These prototypes really seem to push the envelope in terms of space-age design, especially that flapping door design. Not sure how practical that is in a city parking lot, but we'll see.
I'll be really interested in see how these models look and are received once finally introduced. in many ways BMW is like Apple--if any one can pull off the design look and the seamless integration of all the systems, plus keep the performance, they can. Problem is and will always be affordability. These are not vehicles for the mainstream public.
As Chuck has previously written, we have yet to see consumer willingness to buy come anywhere near vendors' rush to field alt.energy vehicles. (I'm speaking more of EVs than hybrids, but even for the latter the point obtains, though to a lesser extent.) Now, if car manufacturers offered a battery replacement insurance policy, it might be a different story. But then of course they would end up losing money on every EV.
You do have to wonder about the rational for these upscale hybrid and EV models. Could be they are showcase vehicles designed to enhance the brand -- both as cool styling and for green-wash PR? Or maybe there is a sizable enough portion of the market that will buy these showcase cars and make them profitable.
One of the criticisms of the Chevy Volt is that people don't want to buy a $40,000 car with a Chevy badge on it. In that sense, maybe these vehicles have an advantage. Yes, the prices will be high, but they will have a BMW badge.
You're right, Alex. Consumer willingness to buy EVs is still low, In October, GM sold 1,108 Volts. Nissan sold 849 Leafs. In contrast, Chevy has averaged about 18,000 Chevy Cruze sales per month throughout the year, As of the end of October, Chevy has sold 187,524 Cruzes this year. The Cruze is a relevant point of comparison, since the Volt is built on the Cruze platform. Recently, Consumer Reports polled Americans and found that 96% support better fuel economy and 56% said they are considering an EV or hybrid, but sales are still only about 3% of the automotive market.
I didn't realize the numbers for pure EVs were so low. Has Prius done any better with its new pure EV offering? That would be somewhat telling since they don't have the same brand problem and they've done so well with the hybrid model.
Possibly the key to successful EV and hybrid sales is for car makers to not position the vehicles as such. A case in point is the Toyota Prius, which I think has been a hit precisely because it's not perceived so much as a hybrid as it is an efficient, high-mileage car. At the same time, this is a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem. That is, the Prius couldn't be thought of as just another car, albeit a high-mileage one, until enough of them were sold so that it became, in fact, just another car on the road. So the question becomes, will the Volt or Leaf build up enough of a head of steam to similarly come into the mainstream, as far as consumer perceptions are concerned. I think the Volt has a good shot at it, especially if the costs come down a bit in the second-gen version.
I believe the price of Li-Ion battery EVs will come down, and eventually the price of the vehicles. I am not sure if folks recall that when Chevy was getting ready to introduce the Volt, they did not have the battery system developed until 2 months before the car show. There were two avenues to go with batteries Li-ion being the choice Chevy committed to (we almost had a Beta vs. VHS platform issue starting). Chevy has proven the Li-ion technology works, and as more producers spring up to provide Li-ion batteries, as in any captialist market, price should come down.
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