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BMW extends i3s EV range... again. Image by BMW.

BMW extends i3s EV range... again
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What's all this about?

BMW has improved the range of its i3 electric city car for a second time. Having been capable of a range of 80-100 miles on its original 60 ampere hours (Ah) battery when it launched in 2013, BMW uprated it to a 94Ah model in 2016. That increase in energy storage boosted its maximum quoted range to 186 miles, with BMW claiming you could get 125 miles out of it, even with all the electrics running. Well, now the battery has gone up in capacity again, to 120Ah, meaning an NEDC maximum range of 223 miles and a WLTP figure of 192 miles.

Very good. Is the faster version of the i3 included in this update?

Yes, the sportier i3s also has the 120Ah battery, although its slightly more powerful e-motor (it has 184hp and 270Nm, compared to the regular i3's 170hp and 250Nm) means its NEDC range is 213 miles (previously 174 miles) and its WLTP figure is 177 miles. Incidentally, the 2019MY i3's battery gross energy content is rated at 42.2kWh.

So what does BMW claim the i3 and i3s 120Ah will do, real-world?

Anything up to 160 miles - that's a 30 per cent increase on the 94Ah and double the old 60Ah. Which makes sense, given the lithium-ion battery is now precisely twice as capacious as the earliest i3s' units.

But is the battery physically bigger now?

No, it remains the same size as ever. BMW did say, when it brought out the 94Ah model two years ago, that owners of 60Ah models could upgrade in a 'plug-n-play' fashion to the 94Ah battery for a fee, although there's no mention of whether 60- and 94Ah i3 owners can do the same with the 120Ah battery this time around.

Talk to me about charging times.

If you can hook the 120Ah i3 up to a DC rapid-charging facility running at 50kW, you'll get 80 per cent battery power in 42 minutes. On the 7.4kW BMW i Wallbox, the same amount of battery juice takes slightly less than five hours. Standard charging on the cable and a household socket will take 15 hours for 80 per cent power, at 2.3kW. BMW quotes the energy usage of the i3 at 13.1kWh/62 miles and the i3s at 14.6kWh/62 miles. If you want some traditional old performance figures, the i3 can do 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds, 50-75mph in 5.1 seconds and a top speed of 93mph, while the i3s improves on all those stats with 6.9 seconds, 4.3 seconds and 99mph, respectively. The only thing that has changed here is the i3s's top speed, which has increased by 6mph from the previous 94Ah variant.

Anything else that has changed?

Yes, the 120Ah models now have black A-pillars and roof trim lines, to match the black bonnet, roof and hatch they always had. A new paint colour, called Jucaro metallic with Frozen Grey details, is added to the exterior palette, Adaptive LED headlights are now optionally available with automatic selective dip functionality and there's another shade for the optional interior Loft finish. More optional equipment includes telephony with wireless charging for smartphones, as well as a wireless LAN hotspot.

And the prices?

The uprated 120Ah BMW i3 and i3s models go on sale from December 2018, priced from 35,180 and 37,670, respectively, on the road, including any Government plug-in car grants.

Matt Robinson - 28 Sep 2018

2019 BMW i3. Image by BMW.2019 BMW i3. Image by BMW.2019 BMW i3. Image by BMW.2019 BMW i3. Image by BMW.2019 BMW i3. Image by BMW.

2019 BMW i3. Image by BMW.2019 BMW i3. Image by BMW.2019 BMW i3. Image by BMW.2019 BMW i3. Image by BMW.2019 BMW i3. Image by BMW.    - BMW road tests
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