BMW gamble on i3 range - Is 100 miles enough?
Promoted as the first electric car to be designed from the scratch, it has received extreme reactions on its design. BMW claims that it has used the feedback and data from its ActiveE program extensively in its design of the i3. But one of the decisions has raised a lot of questions among the potential buyers of the car. It is the range of the car.
The predecessor model, ActiveE weighed in at a massive 4,000 lbs and it’s 32kWh battery provided it a range of 80 - 100 miles. BMW i3 with the use of aluminum and carbon fiber weighs as much as 1,300 lbs less. So if BMW had retained the same battery size, it would have had a very impressive range.
In fact, during the launch of the ActiveE program BMW employee Tobias Hahn had said, "While you are driving the ActiveE, I want you to imagine this exact same powertrain in a car that weighs 600 kilos (1,300 lbs) less.” Imagination did run wild. But BMW chose to drop the battery size to 22kWh retaining the range to be the same as the ActiveE at 80 - 100 miles. The eco pro+ mode might add another 20 miles to this range.
The most successful electric car thus far has been the Model S from Tesla. This one weighs around 4,650 lbs and comes in with two battery pack sizes - 60kWh and 85 kWh, providing a maximum range of 265 miles.
BMW claims that the average American driver logs no more than 40 miles a day and hence their decision to reduce the battery size and stick with an 80 - 100 miles is justified. Clearly, the reduced battery size means faster charging times. The i3 will recharge in three hours from a 220-volt 30-amp charger.
The range though is indicative and is affected by many factors including the weather. Electric cars lose up to 20% in cold weather. The deterioration could be more in extreme cold waves such as the one the North East experienced recently. Also over a period of time, the batteries are going to degrade and would not provide the same range as the new ones.
Of course, there is the range extender option. This is a rear mounted, 650 CC, 34 hp, gasoline powered two cylinder engine that adds almost another 60 miles to the range. This option would add another $3,850 to the costs and increase the weight of the car by 400 lbs. The car would then not be fully electric and would need the regular maintenances that otherwise would not be required. There are already concerns on the electric only privileges lost if this option is added.
This has generated a lot of discussions amongst people who are driving electric cars and those considering it. A lot of people have mentioned that even if not the 265 mile rating of Tesla, they would have been comfortable with a 150 mile rating. But that is not going to be possible with BMW i3.
Is the decision by BMW the right one? What would be the ideal range for an electric car to become mainstream? Do weigh in with your thoughts.
Written by Rajesh Garga
Rajesh Garga is from New Jersey. He currently drives a BMW ActiveE and is an active participant in electric car forums.