August 4, 2013 – Vol.18 No.21
PREMIUM CARS ARE PROFITABLE, EVEN WHEN BATTERY POWERED.
Upscale automaker BMW is expected to make money from its new i3 electric car. That's a good thing.
by Bruce Mulliken, Green Energy News
With some exotic styling, a strip of wood veneer here and there, a badge that reads Cadillac, not Chevrolet, General Motors is in the process of turning the Chevy Volt into the Caddy ELR. And GM will likely make a profit at it too.
Nissan could rebody the LEAF, add a few kilowatts of battery, add standard leather upholstery, slap on an Infinity tag and add $15000 to the sticker and profit from the new vehicle as well.
Do you see the slow-selling Ford Focus Electric transformed into a posh, profitable Lincoln? I can imagine it.
Or how about a Fiat 500 Electric sculpted and rebranded into a much pricier-sounding Alfa Romeo?
Tesla has shown that calling its brand a premium a brand, it can make money at electric vehicles.
BMW is already ahead of the game. It's a well established premium brand. The company can charge whatever it likes for its new electric vehicle, because people expect to pay a lot, simply because its a Bimmer.
BMW will sell every one of its new i3 electric it is willing to manufacture. BMW has said it expects to make a profit on every one as well.
The i3 an impressive package nonetheless. (You can read more about it on the company website.) Just the details:
--- The BMW i3 will be released in Germany and other European markets in November 2013. The market launch of the BMW i3 in US, China, Japan and several other spots will take place in the first half of 2014.
--- It has a range of 80-100 miles (130-160 km) on battery alone.
--- But it's available with a range-extender, which maintains the charge of the lithium-ion battery at a constant level enroute, as soon as it falls below a specified value. The extender is a two-cylinder gasoline engine genet (as in the Volt) with 34 hp (25 kW), mounted adjacent to the electric drive motor above the rear axle. The range extender increases the car’s maximum range in day-to-day driving to around 190 miles or 300 km. With the range extender running, juice is taken from the battery AND the gasoline engine at the same time, extending the run time of the battery. The car still needs to be plugged in at the end of the day.
--- BMW will have loaner conventional cars available for trips longer than 190 miles.
--- Pricing in the US will start at around $41,000 before any government incentives, and the range extender option will cost an additional $4000 or so.
--- The BMW i3 features a large number of technological innovations - such as a carbon-fibre passenger cell and a chassis made of aluminium. The curb weight is about 2,600 lbs (1,195 kg ) with another 300 lbs for the range extender. By comparison a Chevy Volt weighs about 3800 lbs, a Nissan LEAF about 3300.
--- The car’s electric drive-train generates 170 hp (125 kW) and peak torque of about 185 foot pounds, which is immediately available from a standing start.
--- The BMW i3 goes from 0 to 60 in 7.2 seconds. Its top speed is limited to a little over 90 mph to save battery and extend range.
--- BMW has been paying attention to the i3's over ally carbon footprint as well. The electricity needed for production of the BMW i3 at the Leipzig plant in Germany is generated by the wind and the plant uses 50 percent less energy than the average compared with other BMW plants.
If the car is as successful as expected, maybe its competitors need a rethink. People are willing to pay high prices for a premium brand of car, not for a commoner's car. We want the automakers to make money selling zero emission cars. If they profit from electric cars they'll continue to make them. If premium branding sells cars they should go for it.
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