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.
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.
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'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.
Alex: I agree that the Volt probably has th best chance to become accepted for its high mileage, as opposed to being accepted as a novelty by early adopters. The key to the Volt's success might be the battery. The Volt probably has a better chance if it switches to a smaller battery -- in other words, a less costly battery that would cut the overall price of the vehicle.
The key point in this whole discussion is, "Consumer willingness to buy EVs is still low..." I do not think the American lifestyle, at least not here in the midwest, will ever allow such a limited range vehicle at exhorbitant prices, regardless of flashy design or the prestige of the name plate.
Demand will change as gas hits $4/gal shortly as oil was $98/bbl yesterday close. But are they selling all the EV's they produce? That's a far cry from not many are being sold because people don't like EV's.
Plus EV's will be far more cost effective if designed simply, lightweight vehicles that sell for under $10k for errands, commuting.
While great they, BMW, are building EV's as EV's, they then go to build unjustifibly expensive, heavier that nessasary units.
Take the seperate drive chassis and passenger safety shell. By intergrating them one would lose 20% body/chassis weight while increasing safety, thus need 20% less battery, etc.
Another is the much hyped carbon fiber which rarely pays it's 10x's higher costs for a 5% or so weight savings vs medium tech composites. Now in real critical weight like aircraft, it's worthwhile but rarely in cars.
Another thing about woven CF cloth is CF gets it's strength in tension and compression by being in a straight line. But since it is woven in cloth weave form, it forms springs thus losing compression, tension stiffness, CF's main advantage, it's then no better than far cheaper FG because . So any time you see CF woven cloth/roving, it's for show only.
Nor does anyone mention how hard CF is to wet out, thus increasing cost, more quality control problems as Boeing is finding out.
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.
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.
You are dealing with aesthetics and consumers: high heels are not practical or comfortable, but they are bought because they look good/ present a certain image/style. The Honda Insight was one hybrid introduced with the fender skirts, but the American consumers shied away - too unconventional looking. Fender shirts have come and gone... if people reaallllly want the higher MPG (or extended EV range) maybe, eventually, practicality will prevail over looks.
I don't think fender skirts chased buyers away from the Insight.. It just had too small payload for my needs! and it wasn't 100% EV... I see a lot of 50 ish men commuting in them though, and the second hand market is much younger! EVen CARDBOARD fenderskirts gave my EV noticible additional range!
One study published late last year argues that buyers shied away from the Insight because it didn't look enough like a hybrid. The study, "Conspicuous Conservation: The Prius Effect and WTP for Environmental Bona Fides," claims that the Prius grabbed most of the sales because its appearance helps them signal their "green intent." See the study: http://areweb.berkeley.edu/fields/erep/seminar/Prius_Effect_V1.5.1.pdf
I do not know what the future will bring WRT EVs. A major difficulty with EVs is the paradigma shift, auto maker's product lead times, and consumer demands. Folks comment "consumers don't want..." when the real question is "what will consumers want in 1-2 years?". If we think about simple 'no-brainer changes' like the amount of time that lapsed between portable iPod style music players becoming common and support for them becoming commonly available in autos, we get a glimpse of the 'lead time problem'.
After the first few years of the industry, auto makers have mostly dealt with evolutionary changes. EVs will require a different and 'as of now undermined/unrefined' usage model that manufacturers are trying to target. The strategy of offering EVs to the high end consumers is likely the best path to showcase EVs and allow folks to see them in action and manufacturers can see if 'folks covet them'.
I agree mellow fellow. The acceptance of EVs is inevitable. We just don't know whether the tipping point will come in two years or 15 years. There were mobile digital music devices long before the iPod, but the iPod drive a while new level of consumer acceptance. Maybe we need an Apple EV. Interestingly, it wasn't price that tipped mobile digital devices. The iPod was more expensive than its predecessors.
I personally feel that at this of the game the sports car and electric car are not suitable to be in the same section. Electric car is a polytically correct vehicle with a large distance in mind. Sports car is a performance oriented vehicle.
I respectfully disagree about EVs and politically correctness. The automakers clearly perceive that there's money to be made here. If we were talking one carmaker, maybe, but there's a mass movement towards building electrics. One should also note that numerous electrics were extant BEFORE the rise in popularity of the internal combustion engine. For an interesting sidenote on this, see Chuck Murray's recent story on Thomas Edison's electric storage battery, produced in mass quantities in a factory, circa 1916. Link is here.
Nissan definitely believes there's money to be made in pure EVs. To some degree, CEO Carlos Ghosn has staked his reputation on it. Most other automakers believe that pure EVs will sell well in Asia, but not in the U.S. Still others are just dipping a toe in the water so they'll be ready if the market suddenly accepts the idea.
I see your point that there are clear possibilities and demands for an electrical vehicle, but when we are fightring for low cost fuel and trying to market an electrical car a savings tool, expensive sports car just makes no sense.
