Woah. Is it just me or did the world go a little bit gaga last week? Aside from suspicions that BMW slipped something into auto journalists’ drinks at Monday’s tri-city simultaneous launch of its long-awaited all-electric i3, there seems to be a somewhat questionable belief held by BMW that the i3 is a game changer.
The approach, which has been to create an electric vehicle from the ground up, is nothing new. It’s clear BMW is out to compete directly with Silicon Valley’s Tesla Motors. Credit where credit is due. The i3 is a fantastic product to bring to market. It absolutely stuffs the fuddy-duddy, hippy-green image of alternative fuel cars, sexing up the electric market like the Tron Lightcycle, ladies in tightly-clad PVC and Matthew McConaughey’s naked torso in almost every film he’s done. But “game changer” seems a bit strong. What do BMW think they’ve done to deserve this self-professed accolade?
It is an oft-cited criticism that the batteries of EVs weigh a ton. To optimise the performance of an EV – extending the range and top speed to something that’s more aligned with current internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles – it’s important to reduce the weight of the rest of the car as much as possible. With BMW’s extensive knowledge in motorsport and building luxury performance cars, the German auto maker has engineered carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFP) for the passenger cell, used aluminium instead of steel where possible and hollowed out the driveshaft. Though each development carries its own merit, not even together do they warrant ‘game-changer’ status. They’re simply cool improvements to an existing model.
The styling is down to personal taste. The loss of the main chassis column to both increase space and reduce weight is cool, but not new (Ford B-MAX, anyone?)
Claiming that the i3 will be profitable from Day One, BMW deny subsidising any element of the i3, despite making use of the government-subsidised wallbox offer. Erm..
It also denies any incentive schemes, but offers the use of an regular Bimmer. In a clever attempt to overcome the argument about range on longer journeys, this option comes as part of your service package. Except it is only available on the premium service packages. An incentive, by any definition.
At £25,000 after the Plug In Car Grant incentive from the government, the BMW i3 is reasonably priced. A fair number of us were expecting a much higher figure. And it is a BMW after all. With the wealth of technology they’ve placed inside the car, it definitely seems good value-for-money. However, who is in the market for an electric city-sized BMW? Drivers of such a manufacturer’s brand look for high perfomance. The i3 does 0-62mph in 7 seconds – only impressive when compared to the competition (the LEAF does it in 10). Though BMW claims the car maintains true elements of performance, such is the company’s policy, the opportunity to take advantage of such performance in a city car is severely limited.
Of course, in time, a range of vehicles to appeal to a broad spectrum of tastes and wallet sizes will be required. Even having been won over to the sheer brilliance that is German auto manufacturing in Dominic Sandbrook’s recent BBC documentary, Das Auto, there is nothing revolutionary about the i3. So again how exactly is it changing the game?