BMW & Electric Vehicles

BMW sold 100,000 plug-in cars this year: more than GM, probably Nissan too (Tesla TBD)

BMW Group headquarters transformed into batteries in MunichBMW Group headquarters transformed into batteries in Munich

You have to hand it to BMW.

When the German automaker set out to eclipse last year’s sales of plug-in cars by delivering 100,000 electrified vehicles globally this year, it was an ambitious goal.

But as of the end of November, the automaker has achieved its goal—and in so doing has sold nearly as many electrified vehicles this year as it did between the time it launched the i brand in 2013 and the end of 2016.

That sales achievement puts it ahead of General Motors and very likely Nissan, two other companies known for sales of their electric and electrified vehicles.

However, BMW derives most of its electrified success from plug-in hybrids, not full battery-electric vehicles as Nissan does with its Leaf and e-NV200 small electric delivery van.

Tesla has also projected it will deliver more than 100,000 electric cars by the end of the year, though we won’t know if it met that goal until early January.

2017 BMW i3 REx range-extended electric car [photo: Chris Neff]2017 BMW i3 REx range-extended electric car [photo: Chris Neff]

BMW celebrated its 100,000 milestone by painting its Munich headquarters with light, turning the four cylindrical buildings into pseudo batteries in the night.

“We deliver on our promises,” said Harald Krüger, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG. “This 99-metre-high signal is lighting the way into the era of electro-mobility.”

“Selling 100,000 electrified cars in one year is an important milestone, but this is just the beginning for us.”

Recently, BMW expanded its i brand with the addition of the BMW i8 Roadster in Los Angeles. Both the i8 coupe and Roadster gain larger battery packs and enhanced range.

The BMW i3 also received updates this year with the addition of a sportier i3s model.

In the near future, BMW will introduce an electrified version of the BMW X3—likely called iX3 when it goes on sale in 2020.

2019 BMW i8 Roadster, 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show2019 BMW i8 Roadster, 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show

Its name follows the company’s recent trademarking iX1 through iX9, setting up a naming convention for future electrified crossovers and SUVs.

Even sooner, a fully electric Mini will join the ranks in 2019 to complement the Mini Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 currently on sale.

However, BMW’s i brand flagship, codenamed iNext and rumored to be called i9, won’t arrive until 2021.

In all, the German manufacturer plans to offer 25 electrified models, of which 12 will be fully electric, by 2025.

BMW accounts for 21 percent of electrified vehicle market share in Europe, which is 6 percent of all BMWs delivered on the continent.

The company also claimed in its release a 10-percent share of the global electrified vehicle market as of the end of November.

Electric Cars save $$$

No pump, no pain. Jorge Silva/Reuters

https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2017/11/where-it-pays-to-drive-electric/546956/

A new study from the Union of Concerned Scientists found that EV drivers save almost $800 a year, depending on where, when, and how they charge.

Buying an electric vehicle has long been pitched as being about saving something—the planet, your lungs, your children’s future, etc. But a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists emphasizes how EVs can drive consumer savings. They aren’t just more environmentally friendly than cars with internal combustion engines: They cost a lot less to drive.“Most people know how much gas costs—if you drive a car, you drive by gas stations, you see the costs—but a lot of people don’t think about how electricity is priced,” said David Reichmuth, the author of the report. Armed with data on the price of refueling EVs in the 50 largest U.S. cities, he found that EV users would save a median of almost $800 per year over a gas-powered car, depending on where, when, and how they charge their cars.

The savings aren’t evenly dispersed throughout the United States. In Houston, Texas, annual savings using the standard electric rate is $443; in Denver, $772; and in New York, $1,061. This is due to geographical variations in fuel prices (gas is much cheaper in Houston than in New York, thanks to Texas’ low gas taxes and close proximity to oil infrastructure) and electricity costs. Nationwide, however, electricity costs are much less volatile than gas prices: In 15 years, electricity has been priced between the equivalent of $.88 to $1.17 per gallon over 15 years, while gasoline has varied from $2.00 to $4.50 per gallon in the same time period.

Average Savings in Your City. (Union of Concerned Scientists)

Cities were compared based on the standard rate electricity providers bill for power, but customers who recharge in home garages are able to decide between a variety of rate plans from their electricity companies. To maximize savings, it matters which they choose.

