The Internet was scary, but electric vehicles shouldn’t be

BMW i | January 28th, 2015 by 10
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Change is always scary. New technologies that change the way we live will always make the masses nervous. It’s understandable, really. We get very used …

Change is always scary. New technologies that change the way we live will always make the masses nervous. It’s understandable, really. We get very used to the way things are, and as soon as we get comfortable, things change again. It happened with computers first, then with the internet and now it seems to be happening with electric vehicles.

There’s no doubt that people seem to view the electric car as a bit of a gimmick, much like the Internet at first. They disregard the electric vehicle as a regular form of transportation, simply because they cannot grasp the full picture. Sure, right now it may not be the absolute best way of getting around, but the day is coming when EVs will be the norm.

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In 1994, Brian Gumbel and Katie Couric seemed flabbergasted, on The Today Show, by the notion of the Internet. 21 years later and people wouldn’t know what to do without it.

If the entirety of the Internet were to fail, worldwide, there would be wide spread pandemonium as the world suddenly crashed. Yet, people seem to forget that just a few presidents ago it was just a gimmick in most people’s minds. So, why the constant fear of electric propulsion? Well BMW put Gumbel and Couric in an i3 and had them reenact their confusion, this time for the i3, for BMWs upcoming Super Bowl commercial. This will also be the first BMW Super Bowl commercial in four years. Their confusion is acted out obviously, but the sentiment is real in most people.

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When I had an i3 on test for a few days, it was met with “Ooohs” and “Aahhs” at the looks and the interior. It was when I told them that it was fully electric when they ceased and their noses wrinkled. I might as well have told them it ran on pureed baby seal. “Electric? But how far can you really go?” they would ask. Understandable question, no doubt. But when I told them that the range was around 80 miles, they looked at me as if horns were growing out of my forehead.


Not one person I spoke to about the i3 has a daily commute of anywhere near 80 miles, yet they scoffed at the number. At the time, my daily commute was 100 miles and I made it work for the time I had it. Yet the i3 was met with disdain, simply because it couldn’t make a cross-country road trip as easily as their Ford Explorer. I was as flabbergasted at the negativity as they were at the range. I literally drove 100 miles in one day without burning a single drop of fuel, while doing perfectly average highway speeds in perfect comfort and near silence, all while listening to a crystal clear radio and people would still say “well what if you had to go even further?” It seems that with new technology, most people can only see the flaws, the warts.

Not everyone is afraid, though. There are many early adopters who see the i3 as a breath of fresh air amidst the sea of tepid, murkiness that is most of the auto industry. The i3 seems to have a small cult following who enjoy its EV quirkiness. And I can entirely understand their excitement. After just three days with the i3, I was smitten with its spunky, charms. There are a few Americans who share that same feeling, however, it seems it may take a while longer before the masses become as smitten as those select few.


A shame, really, as the i3 is a technological masterpiece and a damn good car. Hopefully it doesn’t take 21 more years for people to get behind the idea of an i3, or any EV for that matter.

10 responses to “The Internet was scary, but electric vehicles shouldn’t be”

  1. Jim says:

    When I give people a test drive of our Model S and they ask “how far can it go on a charge?” my answer of 265 miles / 420km generally elicits a reaction of “oh, that’s quite a lot!”. Maybe BMW should just make a 3 or 5 series with decent electric range?

    • The Model S does have an impressive range, but it also has a massive battery pack compared to the i3’s. Not taking away from the Tesla, but the i3 has a slightly different focus. It’s more about being a small, light urban car. It also costs significantly less than the Model S, so there’s that.

      • Dan Hue says:

        It will be interesting to see BMW’s reaction now that GM has come out
        with the Bolt concept, a $37K 200-mile EV comparable to the i3 in pretty
        much every way.

    • Matt Stokes says:

      The Telsa’s mass market appeal lessens the further away from America that you get. Every time someone asks you how far it goes on a charge, before you tell them, ask them how many miles they cover in a day, then add 10 miles to it, and tell them that… I suspect most would find the i3’s range would also suffice.

      I could be be wrong… but then the USA really is a self serving market.

  2. Chris Llana says:

    I think the idea of the commercial is to make people curious about the car, so next time they pass a BMW dealer and have some time, they might stop and take a look. If the dealer can get them to take a test drive, only then they will “get it.” You can tell people how much fun and practical it is until you’re blue in the face, but until they’ve actually driven one, it’s the same message as any number of other car makers put in their commercials. The i3 really is different.

    • CDspeed says:

      I was on BMWusa’s website a little while ago, and the i3, and its super bowl ad was plastered all over the top of their homepage. BMW is ready to get anyone who happens to have their tablet or laptop handy the moment they go to check out the i3 having seen the ad.

  3. CDspeed says:

    Excellent article Nico, people certainly do act like the newest thing out there is evil, and out to kill them. Just reading about cars from the early 20th century you read comments that people made condemning the automobile. I read one such comment in an old book saying “the automobile will never replace the horse”. People thought cars where smelly, and noisy calling them a “fad” or “they’ll never last”. Today with the modern electric cars there are numurous laboratories and universities working to advance batteries, and gasoline isn’t going to be used up tomorrow, so if we give electric cars a chance they will evolve with the transition. One day when there isn’t enough oil to go around, the electric car will be ready, and as an i3 owner I can say that isn’t a bad thing. My i3 costs me almost nothing to fuel, nothing in maintenance to date, and it’s sporty to drive, it might not be the fastest BMW but with instant torque and rear wheel drive it’s pretty good for a first generation electric BMW.

  4. JP White says:

    What has surprised me the most is not that some people are skeptical, we are all made differently, that’s to be expected. No the real shocker for me is the hatred of the EV by many gasoline car drivers, I have had notes left on my LEAF using the F word. The motivation for this hatred seems to be the fact that many EV charging stations are free and that the car is subsidized via tax incentives. I’ve read that even in Canada where electrical outlets are made available for all drivers for use with their cars block heaters at no cost, when those same outlets are used to charge an EV the reaction from gasoline drivers is equally vitriolic.

  5. […] I wrote to you kind folk about how the BMW i3, and its futuristic technology and range anxiety, scared most people away from buying it. Range anxiety is an issue for all EVs and not just the i3, and it’s an understandable fear. […]

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