BMW vs. Tesla – Which Company Is A Bigger Innovator?

Interesting | July 27th, 2014 by 32
Tesla Model S vs BMW M5 750x500

BMW will not only compete in the premium segment with the likes such as Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Infiniti or Cadillac but also with Tesla

For years to come, BMW will not only compete in the premium segment with the likes such as Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Infiniti or Cadillac, but also with new companies that aim to take on and conquer the electric vehicles premium segment. A fairly new player, Tesla, is the talk of the block.

With a charismatic, intelligent and risk-taker CEO, Elon Musk, the California-based automaker is already providing to electric customers an impressive vehicle: Tesla Models S. The same very car scored the highest score in Consumer Reports and it is often regarded as one of the best cars on the market, electric or conventional.

Tesla Model S vs BMW M5 750x469

And the company is just getting started. A future crossover model is already in works while a midsize premium EV will arrive in the feature to take on the BMW 3 Series.

Yet at the same time, BMW is betting on the same market as well. With the largest investment in the company’s history, the i sub-brand is BMW’s biggest bet and one that can take the historical premium automaker to the next level. The new BMW i3 and i8 are also regarded as two of the most technologically advanced electric or plug-in hybrid cars on the market and initial stats show the bet on “green cars” will pay off.

bmw i3 vs tesla s 750x750

Furthermore, the two companies share a mutual respect for each other. Despite initial jokes aimed at BMW’s i3 design, representatives from the two automakers have recently met to discuss the future of supercharging, among other topics.


READ ALSO: “BMW i3 is like an IKEA piece of furniture”

In a recent conversation with Harald Krüger, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Production, we learned that BMW is looking at Tesla as enabled of the electric vehicles market and a great company that not only helps promote the EV market but also paves the road for BMW and other automakers.

But the following question arises: which company is a bigger innovator?

Peter Yared, CTO/CIO at CBS Interactive, tries to shed some light on this topic from a technology, brand recognition and market size perspective.

Here is an excerpt from an article published on TechCrunch:

BMW invested tremendous resources in its electric car platform to develop an all-electric vehicle platform, and it is willing to integrate legacy technology in order to deliver immediate value to its customers. Conversely, Mercedes chose a partnership route and is buying the drivetrain and battery technology for its upcoming electric car from Tesla. Both BMW and Mercedes are well ahead of Tesla in advanced vehicle technology like self-parking and cruise control that can automatically follow highway lanes and maintain distance from other vehicles.

Rather than waiting for battery technology to evolve to make an all-electric car with a 200-mile range at a mid-range price point, BMW is selling an optional “range extender” consisting of a two cylinder motorcycle engine that maintains the batteries at a 5 percent power level and extends the car’s range an additional 80 miles. Since the range extender powers the batteries rather than a gas engine, the i3 is not a hybrid, but the range extender can be continually refilled so that the car is never stuck without power. It’s a total hack, but is well thought out and competitive. BMW’s engineers must have been giggling when they came up with this one.

With the i3, BMW has delivered a “good enough” luxury electric car for the urban driver and average commuter, who can also optionally use the car for longer trips without having to plan for supercharger stations.

32 responses to “BMW vs. Tesla – Which Company Is A Bigger Innovator?”

  1. NewWorldPress says:

    When Tesla can build a carbon fiber car and have autonomous emergency breaking (AEB), and a drivetrain that doesn’t fail, they might have a car BMW owners want. Electric cars aren’t new, Tesla didn’t make anything special.

    So far the Tesla brand is built out of American Nationalism and “buy american”, the fact BMW employs more people in the US seems to escape some people.

    Consumerreports is also biased and thrives on nationalism, they will never mention all the drivetrain issues Tesla cars have.

    Maybe more people should see this video, it shows how Elon Musk thinks about other brands like BMW:

    He’s apparently willing to sell in Europe, but in reality he’s laughing behind German brands their back when it comes down to it.

