BMW to walk through “Valley of Tears” for EV development

BMW i, News | December 5th, 2016 by 11
2016 BMW i3 94Ah Protonic Blue 33 kWh Elektroauto 17 750x500

We all know that Johnny Polar Bear’s house is getting smaller and smaller and something needs to be done. Most people point to the auto …

We all know that Johnny Polar Bear’s house is getting smaller and smaller and something needs to be done. Most people point to the auto industry as the one that needs to change and it is one of the many industries that needs a shake-up if we want to have a safe planet for our future. However, it’s been tough sledding for automakers to have to make the switch over to electric power, as the technology simply isn’t there and neither are the profits.

For automakers, extensive research and development needs to be done to develop electric cars and that R&D is expensive. Very expensive. That wouldn’t be much of a problem if not for the fact that electric cars simply don’t sell enough to become profitable. Yet automakers are just going to have to stick with it, despite their losing money, as it’s something that needs to be done. As Stefan Juraschek, vice president of electric-powertrain development for BMW, quite cryptically puts it “We simply have to walk through the valley of tears”.

2016 BMW i3 94Ah Protonic Blue 33 kWh Elektroauto 22 750x500

Electric cars have come a long way since their first arrival, with cars like the Tesla Model S boasting ranges of almost 300 miles and the Chevy Bolt offering an affordable 200 mile-plus electric hatchback. The problem with electric cars, though, is two-fold — Technology and demand. Battery technology simply isn’t advanced enough to make electric cars mainstream and, likely because of that, people simply don’t want them.

According to Mark Fields, Ford Motor Co. CEO, the development of battery tech and EVs isn’t paying off. “In 2008, there were 12 electrified vehicles offered in the U.S. market and it represented 2.3 percent of the industry,” Fields told Bloomberg, “Fast forward to 2016, there’s 55 models, and year to date it’s 2.8 percent.”

So there isn’t enough demand for electric cars, despite automakers best attempts to develop and market them. A lot of it still has to do with range anxiety and the lack of charging infrastructure. It’s for this very reason that BMW sort of muted its efforts in pure electric technology as of later.

BMW Vision Next 100 Los Angeles 4 750x563

Much to the chagrin of many EV fans, the Bavarian brand has shifted focus somewhat onto its iNext 2021 project, which focuses more on autonomous driving than electric powertrains. It then wants to, instead of develop pure EVs, add plug-in hybrid powertrains to its mainstream models, such as the 3 Series, 7 Series and upcoming X3. While this draws ire from fans of EVs, the idea is that the tech and profits aren’t there yet for EVs and BMW is sort of going to wait it out until the technology improves, which will in turn create more demand. The higher the demand, the lower the prices of the vehicles can be and the more profits can be made. “We’ve learned that people aren’t prepared to pay a higher price for an electric vehicle,” said  Friedrich Eichiner, BMW CFO, last week. “I don’t see some kind of disruptive element coming from electric cars that would prompt sales to go up quickly in the next five to six years.”

So while we’d all like for automakers to quickly fix Johnny Polar Bear’s house right this minute, it seems as if they’re going to have to walk through the “Valley of Tears” first.

[Source: Bloomberg]

11 responses to “BMW to walk through “Valley of Tears” for EV development”

  1. CDspeed says:

    As much as I like my i3, it’s not hard to see that it is the most un-BMW they could have designed. It hardly looks like a BMW, and few of the luxury options you expect from BMW are available. They built a low range car, with a design that is very polarizing, and it’s just one model. What did they expect? The demand is there, look at the amount of reservations Tesla got for their 3-Series like Model 3. If BMW wants to sell more of them they should start by building an electric car that actually resembles a BMW, and stop making excuses.

    • Max says:

      We will see how many people will end up buying that crappy Model 3 when it arrives some day…There are already many competitors coming out with newer and better models by this time. Why would I take this cheap Model 3? The range is also not wow…

      • CDspeed says:

        The range that was quoted was of the base model, higher range options have not yet been announced. And what newer better competitors? No one has announced an electric car in a similar price or sport sedan body style, no the electric 3-Series roomer doesn’t count….yet. Why would you buy the less expensive (then i3) Model 3, if you don’t like it why pay any attention to it? Lots of compact sport sedans take aim at the 3-Series, but few have managed to even come close.

