BMW will reportedly unveil an i3 redesign in 2017

Greatly extended range and a new look are in the cards for the EV.

Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

BMW might not be waiting for the distant future to step up its electric car plans. Welt sources claim that the automaker plans the 2017 launch of a redesigned i3 that promises both practical and cosmetic improvements. You should see a new battery that significantly extends the range of the car beyond its recently increased 186-mile (with range extending motor) cap. It's not clear how much further you'll drive, but the difference will be "noticeable" -- just not as big a leap as the 50 percent hike from the last upgrade. In other words, it's likely enough to cover an extra commute, or to get you to a town that's just out of reach today.

The refresh also promises a new look for the "front and rear..." or a new car, really. There aren't any clues as to what this means, but the current i3's design has been polarizing, to say the least. While it certainly screams "I'm an EV," its boxy, busy appearance is in sharp contrast to the slicker looks of not only conventional BMWs, but Tesla's upcoming Model 3. A redesign might be crucial simply to attract buyers put off by the existing styling.

Both improvements are welcome, although the i3 may face tough competition even with these refinements. Tesla is already promising a minimum 214 miles per charge on the Model 3, and the Chevy Bolt can muster 238 miles. BMW's Klaus Frölich tells Welt that he doesn't think of range as the be-all, end-all factor in an EV, but it's still important enough at this stage that the company can't afford to fall short of its rivals.