Where Did BMW's EVs Go?
Hello and welcome to your daily Charge Smart blog! Today, we will be taking a look at a manufacturer who has dropped the EV ball, it's BMW.
Let’s take a look at BMW who haven't really put any focus on their i division over the last few years. Until recently that is, where they have started testing new concepts to add to their longstanding duo of i cars.
It was at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2009 where BMW debuted two all new cars. The i3 and i8, both part of their futuristic i sub-brand. The i3 was quirky and it had the potential to make luxury electric cars more affordable. But people were really excited about the i8. It was a stunning looking hybrid sports coupe, a first in the motoring world for BMW. The i8 was the perfect launchpad for BMW’s new futuristic i brand. It generated plenty of press and got rave reviews from car journalists.
Fast forward 10 years and those are still the only two cars to be sold under the i brand. The i3 went on sale in 2013 and was joined by the i8 shortly afterwards in 2014. BMW should’ve been spurred on by the i3’s success as the electric hatch was the third best selling electric car in the world until 2016. The Bavarian giant only managed to sell 100,000 hybrid/EV vehicles from the period of 2013-2016. However, they announced last month that they have now sold over 500,000 hybrid and electric BMW Group vehicles. This includes Mini by the way. It’s a slightly manipulated milestone but still, a milestone to be celebrated, nonetheless.
Above: The BMW i3 has been the car holding up the i brand
BMW have also translated those figures into a per minute timeframe just to impress the public even more. 500,000 BMW Group EVs and hybrids translates to one sold every four minutes. I know it’s a marketing gimmick but I can’t help but be impressed by that figure.
Back to BMW now. One of the reasons behind their long absence from the EV space, barring their two models was down to the fact that they were waiting for a period of time when batteries would have doubled their capacity. They also predicted that the electric and hybrid car market would return poor profits over the next few years. Hence the reason why BMW shied away from the scene and continued working on their diesel and petrol cars. This is rather surprising because BMW i have been an active participant in Formula E which is an all-electric racing series. Plus, they’ve been a consistently competitive team as well so one can’t help but wonder why they didn’t apply that technology sooner.
Above: BMW's i Formula E racecar
The previous CEO, Harald Krueger was also to blame as he set a rather conservative direction for the brand. The German giant focussed too much on offering plug-in hybrid versions of their ICE cars while Tesla charged ahead with their EVs, therefore blowing the lead that BMW had opened up in the EV race. Now, they are rushing to start production on a few EVs, that have already planned for about 20 new models to be released over the next decade. They better be quick because both Audi and Mercedes-Benz are already blazing the trail, and some could say they have very quickly caught up with BMW when it comes to EVs. Krueger stepped down in mid-2019 after BMW not only lost its head start in the EV race but also its position as the leader in luxury car sales suffered.
With Volkswagen preparing a whole army of electric cars to be released over the next few years, BMW are going to have to be right on the buzzer to keep up with them. We can only hope that they make a return to the EV segment and they bring some of their learnings from Formula E along with them. BMW have continued quite successfully with their participation in Formula E. Something which should help them on the road just like Jaguar whose 2020 models of the I-Pace will have increased range and better performance. Both of which have been learnt through their participation in Formula E and in the Jaguar I-Pace etrophy.