  2. Pictor says:

    The market is there. But the i3, while close, doesn’t seem to hit the mark. The Silicon Valley and Seattle areas are awash with EVs. Leafs, Teslas, etc. The BMW is more expensive that the Leaf but lacks the autonomous features of the Tesla. Despite offering TJA in the EU, we don’t have it in the US. Let’s face it, it’s also a quirky looking car. It’s grown on me and I would much rather own it over the Leaf but it’s just not for most people.

    BMW needs… must even, implement more technology in the US for it to sell better. Bringing TJA is a start. Then at least offer the car with a normal paint scheme. The two main colors and a third blue or grey accent is too much and makes the car look cartoonish. That should carry over the vehicle until 2021 when hopefully we’ll see something a little more adult looking. The i8 is not immune to this deficiency either. For $140,000 I cannot get TJA?! Please! L2 autonomous is almost required in the EV market unless you’re selling to the economy market (sub $35k EV)

    • Max says:

      Ohhh yes Seattle and Silicon Valley….Come on, they are pushing with huge incentatives, which isnt the real world. The question is, would people still buy those cars without all that? I hardly believe.
      So the market is still not 100% there for making and selling mass EV cars. That might change in the next years…
      I also agree that the i3 is maybe not the best looking BMW on the market, but from technological pov it is a masterpiece, carbon fiber etc. and it even drives like a proper BMW. And it is also the only EV on the market which has a completely sustainable production and supply chain – which should be mandatory if we want to change emissions! But people rather hyping a big tank (Tesla) with a lot of batteries doing exactly nothing for the environment.

      • CDspeed says:

        I wonder how much gas and diesel would cost if the oil industry didn’t get their yearly subsidies? And do you remember when businesses were buying Hummers, and then vinyl wrapping them in their business logo? They were getting a $100,000 dollar subsidy because they registered it as a work vehicle that weighed over 6,000 Lbs. I know a local bank owner that bought one in the lowest configuration possible so he could keep most of the subsidy. And batteries are still far better then oil, they can be good for up to ten years in your car, and afterwards be used for energy storage or be recycled. Unlike gasoline which is drilled up, refined using a massive amount of electricity in the process, and then just burned away. 10 plus years of use for batteries, or burning off gas only needing more and more hmm…..⚖️

        • Guess Whover says:

          The batteries may last ten years, but they will need to be recharged many times in those ten years. Energy is needed to generate that electricity. According to the US Energy Information Administration (eia.gov), less than 15% of that energy is renewable. This means that ~ 85% of the energy required to generate electricity just burns away as well.

          According to EIA, these are the sources of energy used to generate electricity:

          Coal 33%
          Nuclear 20%
          Hydro 6%
          Other renewable sources (wind, solar etc.) 7%
          Petroleum and other gasses 2%

      • Pictor says:

        100% agree with the carbon fiber construction being a masterpiece. The question is how successful will it be. I hope it is but that rests on the success of the i3 and i8. Carbon Core is already proving to be a limited market feature as it’s not being introduced on the G30. Ask someone on the street about the carbon fiber body of the i3 and I’m sure you’ll get a blank stare. Ask about Autopilot on the Tesla and you’ll immediately get a reaction. Hype machine aside, people care about the futuristic technology. We cannot have flying cars — yet — at least we get the “self driving” car.

        As for incentives, Seattle (or the state of Washington) isn’t giving any to leases and Washington State doesn’t offer perks like riding the HOV lane if you have an EV like they do in California.

        • Max says:

          Yes thats what I mean, people dont recognize that the Tesla is just a very simple car, without any advantage over the others. The system in the new 5er for automated driving could do the same things that the Tesla does, but BMW just plays it safe and doesnt risk peoples lifes for the fame! Because they dont need do, they are just doing a great job. And also other manufacturers are doing it this way, because they care on their customers and other road users…Imagine the headlines if a VW would kill someone – ohhh wait a second, they got shitstorms as hell and fined billions for some small cheats. Tesla didnt get anything like that for killing people.. Why?
          And yes carbon is very difficult to handle, but I think they’ve learned a lot and future projects will benefit – u have to start somewhere and I believe they are far ahead with that technology now.

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