The 2019 BMW i3 now has 153 miles of range thanks to a bigger battery

The BMW i3 is getting an upgraded battery — plus a bunch of other improvements —that will give the 2019 model about 153 miles of range. That’s roughly a 30% improvement from the previous model. The boost in range is noteworthy, yet it still lags behind the Chevy Bolt and the Tesla Model S, Model X […]

The BMW i3 is getting an upgraded battery — plus a bunch of other improvements —that will give the 2019 model about 153 miles of range. That’s roughly a 30% improvement from the previous model.

The boost in range is noteworthy, yet it still lags behind the Chevy Bolt and the Tesla Model S, Model X and Model 3 vehicles. And it’s only a smidge better than the much cheaper Nissan Leaf.

The upshot: it’s a steady improvement that expresses some continued investment and interest in the i3 brand. But will it be enough to keep this city car in the EV mix?

When the BMW i3 first went into production in 2013 it had a 22.6-kilowatt hour battery pack containing 60 ampere hours (Ah) batteries. That first i3 had range of 81 miles, according to EPA estimates. The company’s second-generation battery, introduced in 2016, grew to 33 kwh of gross energy (94 amp hours) and had a range of about 115 miles under the EPA cycle.

2019 BMW i3-new

Now the 2019 model, which will comes with 120 Ah batteries in a 42.2-kWh-battery pack, will be able to travel about 153 miles on a single charge, BMW said.

The upgraded battery will be available in both the i3 and the i3s. Pricing was not announced. Previous i3 model year is priced at about $45,000 for the base model.

Power hasn’t changed in the new 2019 models, which will go into production this November. The standard i3 comes with a 170-horsepower electric motor that will take it from zero to 60 miles per hour in 7.2 seconds. The sportier i3s will have a 181-horsepower motor that can go from zero to 60 in 6.8 seconds.

 

The automaker is giving the i3 a few other improvements as well, including a new exterior color called Jucaro Beige metallic and adaptive LED headlights with automatic high beams. The exterior paint finishes Mineral Grey metallic, Imperial Blue metallic, Melbourne Red metallic, Capparis White and Fluid Black are still available.

Wireless charging and a Wi-Fi hotspot that can accommodate up to 10 devices will also be available for the BMW i3 and BMW i3s, the company said.

Customers will also new options for the sports package, which will include black wheel arch surrounds and a suspension with specific dampers, springs and stabilizers, lowered suspension, a widened track and 20-inch light alloy wheels.

Our 3 favorite startups from Urban-X’s 4th demo day

Urban-X, the urban-tech startup accelerator backed by BMW MINI and early-stage urban-tech fund Urban.Us, hosted a demo day today for its fourth cohort of companies at its Brooklyn HQ.  The seven presenting companies offered solutions to issues plaguing modern cities, including toll-road pricing, energy and construction management, and even the inefficiencies of modern cycling helmets. In […]

Urban-X, the urban-tech startup accelerator backed by BMW MINI and early-stage urban-tech fund Urban.Us, hosted a demo day today for its fourth cohort of companies at its Brooklyn HQ.  The seven presenting companies offered solutions to issues plaguing modern cities, including toll-road pricing, energy and construction management, and even the inefficiencies of modern cycling helmets.

In a day that offered an impressive display of entrepreneurial talent, here are a few of the companies that really stood out to us:

Rentlogic

In hopes of improving landlord transparency, Rentlogic uses years of city government data to create objective algorithmic letter ratings for apartment buildings.  As CEO Yale Fox pointed out, despite city-dwellers spending half our paychecks on rent, urban housing hasn’t seen the same rating systems that we use to guide decisions on where we eat, what car we buy, or what shows we binge.  Rentlogic allows apartment hunters to screen buildings before signing a lease and avoid committing to unhealthy conditions or an absentee landlord.

Rentlogic partners with landlords looking to obtain a stamp of quality for potential renters, offering an added inspection feature that allows them to hang a letter rating outside their building. The company’s roster of customers already includes Blackstone and Phipps Houses, the largest for-profit and non-profit landlords in the world, respectively.   

What stands out with Rentlogic is its ability to scale. Though currently only in New York City, the same data used in New York presumably exists across all major US markets and Rentlogic has minimized the cost of entering new cities by building out the back-end infrastructure required to ingest and analyze the data.  From a demand perspective, as renters defer to Rentlogic for quality assurance and more competitors hang “A” ratings outside their buildings, landlords will face more pressure to maintain the same offering. 

The idea hit home for a born-and-bred New Yorker with my own set of landlord horror stories, and the first thing I did when I left was look up my building on Rentlogic.

