It still can't go as far as Chevy's Bolt or Tesla's Model 3...
The BMW i3 is generally well-regarded, but the one big knock against it is its lack of range. BMW is aiming to tamp down such criticism with the 2017 i3, which will pack a more powerful 33kWh battery and have a longer range. The current i3 has a 22kWh battery and a max electric range of 81 miles, but the 2017 model will top that by offering up to 114 miles (highway/city) of driving on a single charge. In addition to the bigger battery, BMW is also offering something for those who opt for the Range Extender i3.
The Range Extender still features a 38-horsepower two-cylinder gas engine used to power a generator to make additional electricity. But the 2017 i3's fuel capacity has been increased to 2.4 gallons, a 25% jump over the capacity of the 2016 model. The outgoing i3 with Range Extender could do up to 150 miles. BMW hasn't released the max range of the 2017 i3 with Range Extender, but it should be a healthy amount over 150 miles thanks to the bigger battery and gas tank. Now as you'd expect, the i3 gains a bit of weight thanks to its more powerful battery. Electric-only it weighs 2,961 pounds and with the gas engine it checks in at 3,234 pounds. BMW says it didn't need to increase the exterior dimensions to fit the new battery. Small victories, people.
In terms of performance, the 2017 i3 offers 170 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. A run from 0-60 mph happens in just over seven seconds. That number is down a bit if you opt for the Range Extender model; it needs a full eight seconds to go from 0-60 mph. Of course no one is buying the 2017 i3 for its performance prowess. They are buying it because it's a stylish offering in a field crowded with ugly alternatives (cough, Nissan Leaf). In addition to upping the range, BMW also wants to make charging the i3 even easier. It's announced that in late 2016 it will begin selling the BMW Home Charge Connect Now, a fast-charging station complete with WiFi. It can fully charge the i3's battery in four hours and 30 minutes.
If you need juice faster, the new i3 can charge 80% of its battery in just 40 minutes when hooked up to a DC Fast Charge station. There will also be a new interior package offered, "Decka World," which covers the interior in lightweight dark cloth made from recycled material. An electric moonroof is now on offer and customers can finally option the 2017 i3 in Protonic Blue, a color formerly exclusive to the i8. New colors and available options are great, but the real story (obviously) is BMW realizing that it needs to increase the i3's range in order for the EV to stay competitive. BMW can't be a big dog in the electric car wars simply on name alone. Tesla's Model 3 and Chevy's upcoming Bolt both beat the i3 in max electric range.
The competition knows that range anxiety trumps all, even badges and luxury, and is building its EVs accordingly. The 2017 BMW i3 is a step in the right direction, but before declaring it anything more than that we'll need to see how much it costs and how far the Range Extender model (the most popular with consumers) can travel.