    • simzy says:

      What are you talking about? A Tesla has the most efficient drive train. What are these issues that you’re talking about? AEB would be nice to have, and I’m sure they’ll get it soon, but the Tesla model S has the highest safety rating than any other car in the world. They will probably get Daimler AEB technology since that company is invested 70 million into Tesla, early on. The carbon fiber technology is awesome no doubt, but Tesla is also innovating. They’re the ones building the giant battery factory by 2017, which will make more lithium ion batteries than the current entire world’s supply. They’ll be the cheapest too, made specifically for cars, so I don’t doubt BMW will be buying batteries from Tesla. BMW after all open battery patents up. Also, there must be a lot of stuff that Tesla innovated if we just think about it. Elon invested quite a large chunk of his money and founded the company in 2002 and that’s all they’ve been doing since, focusing on electric cars. JB Straubel is a founder also, and he just invents things. So, I’m sure their drive-train would have been a great design etc.
      Anyway, the publicity and shift towards electric vehicles I would argue is the result of Tesla. Everyone else seemed happy to not do anything revolutionary and to just keep selling. Companies like BMW have no choice now because the world is shifting to electric. By the way, the BMWi3 is no where near as good a car as a model S.

      • NewWorldPress says:

        This is the link about the Tesla drivetrains failing:

        I’ll stick to my BMW, thank you.

        • TheSA-X says:

          3 years late with their cheap car? No one else has a 200 mile range inexpensive electric car either, so you can’t exactly say they are late.

          i8 isn’t really a good comparison either, because it is a hybrid and doesn’t have much electric range.

        • simzy says:

          Thank you for that. Just spent like an hour reading about the drivetrain problems on the forums. It seems that at least 50% of customers have had their drivetrains replaced. This really sucks. But obviously it will be dealt with, and the good news is that TM replaced the drivetrains straight away. The main problem though wasn’t the drivetrain not functioning correctly but the noise coming from it, which they’ve named but I can’t remember the term. “The noise is louder than the stereo,” according to one customer.
          Also, by a guy who owns 3: “To answer the question, both S and P models have had the dreaded hum
          issue. My S had its drive train replaced at about 11k miles and has
          been silent since. I was told at the time that the inverter/motor
          assembly has been under continual development and that my car was
          getting the latest, newest version (as of November – one must assume
          there’s a better version out now).” Another note, there seemed to be a display problem that was freaking people out by showing incorrect values. It’s worth noting that with all electric drivetrains, even BMW if they go full electric, that they replace the entire think, which is valued at 15k, even if it’s a little problem. Because it’s advanced tech, they can’t just replace a little part like you do in a gasoline car. At some point though, a 3rd party might start doing this because the patents are opened up and maybe they’ll be allowed.
          As for the BMW i8 model, it’s not mass market. I’m still reading reviews on it, along with tech stuff, but so far it seems that it’s “super-expensive ($135,000 base price),” as stated by extremetech dot com. How is that mass market? Tesla won’t have a mass market car until 2017, but they are aiming for a 30k price tag. And, this i8 is a hybrid. BMW will eventually make an electric car. If they do, they’ll encounter a battery shortage. Tesla has had a crippling shortage of battery supply, which is why they’re building a factory. Their battery supply can’t meet their demand. Panasonic is their supplier. BMW is supplied by Samsung, which will have a shortage.
          BMW i8: “With a fully charged battery, the maximum purely electrical range of 37 km can be fully utilised.” And, “with the Wallbox Pro, the BMW i8 is can be charged to 80% of its full capacity in less than two hours.”
          It isn’t even in the same league as a Tesla. I’ve no doubt the i8 is probably an amazing car but it’s not an electric car, and it isn’t mass market. Eventually all cars will have to go electric, so we don’t need a hybrid argument. The execs of Tesla and BMW have been meeting lately, and Tesla’s patents are open, and BMW has opened its battery patents, so the distance/charging issue with the i8 will be fixed. There’s no reason why a BMW car can’t achieve the distance and speed of a Tesla. Also, i8 is a sports car. Roadster was the sports car of TM.

          • Horatiu B. says:

            Thanks for the great insight

          • Teslaforever says:

            50%? That is total BS!!! The driveunit has not been changed in any 50% range… 4% is the real figure… My Tesla has way less issues than the X5 and 1M i owned as new cars… So many small issues on all my former BMWs… All taken care of by BMW but still a fact. Sure we Tesla owners are complaining for small details and one reason its a 80-120K USD car.

          • Horatiu B. says:

            Great car no doubt. But all new cars have issues.

            I’m sure that i5 will deliver similar experience. BMW has learned a lot from Tesla S.