Campsyte

Most companies wish they had mega-campuses or “motherships” where they could offer employees access to sprawling outdoor working areas. For companies based in urban areas, offering outdoor space can be tough, with many parks often privatized, far from city centers, or void of the amenities needed to be productive. 

Campsyte transforms underutilized urban outdoor spaces into productive and fun spaces that customers can book for co-working purposes, corporate off-sites, or events. Similar to WeWork’s approach with buildings, Campsyte takes a parking lot, and adds value by filling it with greenery, furniture, electricity, WiFi, and other services. With its services driving nearly 10x the annual revenue per square foot seen by traditional parking lots, the value proposition for lot owners is convincing.

Given the competition companies are facing when it comes to attracting and retaining talent, providing the same amenities as competitors based outside city centers seems invaluable, with Campsyte boasting an extremely impressive roster of partner companies, including LinkedIn, PayPal, Salesforce, and Airbnb. 

ODN (Open Data Nation)

As anyone who has driven in a city knows, car crashes or accidents can often be caused by the built environment around you. Yet insurers, who focus on personal characteristics like credit scores when underwriting a policy, lack the measurement tools to assess the risk of someone’s external environment.

Founded by an MIT-trained city planner, ODN builds risk models using machine learning and public data records to help insurers evaluate risk and mitigate accidents. The resulting analytics eases the selection process for insurers, allowing them to drive more sales with less cost and risk. ODN is already partnered up with some of the world’s largest insurers including Zurich, Travelers, and Hanover insurance.

The potential use cases for ODN’s technology go far beyond the massive existing insurance market, with the eventual rollout of autonomous cars forcing insurers to ask how they construct policies when human behavior plays no role in accidents. ODN is working with carriers to help answer this question while helping create a more efficient and fair underwriting process today. 

Other members of Urban-X Cohort 4 included:

Avvir:  “Avvir automates quality assurance for the construction industry, providing real-time insights into the progress and potential defects on a project.”

ClearRoad:  “ClearRoad helps government agencies automate toll road pricing for any section of road without the need for traditional proprietary hardware infrastructure.”

Park & Diamond:  “Park & Diamond makes biking better by reinventing the bike helmet, using next-generation materials to build a safer, more portable helmet that can roll up into the shape of a water bottle for easier carrying, while looking like a regular hat, cap, or beanie.”

Sapient Industries:  “Sapient Industries has developed an autonomous energy management system that senses and learns human behavior in order to eliminate wasted energy in buildings.”

Daimler names new CEO to lead push into electric, autonomous vehicles

Daimler said Wednesday that Dieter Zetsche is stepping down as CEO and will be replaced by a long-serving executive who has most recently been leading the automaker’s research and development efforts, including its push into electric vehicles. The company has proposed that Zetsche, who was CEO of Daimler for 12 years, become chairman of the […]

Daimler said Wednesday that Dieter Zetsche is stepping down as CEO and will be replaced by a long-serving executive who has most recently been leading the automaker’s research and development efforts, including its push into electric vehicles.

The company has proposed that Zetsche, who was CEO of Daimler for 12 years, become chairman of the supervisory board in 2021 when Manfred Bischoff leaves. The move must be approved by shareholders at the company’s next meeting. The company’s structure requires a two-year “cooling off” period before Zetsche can be elected as the board’s chairman.

Daimler has picked Ola Källenius to head up Mercedes-Benz vehicles and Daimler, the first non-German, to hold the top spot. Källenius most recently headed up research at Daimler and development at Mercedes-Benz Cars. He joined the company in 1993, then called Daimler-Benz AG, as trainee within its International Management Associate Program.

In recent years, it appeared he was being groomed for Zetsche’s spot. In 2015, Källenius was appointed to the Daimler AG’s board of management.

Källenius’ appointment comes at an interesting and potentially transformative time for the maker of Mercedes-Benz vehicles and Daimler trucks. The old business of building, financing and selling cars, trucks and SUVs has changed as automakers seeking new ways to make profits.

Daimler is among those with plans to launch a series of new electric vehicles, develop autonomous vehicles, and ramp up its “mobility” business, a unit that includes car-sharing and ride-hailing.

Earlier this month, Mercedes-Benz unveiled the EQC, an all-electric crossover that kicks off the German automaker’s plans to invest more than $12 billion to produce a line of battery-powered models under its new EQ brand. Daimler plans to invest another $1.2 billion in global battery production.

Daimler and BMW took the unusual step in March 2018 to merge their untraditional operations such as car-sharing and ride-hailing, parking locator services and electric vehicle charging into a single joint business in an effort to better compete with Uber, Lyft and other mobility companies.

