BMW: Closest Yet to Turn Consumers On to Electric Vehicles

BMW has revealed more details of the i3 electric vehicle prior to unveiling it in final production form on July 29. Apart from the car itself, the offering includes some innovative solutions to the hurdles that have persistently restrained demand for electric vehicles. These solutions and, just as importantly, the marketing of them could just see BMW switching consumers on to electric vehicles on a bigger scale at last.

First, the range of the vehicle is stated as being 130 to 160 kilometres (80 to 100 miles). This is not extraordinary in itself but BMW is actively reiterating that years of research show that electric vehicles typically only drive 40 kilometres (25 miles) a day, implying that the i3 can survive up to four days between charges under normal usage. This is generally supported by Euromonitor data on average annual distances travelled by car, based on dividing the annual distance travelled by 365 days. In fact, even when dividing usage by 250 days, thus assuming the vehicle is idle on weekends and for two weeks of the year for holidays, the average daily distance is still lower than the range of the i3.

Average Daily Distance Travelled by Car (km) in Selected Countries in 2012, 250-day and 365-day Usage Models
Average Daily Distance Travelled by Car in Selected Countries in 2012

Source: Euromonitor International

Seemingly all good on that issue then and, what’s more, economical driving modes can be engaged which increase the range by up to 25% and a range-extender (i.e. a 650cc 2-cylinder petrol engine) is also available, which BMW claims “lengthens the driving range by an additional 130 kilometres (80 miles) and makes e-mobility hassle-free.” In a multi-faceted and concerted effort to address the range fears associated with electric vehicles, emergency roadside charging assistance is provided to i3 owners and BMW even offers access to conventional vehicles for use on longer trips such as family holidays.

Another concern that is often raised among consumers when considering electric vehicles is that of performance. This may stem from the association of electric-powered vehicles with milk floats and golf carts but whatever the reason, the reality is that the technology has moved on and electric vehicles offer much greater torque and in turn acceleration than petrol or diesel-powered vehicles. BMW is therefore wise in promoting the 0-100kph time of 7.2 seconds for the i3, which is actually comparable to a BMW 118i or 120d.

All of which suggests that BMW may be the closest yet to persuading consumers that the age of electric vehicles is finally viable. Yet the single biggest stumbling block, price, remains central to buying decisions and despite coming in at a lower price than many expected, I still don’t think they’ve done quite enough and have missed a marketing trick in the process.