          • simzy says:

            50% was a real statistic. I actually quoted a real Tesla owner, and read through all the forums, and even read the main magazine where they tested Tesla.
            Don’t forget: “both S and P models have had the dreaded hum
            issue. My S had its drive train replaced at about 11k miles and has
            been silent since.”
            Have you been in the forums? There are guys there who have had theirs replaced 4 times. There’s definitely an issue, but as Elon said, a few replacement people were just replacing everything, even if it didn’t need doing. And the test car by the magazine was an old model. So, obviously they’re fixing these issues, but well, just red the forums.

    • CDspeed says:

      I can’t blame Elon for laughing, I followed the i3 from the time it’s concept debuted, I thought with it’s CFRP, and the time they spent on development it would be far better then the Nissan Leaf. BMW made a huge effort to promote the i3, and instead of beating the Leaf it’s directly comparable to it. All that effort, the hype, and all the money BMW has, and the best they could do was the i3. Its an amazing piece of engineering, but it falls far short of what Tesla has done.

      • Horatiu B. says:

        :) yeah. But I’m sure the i5 will have a cool design

        • CDspeed says:

          I’m sure it will, BMW is learning what direction to go with for their next i car based on reaction to both the i3 and i8.

      • NewWorldPress says:

        It’s like the Smart, everyone thought it was a crazy car, after a while I got used to it, now I find the Smart an amazing looking cute car. The BMW i3 has a look that is practical and cute, everything a city car should be.

        I read that EV with a special design sell better than other EV. VW will just make an EV out of their regular Golf, I like the way BMW is doing it better, their i8 is amazing looking, their i3 is special and it takes some time getting used to.

        • Horatiu B. says:

          What I like about the i3 most is the minimal interior and lots of space inside. Much more than my 1M for example.

        • CDspeed says:

          @ NewWorldPress, I never said anything about the i3’s looks, for the record I like the way the i3 looks, I think its an awesome little car. I’d even describe the i3 as a hot hatch, it accelerates like a rocket, and the handling is amazingly quick. I like it so much I’m getting one, its sitting at the port in Germany right now awaiting transport across the Atlantic. I put every possible option on it except the REx generator.

      • simzy says:

        No offence intended, but as an editor/writing major, I just wanted to point out that your usage of “it’s” and “its” is incorrect. Only telling you because you write very well otherwise and obviously love Grammar.

        • CDspeed says:

          None taken, actually autocorrect on my iPad is always trying to correct “its” with “it’s”, it drives me crazy but some times I just don’t feel like fighting it.

    • JackB125 says:

      The Tesla Model S is a pure BEV in the Large Luxury Sedan group with a 265 mile EPA estimated range (85 kWh battery pack). The BMW 5 & 7 series would be better comparison points. Although comparing BEV’s to ICEV’s is not really apples to apples either.

      It makes even less sense to compare the Model S to the i3 or the i8.

      The i3 is an urban get-around car with an electric range of 83 miles (should be adequate for most urban driving) + the range extender (this really was a clever idea).

      The i8 is a hybrid sports car with only 22 miles of electric range. It’s a beautiful vehicle. But, I don’t really see it as a competitor to the Model S just because it has some electric range — different class of vehicle & different technology.

      Both companies have tremendous engineering teams & it will take Tesla years to build up the production capacity to satisfy demand if they really pull off a quality $35,000 BEV with a 200+ mile range. An updated i3 wouldn’t take market share away from Tesla; it would just increase the market size. A good thing for both companies.

      With the potential (and likely) size of the upcoming BEV market, it seems to me that an agreement to share specific technologies would be the optimum way to proceed for both companies at this stage of the game. They would likely move back to pure competition once production catches up to demand. And, that probably won’t happen until there are multiple Gigafactories.

    • Jim Seko says:

      BMW sells their vehicles through franchise dealers and Tesla does not. That alone makes Tesla 100 times better.

    • Rune says:

      Why would I want a carbonfiber car when I drive a car made of aluminium and a range of 400-500 kms and free superchargers? Buy an i3 and fill it up with gas? Its terrible when the Range extender is used… People that talks about the fantastic idea wirh a range extender has never driven it in that mode… Sounds horrible and performance is like a Lada from 1962… The i3 is a nice citycar for some people. Four seats? Limited space? Limited EV range? Ugly design? Expensive in its class? Oh and will not be cheap to repair carbon…. Limited market if you ask me…

    • Turbofroggy says:

      Tesla just announced 8 year unlimited mile warranty on their drive train:

  2. Hugo Becker says:

    As NewWorldPress points out – the disruptive technology is the CFRP processes that BMW has pioneered. That is the innovation.

