Seven years after it launched, the i3 is still going strong.
It may sound hard to believe, but it was back in 2013 when the BMW i3 first arrived on the scene. Along with the also then-new BMW i8, the i3 launched the German automaker's i sub-brand. But unlike the i8, the i3 has not been discontinued. Instead, it's now celebrating the 200,000th example rolling off the production line in Leipzig, Germany. Now sold only as an all-electric vehicle (it was also initially available with a small gasoline engine range extender), the i3 is BMW's first purely electric series production model.
In fact, the i3 remains the best-selling premium vehicle in its supermini segment. BMW points to a 2019 study that total running costs for i3s are, on average, about 20 percent lower compared to a BMW with a combustion engine. And yes, factors such as acquisition, operation, and depreciation were taken into account. Owners have also benefited from tax credits.
Last year, BMW upgraded the i3 with a 42.2 kWh battery to replace the previous 33 kWh battery, resulting in an increased electric range of up to 153 miles. It's also important to know the i3 was ahead of its time in other ways, such as its carbon fiber passenger cell and advanced factory construction and assembly process; it requires only about half the time compared to conventional gasoline-powered vehicles.
Basically, BMW has learned many valuable lessons from the i3 that will be applied to future electric vehicles, such as the upcoming i4 and iNext. The upcoming model year is also a big deal for the Leipzig facility because it's about to begin producing battery modules following a $100+ million investment. Future lithium-ion batteries will be assembled in an automated and advanced process that cuts down on time while still maintains high production standards. By 2022, BMW aims to have over 150 employees dedicated solely to battery module production at Leipzig.
The BMW i3 may be nearly a decade old, but its popularity remains solid. The sales figures speak for themselves.