Power company default settings are often flat-rate or tiered flat-rate plans, which keep the price of charging constant no matter the time of day. Other companies offer critical peak pricing (or CPP) plans, which charge surge prices on high-demand occasions. For EV owners, time-of-use (or TOU) plans that charge less for off-peak times like late nights are most cost effective, according to the report, since owners can plug in vehicles overnight, when the juice is going cheap. Off-peak TOU costs range from a low of $.25 per gallon in Minneapolis to $1.78 per gallon in parts of Los Angeles.It’s particularly important to be using the “right rate” in Californian cities, said Reichmuth. In San Francisco, for example, users on the TOU rate save almost $1,000 per year on fuel. For those using the standard rate of a given electricity provider, however, which is typically flat-rate or tiered flat-rate, the electricity costs exactly the same as gas: $3.34 per gallon.

For individuals, it’s easy to switch your billing plan. “Changing to time-of-use rates for a lot of people is just a matter of calling up the electric company, or going to the website of your provider,” said Reichmuth. Some states are drafting policy to mandate that switch. In 2015, California announced all public utility companies would change their default rates to TOU by 2019.

Right now, 80 percent of EV charging happens in-house. But public charging stations on highways and in parking garages are proliferating, especially in EV-friendly California cities, and using them changes the cost equation. Public chargers come in two flavors, slower 240-volt Level 2 chargers and quicker, more expensive DC Fast ones. Level 2 chargers are more ubiquitous, especially in states with high EV sales, while DC Fast Chargers are concentrated on the coasts and in urban areas.

Chargers can vary widely in pricing, depending on location and type. Some are free, some are priced based on length of use or energy used, and some charge a flat rate. Heavy users might invest in subscriptions in charging networks, that let you fill up at lower rates. Until last year, all cars manufactured by Tesla could top up their batteries for free at the company’s superchargers. The company halted the complementary service for cars manufactured after January 1, 2017, however—meaning that as their new Model 3s roll out this year, they won’t be eligible at all.
(Union of Concerned Scientists)

A case study of San Francisco showed that there, using the often necessary combination of home and public charging results in slightly lower cost savings. “If 20 percent of EV charging happens at Level 2 public chargers,” and the other 80 at home, “average fuel costs could increase from $0.78 per gallon equivalent to $1.05 per gallon,” reads the report. Time is money: Those costs go up further if using DC Fast chargers. Both methods are still cheaper than San Francisco’s average gasoline price in September 2017, however, which was $3.30 per gallon.

What about maintenance costs? EVs win again. Battery-powered cars don’t need regular oil changes, fresh fuel filters, new spark plugs, or other typical replacement items. Electric motors are comparatively maintenance-free, compared to internal combustion engines. Braking pads last longer in EVs, too, because they’re equipped with regenerative braking systems that lessen friction.

 On the other hand, EV drivers can burn through tires faster, since the rubber gets worked harder under the weight of battery packs. The UCS report doesn’t cover the most pricey potential repair item in EVs—their complex and costly battery packs, which lose capacity over time and use, especially in harsh conditions. Manufacturer warranties vary, but 100,000-mile coverage is the norm. “EV are still fairly new, but there is no evidence that battery replacement will be needed for most vehicles,” Reichmuth said in an email. “So we didn’t consider it (nor any issues that could crop up with a gasoline engine).”
Taking only scheduled maintenance into account, the report projects that an electric Chevy Bolt owner will spend over $1,500 less for the first 150,000 miles than for its gas-powered sibling, the Chevy Sonic.Of course, the higher-than-average purchase price of EVs has long been one of the main consumer turn-offs. But that gap is closing, and the cars themselves are getting cheaper—the base-level Bolt and Tesla Model 3 sell for around $27,000 after figuring in the (imperiled) federal tax credit. Both are about $35,000 before incentives. There are even cheaper models out there, pre-incentive: the $30,000 Nissan Leaf; the $27,000 Toyota Prius Prime Plus; and the $25,000 Chevy Spark.

Reichmuth himself drives a Bolt, which he calls “zippy around town” and “probably the quickest accelerating car” he’s ever owned. “Even if you ignore the cost and emissions savings”—which recent evidence proves you shouldn’t—“it’s still a great car from a driving perspective.”