no future.” For GreenCarReports, Freimann wanted to clarify the statement saying that although the i3 REx is already discontinued in Europe, it may remain for sale for some time in other markets—like the U.S. But as a future tech, the time for REx has passed.
“The idea behind the range extender really helps people to get over range anxiety,” he explained, and it helped keep BMW from being reliant on big battery packs. “With a range extender you always had the feeling like okay, I’ve got a backup solution.”
“Things have changed, though. With the build-up of DC fast-charging infrastructure from Ionity in Europe, Electrify America in the U.S., and others, “there’s really no need to be afraid,” Freimann added.
The i3 REx will be offered “for the foreseeable future,” underscored BMW of North America product communications chief Tom Plucinsky. “There’s no decision there.”
The latest BMW i3 model, dubbed 120 Ah (42.2 kWh), offers a range of around 153 miles which in many cases, it satisfies the daily driving necessities. According to BMW’s internal data, energy density will be doubled on a cell basis again by 2030 and we will see that improvement in the 2021 BMW i4 and iX.