But BMW’s role in all this has me a little confused. Let’s ignore the fact that, for decades, BMW’s clean energy policy revolved solely around hydrogen only to seemingly overnight throw all of its eggs into the electric basket. But in typical BMW style it absolutely nailed the brief with both the i3 and the i8. With their bespoke carbon tubs they were forward thinking and built using varying degrees of recycled or sustainable materials they really did seem to be the way forward. Crucially they were both great to drive.
As soon as the i3 was launched it looked like every other manufacturer would be playing catch up for years to come and that’s proved to be the case, but here we are six years after the i3 was launched and BMW looks to have surrendered its position as the maker of the best electric car. Everyone seems to have caught up, and bar a raft of PHEVs BMW hasn’t launched a BEV since the i3 made its debut. But then perhaps BMW doesn’t see the future as fully electric, at least in the short term, hence the slew of PHEVs? On the one hand it’s accelerating its plans for electrified vehicles, with 25 slated for launch by 2023 – two years earlier than planned – yet on the other hand its head of development, Klaus Fröhlich, has recently stated that; “There are no customer demands for BEVs. None.”
Admittedly Fröhlich is talking about the European market, but he was adamant that over here we’re not sold on BEVs; “The European customer is not prepared to take the risk on an EV because the infrastructure is not there, resale is not known.” It’s a shame really as BMW had the jump on the competition with the i3, but Audi, Porsche, Mercedes, Jaguar and the VW Group have caught up and will all have a greater number of BEVs on sale than BMW. And that’s before we even mention Tesla.
Word on the street is that BMW is hugely worried about the impact of the Model 3, but this begs the question as to why BMW has seemingly pulled back from its roll-out of more BEVs? At the moment it looks as if BMW is putting all of its efforts into PHEVs, but ones with the ability to travel much greater distances – up to 60 miles – on battery power alone. The argument being that simply by adding additional batteries to these models could allow for even further distances to be covered yet still with the back up of an internal combustion engine to travel longer distances if required.
Let’s hope it’s the right strategy as otherwise I fear BMW is in danger of being left behind if BEVs really take off in the way some analysts think they will. If Tesla now makes a Model 3 that can travel nigh-on 350 miles between charges I reckon the public will get on board pretty quickly. While I’m all for the internal combustion engine sticking around for as long as possible I don’t want BMW’s reliance on it to put the company at the back of the queue when it comes to manufacturing the world’s ultimate battery machine.
BMW got things right with the i3 but has since moved away from BEVs