That means tying up all their on-demand mobility offerings, including car share services Car2Go  and DriveNow, ride-hailing like myTaxi, Chauffeur Privé and Clever Taxi,  parking products like ParkNow and Parkmobile, and on-demand services like moves and ReachNow.

BMW and Daimler said they will continue to compete in their core business of building and selling vehicles.

Lunewave is pitching a new sensor offering better vision for autonomous vehicles

The investment arms of BMW and the Chinese search technology giant, Baidu, along with a large original equipment manufacturer for the auto industry and a slew of technology investors have all come together to back Lunewave, a startup developing new sensor technologies for autonomous vehicles. The $5 million seed round which the company just closed […]

The investment arms of BMW and the Chinese search technology giant, Baidu, along with a large original equipment manufacturer for the auto industry and a slew of technology investors have all come together to back Lunewave, a startup developing new sensor technologies for autonomous vehicles.

The $5 million seed round which the company just closed will serve as a launching pad to get its novel radar technology, based on the concept of a Luneburg antenna, to market.

First developed in the 1940s, Lunewave’s spin the antenna technology involves leveraging 3D printing to create new architectures that enable more powerful antennas with greater range and accuracy than the sensing technologies currently on the market, according to the company’s chief executive John Xin.

Lunewave was co-founded by brothers John and Hao Xin and is based off of research that Hao had been conducting as a professor at the University of Arizona. Hao previously spent years working in the defense community for companies like Raytheon and Rockwell Scientific after graduating with a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2000.

Younger brother John took a more entrepreneurial approach, working in consulting and financial services for companies like PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Liberty Mutual.

Lunewave represents the culmination of nine years of research the elder Xin spent at the University of Arizona applying 3D printing to boost the power of the Luneburg antenna. With so much intellectual firepower behind it, Hao was able to convince his younger brother to join him on the entrepreneurial journey.

He has a strong desire to commercialize his inventions,” John Xin said of his older brother. “He wants to see it in everyday life.”

 Image courtesy of Driving-Tests.org

Now the company has $5 million in new funding to take the technology that Hao Xin has dedicated so much time and effort to develop and bring it to market. 

“With a single 3D printer in the laboratory version we can produce 100 per day,” John Xin told me. “With an industrial printer you can print 1000 per day.”

The first market for the company’s new technology will be autonomous vehicles — and more specifically autonomous cars.

Lunewave is focused on the eyes of the vehicle, says John Xin. Currently, autonomous technologies rely on a few different sensing systems. There are LIDAR technologies which use lasers to illuminate a target and measure the reflected pulses with a sensor; camera technologies which rely on — well — camera technologies; and radar which uses electromagnetic waves to detect objects.

Startups developing and refining these technologies have raised hundreds of millions of dollars to tackle the autonomous vehicle market. In June, the camera sensing technology developer Light raised over $120 million from SoftBank. Meanwhile, LIDAR technology developers like Quanergy and Leddartech have raised $134 million and $117 million respectively and some studies have claimed that the market for LIDAR technologies was already a $5.2 billion last year alone.

Most companies working with autonomous cars these days use some combination of these technologies, but the existing products on the market have significant limitations, according to Lunewave’s chief executive.

John Xin argues that the Lunewave technology can detect more objects in a wider field of view and at greater distances than existing products thanks to the unique properties of the Luneburg antenna.

Think of the antenna as a giant golf ball with a 360 field of “view” that can detect objects at greater distances than existing Lidar technologies because of the distance constraints on laser technologies.

Xin with a Lunewave prototype

“LIDAR right now is at the end of the day because of its short wavelength. It does not function as well in poor weather conditions. Penetration of shorter wave lengths would be very difficult in poor weather conditions,” Xin said. “Our radar technology has the ability to function across all weather conditions. Our hardware architecture of our Lunenberg antenna has the best distance and the spherical nature of the device has the 360 detection capacity.”

The company came out with its minimum viable product in 2017 — the same year that it launched. It was one of the early companies in the UrbanX accelerator — a collaboration between Mini and Urban.us — and is part of BMW’s startup garage program.

The company raised $5 million in two structures. Its seed financing was a $3.75 million equity round led by the automotive investment specialist McCombs Fraser with participation from Ekistic Ventures, Urban.us, Plug and Play, Shanda Capital, Lighthouse Ventures, Baidu Ventures and BMW iVentures. But a portion of its capital came in the form of a $1.25 million non-dilutive government grant through the National Science Foundation . “In late 2016 that’s what helped us to jumpstart the company,” said Xin.

