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BMW’s i3 will receive a 25 percent improvement in EV range thanks to new batteries

BMW’s i3 has moved along relatively unchanged since its introduction in 2013 — with the exception of a special edition or two — but that’s about to change courtesy of a new lithium ion battery that will improve the range of its all-electric and range-extender versions.

The i3’s “optimized drivelines” includes a lithium ion battery with the same 22kWh power capacity as the present city car but with a higher power density that translates to “well over” 124 miles of real-word range. The quoted range is specifically for the all-electric i3 so expect the range-extender to offer a bit less drive time due to added weight of a two-cylinder gas engine.

Presently, the i3 manages 81 miles of electric range in full-EV guise or 73 miles of electric range plus 77 miles with the petrol-powered generator. The new figures will match up almost precisely with one of BMW’s competitors, the Nissan Leaf, which will boast 125 miles of all-electric range for 2016. The 2016 Chevrolet Volt, by comparison, only manage 53 miles of all-electric range before its gas generator kicks in to carry the vehicle another 370 miles.

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In addition to the more efficient battery, the i3 will receive an upgraded electronic package, including new software mapping for the battery cooling system and the electric motor. Owners of the present i3 needn’t worry — BMW will offer the new battery for substitution (at some undisclosed cost) on earlier models as well.

Even with these enhancements, Tesla’s 200 to 250-mile estimated range for the upcoming Model 3 will significantly outpace the present competition. BMW et all still have another couple years to upgrade their tech. but if Tesla’s new entry-level model is priced competitively, automakers will need more than 50-percent of the Model 3’s range to be in the running with prospective buyers.