The BMW i3, one of the few worthy competitors in the premium electric vehicle space, is getting ready for a second-generation update according to German publication Welt am Sonntag. The publication cites insider sources, noting that the BMW i3 will feature a new design and a longer range. That is an interesting proposition, considering that the first-generation i3 was certainly not lacking in either range or design. In fact, the BMW i3 has proven itself to be a lightweight, cutting-edge urban electric car. Despite this, demand for the five-door hatchback has been subdued since it was launched in 2013. In 2015, BMW sold just 25,000 units of the car. This is one of the many risks of being an early mover in a new field. At the time of the BMW i3’s launch, the electric vehicle market was still largely nascent. Now, the market remains young but is bustling with activity and promise. Will the i3’s new generation make a bigger mark and strengthen BMW’s position in the market? Only time will tell.
The German publication also suggests that the BMW i3 will come with a redesigned front and rear, and a new battery with a greater range. For now, the latest battery pack in the i3 features a range of around 300 km, or a little more than 250 km based on terrain and weather. The car uses 94 Ah Samsung power cells right now; although there are models in certain regions with older 60 Ah battery packs. While both battery packs differ in range, they do not impact the performance of the car. It would be interesting to see if the new i3’s updated battery case would also have a neutral effect on the final performance.
As for exteriors, the current i3 definitely has a striking design, steering away from the typical design language of the German automaker. The rear-hinged rear doors are an add touch, but it’s not clear if BMW will persist with the same design. It is also not clear whether the car’s rear seats will get bigger, which was considered an issue in some circles.
The most important factor that needs considering is the price. The BMW i3 has always been priced at a premium, with prices ranging from USD 38,200 to USD 42,275 (INR 26 lakh to 29 lakh), depending on the country. That’s quite a price considering that BMW is pursuing research to exponentially increase battery power capacity, claiming that it can double capacity by 2020. This is not wasteful research either; battery technology is indeed growing fast. The 94 Ah battery pack was introduced earlier in 2016 itself. At this pace, buying a premium electric car may be considered a questionable choice.
In keeping with the general trends in the electric vehicles space, BMW will also be reportedly adding fully-electric versions of other models, like the 3 Series, MINI and X3. This would support the carmaker’s increasingly aggressive push into the market. For now, the BMW i3’s sales remain a drop in the ocean. Since its release, around 55,000 units have been sold worldwide, as compared to the around 1.8 million BMW-badge vehicles sold each year.