Now, the company just needs to fulfill Hao Xin’s dream of taking the product to market.

“We have the product,” John Xin said. “It’s not just taking in money. Now it’s about [proof of concepts] and pilots.”

BMW launches a personal voice assistant for its cars

At TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018, BMW today premiered its digital personal assistant for its cars, the aptly named BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant. But you won’t have to say “Hey, BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant” to wake it up. You can give it any name you want. The announcement comes only a few weeks after BMW also […]

At TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018, BMW today premiered its digital personal assistant for its cars, the aptly named BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant. But you won’t have to say “Hey, BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant” to wake it up. You can give it any name you want.

The announcement comes only a few weeks after BMW also launched its integration with Amazon’s Alexa, but it’s worth stressing that these are complementary technologies. BMW’s own assistant is all about your car, while its partnerships with Amazon and also Microsoft enables other functions that aren’t directly related to your driving experience.

“BMW’s Personal Assistant gets to know you over time with each of your voice commands and by using your car,” BMW’s senior vice president Digital Products and Services, Dieter May, said. “It gets better and better every single day.”

Sticking with the precedents of Microsoft’s, Google’s and Amazon’s assistants, the voice of BMW’s assistant is female (though BMW often uses male names and pronouns in its press materials). Over time, it’ll surely get more voices.

So what can the BMW assistant do? Once you are in a compatible car, you’ll be able to control all of the standard in-car features by voice. Think navigation and climate control (“Hey John, I’m cold”), or check the tire pressure, oil level and other engine settings.

You also can have some more casual conversations (“Hey Charlie, what’s the meaning of life?”), but what’s maybe more important is that the assistant will continuously learn more about you. Right now, the assistant can remember your preferred settings, but over time, it’ll learn more and even proactively suggest changes. “For example, driving outside the city at night, the personal assistant could suggest you the BMW High Beam Assist,” May noted.

In addition, you’ll also be able to use the assistant to learn more about your car’s features, something that’s getting increasingly hard as cars become computers on wheels with ever-increasing complexity.

BMW built the assistant on top of Microsoft’s Azure cloud and conversational technologies. Azure has long been BMW’s preferred public cloud and the two companies have had a close relationship for years now. BMW has, after all, also integrated some support for accessing Office 365 files and using Skype for Business in its cars, with support for Cortana likely coming soon, too.

That all sounds a bit confusing, though. Why have three assistants in the car, after all. All that “Hey Alexa,” “Hey Charlie,” “Hey Cortana” is going to get a bit confusing after all. But BMW argues that each one has a specialty. For Alexa that may be shopping while Cortana is all about getting work done and the BMW is all about your car. And if everything else fails, BMW’s existing concierge service is still there and lets you talk to a human.

The assistant feature will be available in a basic version with support for 23 languages and markets, starting March 2019. In the U.S., Germany, U.K., Italy, France, Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Brazil and Japan, the service will feature more features like support for weather search, point of interest search and access to music in March 2019. In those markets, the assistant will also feature a more natural voice. In China, this expanded version will go live a bit later and is currently scheduled for May 2019. In those markets, it’ll roll out to cars that support the BMW Operating System 7.0 as part of the company’s Live Cockpit Professional program.

If you order a BMW 3 Series, starting in November, the assistant will be available to you right away and included for the first three years of your ownership. For new X5, Z4 and 8 Series models, BMW Assistant support will arrive in the form of an over-the-air software upgrade starting in March 2019.

BMW’s Alexa integration gets it right

BMW will in a few days start rolling out to many of its drivers support for Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. The fact that BWM is doing this doesn’t come as a surprise, given that it has long talked about its plans to bring Alexa — and potentially other personal assistants like Cortana and the Google […]

BMW will in a few days start rolling out to many of its drivers support for Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. The fact that BWM is doing this doesn’t come as a surprise, given that it has long talked about its plans to bring Alexa — and potentially other personal assistants like Cortana and the Google Assistant — to its cars. Ahead of its official launch in Germany, Austria, the U.S. and U.K. (with other countries following at a later date), I went to Munich to take a look at what using Alexa in a BMW is all about.

As Dieter May, BMW’s senior VP for digital products told me earlier this year, the company has long held that in-car digital assistants have to be more than just an “Echo Dot in a cup holder,” meaning that they have to be deeply integrated into the experience and the rest of the technology in the car. And that’s exactly what BMW has done here — and it has done it really well.

