BMW still evaluating market reactions to EVs
'We want to see how the market reacts to the first EVs,' said Dr Jochen Schroeder, manager electric powertrain pre-development. 'We are going to have a variety of cars from pure EVs to range extenders, plug-in hybrids and hybrids, and our focus will be on megacities where people only travel a short distance.'
This fits in with the research uncovered by tests with the MINI E, which is on trial with customers in the US and Europe. So far, the trials have shown that people only travel 20-25km a day and only recharge the car once a week.
Dr Schroeder believes that the range extender concept (like the Chevrolet Volt/Vauxhall Ampera) is a good idea because of the psychology of EVs and "range anxiety".
'With a range-extender you are always on the safe side but there will be a small price premium because you are paying for two engines instead of one. I think that 50% of potential EV buyers might opt for a range extender but we're not expecting sales of all these alternative vehicles to account for more than 5% of total BMW sales in five years.'
Project I was launched in 2007 as BMW's think-tank for developing a new generation of mobility solutions.
'We need to be developing this technology ourselves so that we have all the knowledge in-house,' explained Dr Schroeder. 'This is a lesson we have learnt from the Japanese car makers who kept the technology for hybrids and EVs in-house so they know what they need.
'So with Project I we have done everything on our own so that we really understand it and are not dependent on suppliers; we really need to know the technology, the possibilities and understand the cost efficiencies,' he said.
Dr Schroeder also explained that volume is only one part of the cost equation – technology is the other.
'We can share volumes on battery cells if we standardise the cell, but not on the batteries because we don't want a standard battery design.
'It's the same for power electronics ,which have several thousand parts most of which are standard industrial products so we can get savings there. Power electronics are probably the most important part of the EV equation.'