from Peter Schmidt -August
BMW playing it safe at London
Europe’s struggling electric car industry, as
publicity goes, surely there is no better venue to
demonstrate the low pollution status of plug-ins than
during London’s current Olympics.
Even the most ardent petrol head would concede that
for the countless daily Olympic transport needs, to
and from the various Olympic venues, zero emission
vehicles would be the all too obvious choice.
Who could argue with that?
BMW clinched the role as ‘Official Automotive Partner
to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games’. In
consequence, the thousands of participating athletes,
countless Olympic officials and journalists will be
chauffeured to, from and between airports, hotels and
Olympic sites by BMWs and Minis.
For these demanding tasks, ferrying these people
around BMW allocated no fewer than 4,000 cars.
And to no one’s surprise in the automotive PR
business, BMW chose to cloak itself in green for this
high-visibility Olympic function.
That’s by way of 120 5-Series hybrids and some 200
Function goes before green rhetoric, and given the
anxiety generating range limitations of today’s first
generation electric cars, BMW’s thinkers were left
with no real alternative but to stick in the main to
conventionally powered cars, chiefly 3- and 5-Series
models, in order to guarantee an effective and smooth
running transport operation for the London Olympics.
Its pure electric Olympic car fleet is made up of some
160 battery-powered 1-Series ActiveE and 40 Mini E
Given that these 200 electric members of BMW’s 4,000
strong London Olympic transport fleet are of course
greatly handicapped by their range limitation and
still lengthy charging times, and that smooth
unhindered transport from point A to point B is of
prime importance, BMW’s high-visibility electric fleet
plays little more than a sideline role.
Primarily, its light duties mainly include the
shuttling of athletes and officials within the Olympic
Park and surrounding Games sites. In effect, the
function of a modern multi-seat Golf Buggy.
Employed in any other more demanding task, the
associated real danger of running out of battery power
on route, could conceivably turn into a PR disaster,
and was wisely ruled out for the London games, and who
can blame BMW’s strategists.
Yet, as a prelude to next year’s launch of its purpose
designed all electric i3, the likelihood is that BMW’s
electric Olympic transport fleet will no doubt feature
in countless perfectly staged photo opportunities.
Like in today’s real world, and regardless of the
prohibitive price and range limitations of today’s
first generation electric cars, these vehicles still
remain ill-equipped for most real-life transportation
So even if today’s still prohibitively high
affordability hurdles were brushed aside tomorrow,
reality is that today’s pure electric cars can’t match
the ordinary functionality of even the most ordinary
conventionally powered cars.
That’s plain as day functionality like refuelling,
peace of mind, driving range, payload, or for that
matter luggage capacity.
For BMW, which went for the demanding transport job at
the London Olympics, the cost of each individual
electric car employed was low priority.
But despite its ability to throw truckloads of money
at this high visibility task, there is no doubt that
most, if not all of the real-life daily heavy lifting
will be done by its conventionally powered cars.
No surprise then that only those with a vested
interest in the electric car business - say major
electric energy providers and some corporate buyers
keen to play a green card for PR reasons – few private
individuals have been tempted to actually buy or lease
one of today’s electric cars.
Reality is that today’s electric cars don’t sell. And
the prime reason, born out by BMW’s decision to use
mainly conventionally powered cars for the demanding
London Olympic task, is that present day electric cars
still can’t master the majority of tasks that we
motorists, who have grown to depend on our cars for
prime essential daily transport, naturally take for
granted whenever we get behind the wheel of our
conventionally powered cars.
Until the real life functionality, driving range,
payload, reliability and alike are near or in the same
league as conventionally powered cars, allied to a
similar purchase price, running costs and
depreciation, electric cars will not be taken
seriously by likely buyers.
Nor will they deserve to be.
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