The BMW i3’s New 200-Mile Model and Other Upgrades to the EV for 2019

The 2019 BMW i3 with range extender (REX) is likely to top 230 miles of range. | BMW

It may vary by a few miles, but there are certain figures electric car fans agree on when it comes to range in late 2018. Here’s the basic consensus:

  • Anything below 100 miles isn’t worth mentioning.
  • The 2018 Nissan Leaf’s leap past 150 miles was good but not great.
  • When you get over 200 miles — ideally near 250 miles — you arrive at a practical range.

Following those parameters, the BMW i3 has been an attractive option without being viable for most of the population. (That’s before we mention its $44,450 starting price.) But that will change for the new model year.

For 2019, the i3 will hit the Leaf’s benchmark for pure EV range and surge well past 200 miles in the model with a range extender (REX). If the pricing holds, it will shake up the EV market between budget-focused models and the luxury segment.

1. The 2019 i3 120 Ah

BMW does not shy away from creating confusion and thus continued using the EV battery’s capacity in ampere hours (Ah) in the name of the 2019 edition. The new model increases that capacity to 120 Ah while its gross energy content hits 42.2 kWh.

Overall, that pushes the i3 pure electric model to 153 miles of range on a full charge. That represents a 34% jump over the previous (94 Ah, 33 kWh) i3 on the market in 2018.

BMW said it managed the increase solely by improvements in energy density, and the battery pack size will remain the same. General power (170 horses) and acceleration (to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds) also hold in the new model.

2. Elite range for the i3 REX

2019 BMW i3 | BMW

While 153 miles is impressive (and plenty for a second car), that range will still leave many consumers looking for more. BMW’s solution for that crowd is the i3 REX, which adds in a two-cylinder gas engine that gets you to the next plug (or pump).

In the 2018 model, REX travels 97 miles as an EV and another 83 miles on gas for a total of 180 miles. BMW said the i3 REX will see most (if not all) of the boost in EV range and hold its gas range, potentially gaining 30% overall. (EPA certification is pending.)

If those numbers stick, the 2019 REX could top 230 miles in total range, putting it among the elite in the plug-in segment. The right price would also  create more competition below $50,000.

3. Other upgrades for 2019

In addition to the major range boost, BMW has some functional and aesthetic upgrades for the new model. Full LED headlights with cornering and auto high-beams enter the picture as options. Jucaro Beige Metallic (with Frozen Grey accents) will be the new color offered, while the Mega World and Terra World interiors get new leather and cloth trim accents.

Tech updates will come as well, starting with an improved navigation system (iDrive 6.0 becomes standard). Meanwhile, a WiFI hotspot capable of powering 10 devices and wireless charging tray will be options for the first time.

4. Sport versions

2019 BMW i3 | BMW

In addition to the standard and REX models, BMW sells a slightly sportier edition of this car known as the i3s. Featuring 181 horsepower and the ability to sprint to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds, the 2018 model offers a small performance upgrade at a small markup ($47,650).

BMW said those power specs will remain the same in the 2019 model, while the i3s will also bump up to 153 miles on a full charge.

5. Production dates, pricing, release

BMW said production on the 2019 i3 will begin in November. That would seem to place its arrival in the U.S. sometime in early 2019.

EPA estimates on the REX total range, as well as fuel economy, should follow later in 2018. Currently, BMW i3 is the fifth most economical car on sale in America at 118 MPGe. We don’t expect major changes there.

On the pricing front, this part of the equation is harder to predict. While BMW didn’t raise the price of the i3 much with the last range boost, this upgrade is more significant.

In an ideal world (for consumers, at least), the automaker would keep the 2019 model under $50,000 to separate it from the Jaguar I-Pace and other models headed to market. But we’ll have to wait for BMW’s move.

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