I’m kind of a car buff — it’s just a natural result of being born and raised in the Motor City. If you live in the Metro-Detroit area, you’ve probably had a relative in the car industry. In my case, my grandfather owned a Ford dealership and my first job was writing for General Motors. My family’s livelihood, as well as my own, was built on automotive and because it affects the city and people I love, I like to stay current on what’s happening in the car world.
So, when BMW recently announced that they planned to “redefine urban mobility” with their new, fully electric vehicle (EV), the i3, I had to take a look.
An impressive set of wheels that can accelerate to 60 mph in a mere 4 seconds, the i3 has a lavish interior featuring eucalyptus wood and a choice between “naturally-tanned leather” and “recycled textile” seats. It could be the perfect EV for shoppers looking to save the world in style. And, starting around $41,000, the i3 costs pretty close to the average price of a new BMW.
But what might be the most interesting aspect of the i3 release is the option for buyers to also purchase “Add-on Mobility.” A membership-like feature, Add-on Mobility gives owners access to larger, gas-powered vehicles for trips that their i3 might not be able to handle.
Although the average American drives only about 40 miles per day (well within the i3’s range of 80-100 miles), the fear of not being able to go farther without a charge is frequently a turn-off for shoppers. Add-on Mobility lets you head out on that weeklong camping trip with your air mattress and extra hobo pie supplies, without having to worry about plugging in along the way.
Ending “range anxiety”
While this approach isn’t entirely new (Fiat offers a similar incentive through a partnership with Enterprise Rental Car), it could be a step in the right direction to ease “range anxiety” (the fear your EV’s charge won’t get you where you need to go) and boost sales.
Although EV sales have already surpassed those from 2012, they’re not exactly flying off the lots. Last year closed out strong, with 8,000 EVs sold in December, but nationwide numbers have slowed, unable to break 7,000 since. Stagnant sales don’t necessarily mean a lack of interest, but are likely further proof that the demand for EVs isn’t growing as rapidly as manufacturers had hoped.
Other attempts to ease shopper aversions and jump-start sales have included battery leasing options, free charging services, and price reductions. Perhaps it’s still early on in the game for EVs. But we’re excited to see what happens.
Are you ready to go electric?
Could the option to trade for a larger, gas-powered vehicle to escape for the weekend be what finally gets more drivers in EVs? Are there any additional perks you’d need in order to make the switch (dealer delivers and picks up the gas-powered car, online reservations, or a free battery checkup when you swap cars)?
Or will you remain a fossil-fuel devotee until EVs offer better range at a more affordable price?
Share your thoughts in the comment below.