BMW i3 'can be upgraded'

* Electric supermini could get new battery tech * Existing cells would be offered to owners * BMW already testing the next generation...

BMW i3 'can be upgraded'

BMW i3 buyers could be offered a future upgrade in battery technology - and the opportunity to use the electric vehicle's current power storage to speed up charging times, according to a senior source.

The all-electric i3, which is due on sale at the end of July, uses a lithium-ion battery pack mounted in the base of its bespoke aluminium chassis. It has a range of between 80 and 100 miles, and takes anywhere from four hours to 10 hours for a full charge, depending on the system in place.

However, a senior project source has told What Car? that the car will be upgradeable to the next generation of batteries - and that BMW is already making plans for the existing units to be used elsewhere.

'The next generation of technology is already being tested,' said Dr Martin Arlt, head of planning and steering at BMW's Project i, 'but we already know that it can be used in the i3's construction. Then we could offer the owner the chance to swap out the existing batteries and use them to create a DC charging system that would be faster than a regular set-up. This is one of the options that we are looking at.'

BMW has previously stated that it has discussed 'selling on' batteries to power companies, who could use the storage to make best use of excess supply during quiet times on the national grid. In the longer term, cars like the i3 will be able to help the network by storing and then freeing up electricity during periods of peak demand; in return for this service, participating owners are likely to be offered a discount on their energy bills.

By John McIlroy