BMW Electric Car Owners Get Gas-Powered Loaner For Longer Trips

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BMW i3 Coupe concept

BMW i3 Coupe concept

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Rightly or wrongly, many potential electric car owners are a little put off by the fear of occasionally running out of electricity before their destination--a condition termed "range anxiety".

In reality, it's something that existing electric car owners grow out of, once they're used to their vehicles.

BMW thinks it can alleviate range anxiety another way with its future electric vehicles--by loaning out its reagular, gasoline-powered models when owners want to take a longer trip.

According to MIT Technology Review, it's a scheme based on knowledge gained from BMW's existing electric car programs, such as the ActiveE trial and the previous MINI E testing.

BMW found that the range limitation of an electric vehicle was only really an issue in about 10 percent of trips.

To mitigate this, BMW i-car drivers would be offered a gas-powered loaner vehicle for as long as they needed to do a longer trip.

“We offer you a fallback solution in case you purchase this car and then need to go on a 500-mile trip,” explained Rolf Stromberger, BMW’s vice president of business environment and public affairs strategy.

It echoes one existing solution for electric car owners, often suggested as a way of dealing with the occasional longer journey--hiring a car on the infrequent occasions a longer trip is required.

In BMW's case, your loaner vehicle would be part and parcel of the electric car ownership experience. Michael Omotoso, an analyst for LMC Automotive, says the extra cost to BMW of such a scheme could prove worth it for the positive publicity alone--the idea that a BMW electric car owner would never find themselves stranded, out of juice.

Of course, only some electric car owners would see a need for it anyway. BMW is already offering an alternative option for drivers expecting the occasional longer trip, since its i3 electric car will offer a range-extended option.

And the maker's upcoming plug-in sports car, the stunning i8, is already a plug-in hybrid vehicle--more than suitable for longer trips.

If other automakers offered this option, would it encourage you to purchase an electric car? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.


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Comments (22)
  1. It does not make sense, the range extender from BMW does.
    Hopefully it can be purchased seperate witout buying a BWM i3.

  2. This won't make sense for everyone, of course, but it's intriguing to me, personally. Without knowing the cost of the i3 and the details, it's hard to comment. My wife and I already rent a car/crossover once a month or more for the same reason, so there is potential. I would certainly be willing to pay more if the rental were a 3-series, or better yet, an M3...

    But again, this will probably suit only a small niche of potential customers, although I like the thinking here by BMW.

  3. I think this idea is fantastic and wonder why other companies don't do the same (e.g. Nissan). This is a perfect stop gap while we all wait for battery tech and the charge network to improve to a level that allows electric to replace gas. I know it seems small, but I think this is a hugely important development.

  4. One more thing: isn't Tesla providing BMW their technology? If so, they should negotiate for the same offer of gas BMW loaners to their purchasers.

  5. @Jay: No, Tesla is building powertrains for Mercedes-Benz, not BMW.

  6. So the fall back to to combust fossil-fuels at nose level yet again? How about battery swap stations that will allow unlimited range? It works in Israel, it can be scaled up, and it costs one weeks worth of national gasoline

  7. It doesn't really "work", it's not profitable, and the company is pretty much scaling back. It will be a footnote in history soon - don't get your hopes up on battery swaps in the next ten years.

  8. Does this actually make the case for BEV "worse".

    BMW is basically saying that BEVs aren't practical for all situation and if you need it, we will provide you an ICE car for you...

  9. To me, it is a stop gap solution until charging infrastructure is more mature. It's no different than folks getting the Volt over a BEV at this day in time.

  10. So, we all agree that due to battery technology today and the lack of infrastructure that BEVs aren't ready at this time...

  11. @Xiaolong: No, I'd say we agree that "BEVs aren't ready at this time for absolutely every single duty cycle that an owner may need."

    They're ready for most of the daily trips we do around cities & suburbs. That's the duty cycle that most of them should & will be used for.

    Not every car is suited for every duty cycle. A Corvette won't haul a family of five; a Chevy Spark isn't suitable to move thousands of pounds of concrete blocks.

    Over time, battery-electric vehicles will increase their range, and charging infrastructure will expand.

    But a blanket statement that "BEVs aren't ready at this time" is overly reductive.

    Yes, I know you love your Volt! :)

  12. Well, Corvette and Spark aren't suitable for different carrying purpose or performance, but they have approximate the same range. Like I have mentioned before that BEV range is seperated by price which doesn't happen in ICE cars.

    If we need ICE cars ready for loaners, then BEV is NOT ready. You can consider it as a "blank" statement. But you understand the point. It is hard to rely on BEV as your only form of transportation. Although there are people who doesn't even own cars at all. But that is another topic.

    Sure, we know that battery will improve and infrastructure will improve too. But "at this time", it is NOT ready. That is why I have said that plugin is the perfect "bridge" technology.

  13. @Xiaolong: Read what I wrote: BEVs are "ready for *most* of the daily trips we do around cities & suburbs. That's the duty cycle that most of them should & will be used for."

    You're correct: We have not had cars priced by range before. But the average U.S. household has more than 2 cars--and the average affluent U.S. household (the folks who buy most of the first BEVs) has more than 3 cars.

    A BEV is not suitable as a U.S. household's only vehicle under most circumstances. We can agree on that.

    But in the same way that families pick different cars from the household fleet for different duties--SUV for hauling kids, small car for solo commutes--they'll pick BEVs where they're appropriate.

  14. BEVs are ready.

    Quick charge deployments, now that is another matter. But if people don't buy the cars, they won't put the quick chargers in.

    I've got a Leaf and if quick chargers were as common as petrol stations, I'd be able to go anywhere in the UK with no problem (though really long trips would be a bit inconvenient).

  15. Quick charging will help. But even with quick charging, Leaf will take 3x longer to refill something that is about 1/6 of the ICE range...

  16. Welcome to 2010 BMW, Nissan already does this:
    We were given a loaner car at our local Nissan dealer, no problems and no cost when there was an outage on a DC Fast Charger that prevented us from getting to our out of town destination. Just had to bring it back with the same amount of gas in it. It worked out great, however buying gas for the first time in 5+ years felt dirty. Spent $46 for gas, for a 200 mile trip, that amount of money would have powered our Leaf for over 2000 miles. Still it was great to have the option and worked out fantastic.

  17. You bought a "leaf"!! big mistake!! they are now $21.5K, fire sale. LOL!

  18. There's a good study that just came out confirming the kids who used to be bullies in school, don't really change later on in life and suffer from major psychological problems, much greater than their victims who get over it rather quickly - LOL!


  20. Terrific marketing idea which most folks might use once or twice a year for vacation trips or the like. As the owner of a 2012 Toyota Rav4 EV, the 88 mile 80% charge range and the 155 mile extended charge range fulfill 99% of my driving needs.

  21. If you look at the history of the introduction of steam power into ships, it took from around 1819 to around 1890 to evolve from hybridization of sail/steam to full steam. The hybrid transition from gasoline to full electrification of road vehicles will take a lot less than that.

  22. Unfortunately, we are looking at a lease for the i3 and the "loaner" car is *not* being offered - we are told there is limited availability for this option and we were too late.... I don't know if that's just in my country (NL), but I feel it's a bit underhanded and unfair for this to be promoted without some small print (not for everyone!) - and makes the ultimate decision more difficult for us as the range limitation is a bit of an issue...

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