It's now official – EPA rated the electric BMW i3 at 81 miles of range in the USA. Also there the New Jersey restaurant owner Tom Moloughney is about to get his BMW i3 REx soon after years of participating in the MINI E and BMW ActiveE test programs. Looking forward, Tom says BMW will take into account i3 BEV vs i3 REx sales when deciding on the next generation of battery capacities...
As far as we know the initial BMW's expectations were that the company will sell more REx cars until people realize that i3 BEV's range is just fine. That's propably because we're so used to the long range of our ICE cars (especially diesel ones) that BMW expects we're more likely to jump to the REx version just to be on the safe side. That may not be the case however. At least not in Europe.
But the range matters. I can't imagine BMW making a 200-250 km range i5 for instance. It's a model (5-Series) developed with decades and the newest diesel engines are remarkably efficient. That's why germans are taking their time with EVs, until the tech advances enough to make their mass models suitable for the market.
Here, Tesla Model S 85 can go 350-450 km on a charge right now. So it can be done and is a matter of time to happen at BMW as well. To me an electric 5-Series car must have at least 400 km range and I don't think it should be based on i3 REx' sales. Let me explain.
When I drive our Renault Twizy around town the question people ask me the most is "How far it can go on a charge?" It's obvious they are mainly interested in the range. So back to i3, it's 130 km range is absolutely fine for most of the people for city driving, but that's were the car is bound to. If you want to go to the countryside or from there to a city you're limited in range. And highway speeds will further limit your trip. Yes, the quick charging option works and you'll sacrifice 20-30 minutes en route, to go twice as far, but to get to our seaside or back to Sofia you'll need more time than you're used to. I don't mind it at all, but I know most people are not in the same wagon with me. And we don't even have a single EV quick charging station in Bulgaria yet...
For now I think it's a great idea to see the next i3 having more battery options, instead of gasoline range extender. A 250 km real world range sounds very good to me. It's doable and I see Nissan surveying their customers about it as well – if they would pay for a premium battery. I have no doubts the next LEAF which should be on the market by early 2017, is coming with a 250-like range. They'll need to double it and while this may look difficult, the bigger batteries are ready even now, but they just had to start with a more modest version that will sell. In a couple of years from now battery prices will get cheap enough to make sure next gen EVs come with like 250-300 km range.
Aboout the i3 BEV vs REx sales – it's interesting to see how they go for sure, in Europe and in the USA. It's likely to see more REx sales in the US as they drive longer distances there. But with so many Nissan LEAFs on the roads in the states americans are obviously OK with such a range of 120-130 km on a charge.
I bet my money on the next BMW i3 having at least 250 km range and quicker fast charging (10 minutes to 80% please). You?