BMW is working hard to drag itself up from a disappointing start in the electric car market. Its highly innovative i3 sedan was the first car to come to the mass market with a carbon fiber chassis. It also featured new cutting-edge bonding techniques for joining aluminum stampings and carbon fiber pieces together. All that creativity couldn’t overcome the fact that it had a very modest range of 81 miles and a fairly high price, though.
Electric car drivers have a natural tendency to start worrying about running out of electric power before they get home when the state of charge meter falls below 20%. That means after only 65 miles of driving, range anxiety can set in. In winter, the range is even less, compounding the problem. BMW has boosted the size of the battery by 50% to 33 kWh this year, giving the 2017 i3 114 miles of range. That boost has been good for sales, especially in European markets where people tend to drive shorter distances each day than Americans do.
BMW is also being aggressive about adding plug-in hybrid powertrains to existing models. Its PHEV automobiles come with the iPerformance badge outside, but to most casual observers they look almost the same as BMWs with conventional internal combustion engines and no electric motors or batteries.
The unfortunately named X5 xDrive40e was the first to market and has been received well. Next was the BMW 330e iPerformance. With a 2.0 liter gas engine, an 87 horsepower electric motor, and a 7.6 kWh battery, it has an electric-only range of 14 miles, similar to the X5 xDrive40e.
Coming next is a plug-in hybrid version of its range-topping 7 Series sedan (the BMW 740e). It will also offer a plug-in hybrid version of the MINI later this year. Once again, the marketers have defied common sense by saddling that car with this awkward moniker — MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4. Say that three times fast.
Names aside, customers like what they see in BMW’s new lineup of cars with plugs. Sales in January were more than double those recorded in the same month last year — 5,232. That represents 3.6% of BMW’s total sales for the month. That’s a higher percentage of electric cars than almost any other manufacturer (excluding Tesla, of course, and Smart, which is actually going to go 100% electric in the USA).
So, the electric car market has a pulse and BMW is part of it. But its electrified cars are hardly meant for mainstream drivers. The 330e starts at $43,700 and goes up quickly from there. The i3 starts at $42,400. Many people think the BMW i3 is the true target for Tesla’s upcoming Model 3 — an upscale midsize car for those who want some cachet with their wheels but can’t afford $66,000+ for a Model S. BMW sells many more 3 Series cars than it does 7 Series sedans.
Tesla is hoping the same holds true for the Model 3 versus the Model S. On paper, the Model 3 will be about the same size as the BMW 3 Series, have equivalent performance, and have a similar pricing structure. And with more than 215 miles of range, it should allay the fears of first-time electric car buyers. If everything we know about the Model 3 turns out to be true, BMW had best enjoy its increased electric car sales while it can, before the new kid comes to town.
Source: Inside EVs