Farewell, BMW i3: Electric city car production ends after eight years

Lyle Ellerbee

BMW’s quirky i3 electric car has rolled off the production line for the final time, with its indirect successor to be a far more conventional small electric SUV.

Production of the BMW i3 city car has ended after almost nine years, closing the chapter on one of the first mass-produced luxury electric cars.

The final examples of the quirky i3 hatch rolled off the production line at BMW’s Leipzig factory the end of June, just days after the 250,000th car was built, and nearly nine years after production began in September 2013.

While no direct successor is planned, BMW says it will “remain active” in the “premium electric compact” segment – albeit with the iX1 small SUV, which shares little with the city-sized, carbon-fibre, rear-drive i3 hatch.

To mark the end of production, 10 examples of an i3 HomeRun Edition were produced, distinguished by Frozen Dark Grey or Frozen Dark Red II paint and, based on official photos, unique front grille inserts.

Launched overseas in 2013, the i3 was BMW’s first modern electric car, underpinned by a bespoke platform designed around a carbon-fibre reinforced plastic body shell, and a ‘skateboard’ battery under the floor.

Developed alongside the hybrid i8 sports car under BMW’s ‘Project i’, the electric version of the i3 launched with a 60 amp-hour (or 18.3 kilowatt-hour, kWh) battery connected to a 125kW rear electric motor, capable of 190km of claimed electric range.

Introduced in Australia in late 2014, prices started from $63,900 plus on-road costs – making it the third-most expensive small hatchback on sale, behind the Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG and BMW M135i hot hatchbacks.

For buyers requiring more range, available alongside the pure EV was a range-extender i3 ‘REx’ for $69,900, which added a small 647cc two-cylinder motorcycle engine for when the battery runs out, boosting total driving range towards 250km.

BMW i3 sales peaked in Australia in 2015 (150 sales), before dipping in 2016 and recording their second-best result in 2017, with 118 cars – coinciding with a battery upgrade to 27kWh (94Ah), pushing range in the EV to a claimed 300km on a charge (a lenient measurement).

A styling update in 2018 introduced the sportier i3s variant – with more power, lower sports suspension, and wider (and one-inch-larger) wheels – while a larger-still 38kWh battery arrived in 2019, with 330km of claimed range (or 250km in the real world).

By the end of the i3’s run in Australia, the range-extender REx and standard i3 electric models had been axed, leaving one i3s EV, priced from $71,900 plus on-road costs.

The spirit of the i3 lives on; the learnings from its carbon-fibre body carried across to the new flagship iX electric SUV’s carbon shell, while its battery and electric motor are used in the Mini Cooper SE hatch, albeit now with front-wheel drive.

Whereas the i3 represented the first phase of BMW’s foray into electric cars, the company is now onto the second phase, with the current i4, iX3 and iX electric vehicles, and upcoming i7, i5 and iX1 models.

The third phase will debut in 2025, in the form of the ‘Neue Klasse’ electric-only architecture that’s set to underpin the successor to today’s 3 Series sedan and wagon, as well as the next iX3 medium SUV.

Alex Misoyannis

Alex Misoyannis has been writing about cars since 2017, when he started his own website, Redline. He contributed for Drive in 2018, before joining CarAdvice in 2019, becoming a regular contributing journalist within the news team in 2020.

Cars have played a central role throughout Alex’s life, from flicking through car magazines as a young age, to growing up around performance vehicles in a car-loving family.

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