BMW Wants to Sit and Watch Market Reactions to EVs

While most automakers seem to follow the eco-mobility trend, some remain skeptical about whether the market is ready for EV adoption or not. BMW, launching its electric car program in 2013, said it would wait to see if the first EVs enjoy a warm welcome.

"We want to see how the market reacts to the first EVs," said Jochen Schroeder, manager electric powertrain pre-development. "We are going to have a variety of cars from pure EVs to range extenders, plug-in hybrids and hybrids, and our focus will be on megacities where people only travel a short distance," he said.

BMW is testing its Mini E with customers in the US and Europe, and has so far found out that people only travel 20-25 km (12-15 miles) a day on average and only recharge the car once a week, so it is easily recharged at home, according to Schroeder.

Despite their short traveling distances, people tend to avoid all-electric cars and prefer extended range EVs like the Chevy Volt or Vauxhall Ampera. Schroeder believes that the concept is a good idea because of the psychology of EVs and ‘range anxiety'.

"With a range-extender you are always on the safe side but there will be a small price premium because you are paying for two engines instead of one," Schroeder explains. "I think that 50% of potential EV buyers might opt for a range extender but we're not expecting sales of all these alternative vehicles to account for more than 5% of total BMW sales in five years."

People who will initially buy EVs will be the ones who usually try out the latest technology. How will other consumers be influenced by these early adopters will be interesting to watch, although for most people these will be a second car.

BMW started EV research in 2007, with the launch of Project I, which is the company's knowledge base for developing a new generation of transportation solutions.

"We need to be developing this technology ourselves so that we have all the knowledge in-house," said Schroeder. "So with Project I we have done everything on our own so that we really understand it and are not dependent on suppliers; we really need to know the technology, the possibilities and understand the cost efficiencies," he said.
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