Released in 2013, the BMW i3 was the company’s first mass-produced, zero-emissions car. Its ultra-compact frame and fully-electric engine made it incredibly popular right out of the gate - winning it several awards and landing it solidly as an early success story for electric vehicles. This means that, despite BMW’s 2021 announcement that it would be ceasing all production of the i3 to focus on its newer, more modern EV line-up, there are still tons of BMW i3 drivers out there who have had plenty of time to face any kind of potential battery-related issues.
The BMW i3 Batteries and Replacing them
When the i3 launched in 2013 it sported a 22 kWh battery with a range of between 80 and 100 miles per full charge. It also had an optional two-cylinder gas engine that provided an additional 80 miles of range. Higher kWh battery options have been introduced since then, the largest being a 42.2 kWh option. All of the i3’s battery options have an estimated 15-year lifespan ( longer than most people own a single car), but that doesn’t take into account detrimental charging and driving habits that can tax an EV battery pack’s charge capabilities.
Replacing the battery is a simple process with the help of your local BMW dealership. If your car is still covered by the 8-year/100,000 mile warranty, a dealership will run a capacity test to determine if your battery qualifies for a warranty replacement. If the tests show your battery has fallen beneath 70% of original capacity, all costs will be covered. If your battery passes the test, you may be liable for the cost of battery testing, which generally falls between $175 and $350, depending on the dealership and any necessary software updates.
If your vehicle is out of warranty, you may be able to find qualified third-party EV service shops. But note: we never recommend replacing EV batteries on your own at home. There’s a potential for severe injury or death when handling high-voltage equipment like EV batteries, so always leave that to trained and licensed professionals.
Below are plots showing real world data from BMW i3s on the road in the USA. You can see how range changes with odometer for the three different battery sizes. In the second photo, the shading around the middle line indicates the standard deviation of the data. In other words, most cars will fall in the shaded region, while the darker, center line is the average performance.
Note: The data we have for 22 kWh and 33 kWh packs starts when the cars already had around 10,000 miles on them
Upgrading your Battery
The good news for owners of older i3 models is that all of the i3’s battery packs - even the newer, higher kWh battery packs - all share the same physical dimensions. The bad news is that other things - like connectors, cables, etc. - have changed over time. Also, the i3’s warranty doesn’t cover the cost of upgrading to a higher kWh battery - let alone the cost of labor or any kind of software updates that may be required. That’s all to say that, although possible, upgrading your i3 battery is going to be expensive. So much so that it may eclipse the cost of buying a new i3 with a larger kWh battery pack.
How Much Will it Cost?
If you’re under warranty then BMW will cover the cost of parts and the labor needed to replace your battery. And, unlike with many early EV models, i3 drivers do share successful battery replacement stories under warranty. One i3 owner explained that their 2014 i3 Rex 60ah needed a faulty battery replaced. The total cost would’ve been over $40k - including parts, labor, and a replacement rental while they waited for a new battery to be shipped and installed. But, BMW honored their warranty and covered their costs. Ultimately, the paid-by BMW bill showed the costs to be just over $20K. Another driver posted that six days before their warranty coverage ended, they brought in their 2014 i3 and got $33,000 worth of new battery with zero out of pocket.
On BMW i3 forums, owners encourage drivers who are about to have their warranty end to have their batteries checked out.
Each i3 battery pack contains eight modules and each module costs between $1,700 to $1,800 - that’s almost $14,000 already. Factor in any auxiliary parts that need replacing, hours of labor to remove your old battery pack and install the new one, and the cost of transportation while you wait for the whole process to be finished, and you can see how a $20k price tag isn’t out of the question.
There are also online marketplaces for reconditioned, third-party, and used batteries, which can be had for much cheaper. However, quality and state of health may be unknown when it comes to after-market transactions. A specialized EV body shop can help, since they generally have the tools to test batteries. Specialists also may have a relationship with places that source refurbished or salvaged batteries.