Since the new and more energy-dense Samsung lithium-ion cells (each car uses 96) are packed into the same-sized casing, BMW is also offering to swap out the old 60Ah/22kWh battery packs to the new 94Ah/33kWh units for existing customers, though the service is only offered to customers in Europe, will not be offered to owners of range-extender i3 models and will cost about €9,000 (£7,644).
The new 170bhp battery i3 models are also available with a new colour, Protonic Blue, and there are couple of extra trim choices. Since they produce CO2 emissions of less than 50g/km and have a zero-emission range of at least 70 miles, BMW's new 90Ah battery cars will continue to qualify for full £4,500 Category-One grants in the Government's Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) scheme. Grant-inclusive prices therefore are £27,850 for the battery-only i3 and £30,980 for the two-cylinder, 38bhp range-extender – which also gets the 90Ah battery, extending its range to a claimed 276 miles. Both cars have just gone on sale in the UK.
The i3 has sold over 55,000 worldwide in its three years in production – which is small potatoes compared with the near 1.8-million BMW-badged cars annual sales. On the plus side, however, according to a recent electric-vehicle market survey, i3 is the UK's joint second-best selling Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV). Most popular, with 18 per cent of the near 3,000-strong UK BEV market, is the Nissan Leaf, with the Renault's Zoe and the i3 joint second and Tesla's model S third. While overall BEV sales have been climbing strongly, it's from a very low base and the report, from the research arm of Haitong Bank, suggests that BEV sales are just 0.9 per cent of the total UK new-car market of almost 2.6 million. Worldwide the i3 isn't even on the scale, with Tesla, Nissan, Renault, Zotye, Volkswagen, JAC, BAIC, Chery and BYD topping the top-ten best sellers.