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Highest-mileage electric car you can buy in South Africa

The highest-mileage electric vehicle (EV) you can currently buy in the local market – that we could find – is a 2016 BMW i3 eDrive that is listed for sale by SMG BMW Cape Town City.

The electric hatch is on the market for R369,900 and has completed over 120,000km in its eight years on the road, with a full franchise service history to boot.

From the types of comments we’ve fielded before, online and in person, it seems South Africans are hesitant to buy EVs whether new or used as they believe these cars won’t last as long as petrol and diesel autos because they will need an expensive battery replacement as soon as the warranty expires, or that they will catch fire before the battery even gets the chance to run out of puff.

While EVs are not perfect, their imperfections do not warrant this type of ridicule.

The batteries in EVs are not new technology, the core concepts have been around for ages but they are simply larger than what we were used to before to accommodate the powerful motors electric cars are equipped with.

BMW, in particular the i3, has also proven the longevity of EVs time and time again.

TopAuto recently got in contact with the manufacturer to enquire what it would cost to replace an entire EV battery in the unfortunate event that it dies.

It said the cost is too difficult to determine due to how fast the technology is evolving, but that an EV is very unlikely to ever need an entirely new power source in one shot.

This will only happen in the event that there is a serious problem stemming from its manufacturing process – which we all know can also happen to internal-combustion-engine (ICE) cars.

The subsidiary also revealed that it has only replaced one battery module on two EVs since it launched its very first battery-powered car in South Africa in March 2015.

These weren’t entire batteries, just one of the many individual modules that make up the complete packs.

“In both cases, the modules were replaced to address a sensor, rather than because the battery module itself had a problem,” said the BMW spokesperson.

The work was completed under the standard 8-year/160,000km battery warranty and therefore didn’t cost the owners a thing.

The automaker also reminded us that South Africa currently has one of the highest-mileage i3s in the world driving around on its roads, having done well over 300,000km by July 2022 without any major issues.

Furthermore, it said a benefit of EVs is that you will be able to replace the battery with more efficient packs down the line as they are developed.

For instance, the current battery might only have 300km of range today, but in 10 years’ time you may be able to install a new one with identical dimensions but twice as much range and less weight.

Highest-mileage BMW i3 in Africa

Addressing the complaint that EVs are more fond of spontaneously combusting than ICE vehicles, experts say it’s actually the opposite.

Colin Walker, head of transport at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit think tank, told The Guardian in November 2023 that “all the data shows that EVs are just much, much less likely to set on fire than their petrol equivalent.”

“The many, many fires that you have for petrol or diesel cars just aren’t reported.”

Neither powertrain technology is completely immune to bursting into flames for various reasons, but to say that EVs do it more than ICEs is simply a fallacy.

Admittedly, when they catch alight EV fires are harder to get under control due to a phenomenon known as thermal runaway, but given their lower risk factor to begin with and the fact that several companies are hard at work to find effective solutions for this, we can probably let this one slide.

Highest-mileage electric car in South Africa

Now that we’ve established that it may not be such a bad idea to buy an older EV after all, let’s get into what you can expect if you’re interested in picking up this 2016 BMW i3 which has well over six digits on the odometer.

The hatchback is fitted with a front-mounted electric motor producing 125kW and 250Nm, which is good for a 0-100km/h sprint of 7.2 seconds

A rather small 18.8kWh usable battery pack is situated under the floorboards which allowed for a maximum 160km of driving range when the EV was still fresh, which is likely to be somewhat lower today.

With the right DC charger, which in the current landscape is virtually all of them, the small BMW city car can be juiced up from 0-100% in roughly three hours.

Buyers of the highest-mileage i3 on the market can expect a host of creature comforts, including Cloth/Sensatec seats in the Electronic Carum Spice Grey colour combo, a digital driver’s display, a central touchscreen with Bluetooth and navigation, a multifunction steering wheel, a sliding sunroof, climate control, and cruise control with a brake function.

It also brings rain-sensing wipers, anti-dazzle mirrors, automatic headlight activation, and 19-inch alloy wheels. 

Back when it was new the i3 eDrive sold for R556,500 (April 2016), meaning this example has lost approximately 34% in value over the last eight years.

2016 BMW i3 eDrive at SMG BMW Cape Town City



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