  3. CDspeed says:

    BMW’s i sub-brand has one major innovation, CFRP, but Tesla is far more innovative in electric mobility. Any car could benefit from CFRP construction, but Tesla is the only company that builds an electric car that can compete with so called “conventional” cars. And though BMW is trying to look like they’re dedicated to electric car tech, the i brand isn’t really as electric as they’d like you to think, at the moment anyway. They’re building three i cars, i3, i3 REx, and the i8, two out of three still burn gasoline, and the i3 being yet another low range hatchback from a major automaker. Tesla is pure electric, it doesn’t produce cars with anything less then 200 miles of range, and it’s P (performance) model is already taking on cars from BMW M. And then theres Tesla’s SuperChargers, fast, free, doesn’t require a different plug type, and is spreading across the globe. BMW supports CCS (combined charging standard), which still has a reputation for being nonexistent, CCS is something we’ve heard of but have yet to see. It’s as though the rollout of CCS, isn’t happening, I opted for CCS on my i3, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever get to use it. CFRP is the only thing BMWi has over Tesla, after that, Tesla is far far ahead of BMW, soon Tesla will even challenge the X5 with the Model X, they’re going to have a pure electric X5 competitor, and all we have that’s pure electric from BMWi is the little 81 mile i3. I love the i3 I’m buying one, but I have to admit its a long way off from the Model S.

  4. disqus_21jShFaTaX says:

    ElectricCar2Buy have been told by BMW that it may be an initial six month waiting list to get this car into some of their showrooms. What BMW call a thoroughbred sports car delivering outstanding driving experience combined with BMW’s efficient dynamics along with BMW’s idrive, with a revolutionary lightweight construction.

    Read more:

  5. Alfred Balitzer says:

    Tesla and BMW have rendered a great service for drivers everywhere. I purchased an i3 and it was the right choice for me. I am a great advocate of the i3, its extraordinary innovation and just the way it drives–but let us not sell short the Tesla and the determination of a great entrepreneur to bring this groundbreaking vehicle to market. Both Tesla and BMW have produced singular achievements. So, instead of bad mouthing one or the other, or arguing which is best or which is more innovative, let us celebrate these achievements and talk about what both can do to innovate even more and plan for the future of increasing numbers of electric vehicles. On my short list–love to see these companies cooperate on a charging network. Also, let us encourage both companies to innovate even more than they have already on battery technology. Finally (remember this is my short list), let us nag these companies to bring out more models and sooner rather than later. As for who is better? I’ll leave that to their two marketing departments.

  6. Teslaforever says:

    I have been a BMW geek for over twenty years. always driving BMWs. Today I drive a Tesla Model S and is totally converted. It the best car I have driven! Supersportscar, grand tourer, family car, cargo car and super environment car all in one. Faster than the new M5 and quiwt. Just love it!!! The BS around radar, parking and autonomous dricing is just stuff I never used in my BMWs. Overpriced extra equipment that I did very sledomly use. So forget that and go vuy the future today! Dont buy and hybrid i cars! Buy the real EV that is the jack off all trades and the superchargers is a killer. Free driving! Today I can drive from Sweden to London, Germany, Switzerland, france etc for free…. Funny I never thought I would leave BMW. if someone said I would leave BMW for an american car I would have laughed my ass of a couple off years ago… Today irs a fact. Dont even look at BMWs anymore. Untilmthey build a versatile EV like the model S they have nothing I want. Please dont mention the i3 or the i8… Bad jokes…

  7. Teslaforever says:

    Tesla model S is currently selling more in Sweden than Porsche Panamera, Mercedes S, BMW 7 and audi A8 together… People are starting to choose model S as their premium car. Same thing in country after country. Sure this is not a large volume market but i clearly shows that EVs is the future. i wil never buy a Gasoline/diesel/hybrid car again… ever!!! (Wonder what the second hand value will be for all this gassucking premium monster cars will be…. Dead fish in the water…)

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