This is why it is a pure marketing decision based on polytical correctness.
Sensor Pro, I see your point too regarding the electric sports car, because the performance aspect mitigates the whole idea of energy savings. So I guess we're kind of meeting in the middle on this subject. Thanks for the reply.
Although a corporation is an entity for legal purposes, I am amused by the personal/human charateristics that folks come up with as justification for corporate product decisions. While I can say that I have spent no time in major auto manufacturer board rooms, I do have a perspective from other board rooms. The major subjects are 'making money' or related to making money [or in the case of young companies/startups, 'getting money', making the VCs happy, or making payroll]. Major expenditures, like tooling a new product line [like the Volt], are always met with 'can we modify an existing product?' and one or more projections/risk/reward analysis.
The only part of Political Correctness that manufacturers care about is how it will translate into sales. I guess that it is possible in the Govt Motors case that the Feds 'helped them' with some advice.
@mellofello: Corperations certainly DO have "personality traits", there is no question about that. One of those traits is an overwhelming preoccupation with profits, which is highly motivated by the large bonuses for those who maximize returns to shareholders. So the primary thing is to minimize expenses, which may well include not spending much development money on products that do, or may not, sell well. The pressure to maximize profit is quite strong, and many times doing what looks like it might cut into profits is a career ending mistake. We all know this, even those who deny it. So it is always a risk to launch any new vehicle.
Sensor Pro I agree with your assessment of political correctness. I don't see the design connection between the futuristic styling and the EV power train. The consumer demand for hybrid and EVs that does exist today is being met by Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai. With minor styling changes, these manufacturers begin with a nearly stock Camry, Civic, or Sonata and pour a hybrid power train into it. These consumers are looking for the mpg of hybrid and maybe even a smaller environmental footprint without driving around in a signboard that screams "look at me!".
I feel the concept EVs with all of the futuristic styling and materials are attempting to make a political statement that indirectly says EVs are our future and they are really, really cool. The volt looks like a video game on wheels. Why didn't Chevrolet put an EV power train into well-equipped Malibu? I suggest it would have been adopted a heck of a lot sooner. Rule of any experiment: It is best to change only one variable at a time.
I can only speak for myself as I currently own two Toyota Hybrids.
It is my choice to limit my consumption of fossil fuels and I do consider my impact on the environment as justification of owning and driving hybrids. I do not want to be noticed on the highway or be treated differently because I drive them. A BMW would not be something that I would consider as an alternative to my current hybrids due to the expected high cost to purchase, or recognition that I own a BMW. The Chevy Volt is also not a car that I would consider due to the very high cost to purshase it. From what I can determine, the Chevy Volt would cost more than I paid for my two Toyota Hybrid cars combined.
I will keep my hybrids about 10 years, and I expect my financial offset of gas consumption to yield between 15K to 18K USD per vehicle. This will of course depend on the cost of gas during the lifetime of ownership. So far though, I am on track with my expected savings.
My wife's hybrid is a 2010 Toyota Prius, and she gets up to 55 mpg. My hybrid is a 2009 Chrysler Aspen that I only recently purchased (used). I didn't know there was such a vehicle available. It has a 5.7 Hemi V8, and I average just over 20 mpg. 'Normal' mileage for a Hemi is about 12 to 13. I wanted a truck that could tow a trailer, and the Aspen can do that. I was specifically looking for a hybrid, but didn't want a car with limited cargo or towing capacity. I think there is a perception that 'truck' and 'hybrid' are mutually exclusive. And it seems the Aspen Hybrid was only built for 1/2 a model year, because of that perception.
I'm curious, GlennA: As an owner of two hybrids, does the plug-in concept interest you? Would you stand to benefit by driving a vehicle such as the Prius PHV, which gives you 13 miles of all-electric operation? How about the Volt, which gives you about 35 miles of all-electric operation?
Charles; If the plug-in Prius had been available, we would have seriously considered it. The Volt is interesting, but was not available, and also has not been in production as long as the Prius. The Prius and Aspen each have about a 500 mile range on one tank of gas. The problem with most all-electrics I have seen is about 100 mile range, and then several hours to re-charge. The Volt looks like the bridge between an all-electric and the 'true' hybrid. We will definitely look at the plug-in Prius and the Volt when it comes time to replace our current vehicles.
To TimJones: Wow...you get the heads-up reader award. Here's an item from BMW's press release: "The BMW i8 Conceptn is also the successor to the BMW Vision Efficient Dynamics car featured in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol staring Tom Cruise to be released in December..."
I just saw that commercial recently as well and found it so interesting that they played up the BMW (I didn't notice it was the i8) and not the stars of the movie (Tom Cruise was found or mentioned) or the fact that it was a movie trailer. You would have thought they have played up the EV angle more prominently, however.
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