What maybe surprised me the most was that we’re not just talking about the voice interface here. BMW is working directly with the Alexa team at Amazon to also integrate visual responses from Alexa. Using the tablet-like display you find above the center console of most new BMWs, the service doesn’t just read out the answer but also shows additional facts or graphs when warranted. That means Alexa in a BMW is a lot more like using an Echo Show than a Dot (though you’re obviously not going to be able to watch any videos on it).

In the demo I saw, in a 2015 BMW X5 that was specifically rigged to run Alexa ahead of the launch, the display would activate when you ask for weather information, for example, or for queries that returned information from a Wikipedia post.

What’s cool here is that the BMW team styled these responses using the same design language that also governs the company’s other in-car products. So if you see the weather forecast from Alexa, that’ll look exactly like the weather forecast from BMW’s own Connected Drive system. The only difference is the “Alexa” name at the top-left of the screen.

All of this sounds easy, but I’m sure it took a good bit of negotiation with Amazon to build a system like this, especially because there’s an important second part to this integration that’s quite unique. The queries, which you start by pushing the usual “talk” button in the car (in newer models, the Alexa wake word feature will also work), are first sent to BMW’s servers before they go to Amazon. BMW wants to keep control over the data and ensure its users’ privacy, so it added this proxy in the middle. That means there’s a bit of an extra lag in getting responses from Amazon, but the team is working hard on reducing this, and for many of the queries we tried during my demo, it was already negligible.

As the team told me, the first thing it had to build was a way to switch that can route your queries to the right service. The car, after all, already has a built-in speech recognition service that lets you set directions in the navigation system, for example. Now, it has to recognize that the speaker said “Alexa” at the beginning of the query, then route it to the Alexa service. The team also stressed that we’re talking about a very deep integration here. “We’re not just streaming everything through your smartphone or using some plug-and-play solution,” a BMW spokesperson noted.

“You get what you’d expect from BMW, a deep integration, and to do that, we use the technology we already have in the car, especially the built-in SIM card.”

One of the advantages of Alexa’s open ecosystem is its skills. Not every skill makes sense in the context of the car, and some could be outright distracting, so the team is curating a list of skills that you’ll be able to use in the car.

It’s no secret that BMW is also working with Microsoft (and many of its cloud services run on Azure). BMW argues that Alexa and Cortana have different strengths, though, with Cortana being about productivity and a connection to Office 365, for example. It’s easy to imagine a future where you could call up both Alexa and Cortana from your car — and that’s surely why BMW built its own system for routing voice commands and why it wants to have control over this process.

BMW tells me that it’ll look at how users will use the new service and tune it accordingly. Because a lot of the functionality runs in the cloud, updates are obviously easy and the team can rapidly release new features — just like any other software company.

Daimler’s car2go car sharing service adds its first U.S. city in four years

Car2go, the free-floating car-sharing service owned by Daimler, launched in Chicago this week—the company’s 25th market globally. The car-sharing company, which lets customers rent out vehicles on a short-term basis, has been steadily expanding in the past several years, adding to and changing up its fleet beyond the diminutive Smart cars that were once the […]

Car2go, the free-floating car-sharing service owned by Daimler, launched in Chicago this week—the company’s 25th market globally. The car-sharing company, which lets customers rent out vehicles on a short-term basis, has been steadily expanding in the past several years, adding to and changing up its fleet beyond the diminutive Smart cars that were once the lone option for customers.

This launch stands out because it’s the first time in four years that car2go has added a U.S. city to its ranks. The last time car2go added a U.S. city was New York in 2014.

The car sharing service has more than 3.3 million members worldwide, of which about 1 million in the U.S. and Canada—a 25 percent growth over the prior year, according to the company. Today, the car share service offers Mercedes-Benz CLA and GLA as well as the two-door Smartfortwo vehicles.

Daimler was one of the first automakers to get into the car-sharing business. And others have followed, some of which have announced plans just in the past few months. In 2016, BMW’s ReachNow re-launched in North America and GM started Maven, which recently expanded its offerings to a peer-to-peer car-sharing service in Chicago, Detroit, and Ann Arbor, Michigan. VW Group announced in July it will launch a car-sharing service that uses only electric vehicles in Germany next year with plans to expand to other major cities in Europe, North America, and Asia beginning in 2020. Volvo and Renault have also announced plans for a car-sharing service.

This automaker-jumps-into-car-sharing-story is a indicative of a bigger trend within an auto industry grappling with how to earn money beyond the traditional business of building and selling cars. And this period of transition and experimentation isn’t likely to slow down.

If anything expect more tinkering. For instance, Daimler announced Thursday it would break itself into three separate units focused on trucks, its Mercedes-Benz car division, and mobility in a massive restructuring aimed at helping it keep pace with the emergence of automated and electric vehicles.