Automobile magazine reports that BMW is backing away from its ambitious electrically powered i vehicle program. Uncertainty about continued government support, a crazy quilt of state and national policies around the globe, a lack of charging infrastructure and, perhaps most importantly, a continued lack of consumer acceptance are said to have contributed to BMW’s decision.
So far the proposed i5 “eco van” and the i1 city car have been put on ice. The higher profile i3 sedan and i8 sports car, which BMW was just touting on the 2012 auto show circuit, may also never see production, perhaps replaced by a plug-in hybrid, seen as more marketable. Though they’ve cited different figures, BMW at one point hoped to sell 100,000 i3 units a year as well as an additional 10,000 i8s. Perhaps indicative of the charging infrastructure problem, the non-profit arm of an investment company that had received a $709,000 federal grant to install 68 EV chargers in and around Syracuse, New York has now torn them out and is suing ECOtality, the maker of the Blink chargers, saying that the company misrepresented the ability of the chargers to track and charge individual users for their electricity usage.
Instead of users getting billed, Synapse Sustainability Trust, the non-profit division of Synapse Partners LLC, which installed the chargers, had to pay for the electricity. ECOtality denies any wrongdoing, saying that its chargers can track usage and costs through what it claims is it’s already successful membership system. The Blink chargers are being replaced by Coulomb Technologies “Chargepoint” stations, which apparently can bill individual users.
The grant was from the US Dept of Energy and was administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. Though NYSERDA had originally reimbursed the politically connected Synapse for the replacement costs, in the end Synapse had to pay back some of those funds and bear a greater share of the cost of replacement. Spokesmen for Synapse and NYSERDA now brag how no public moneys will be spent fixing their own mistake.
There’s some irony in BMW citing a lack of charging infrastructure for consumer acceptance of EVs as the charging stations are switched out in Syracuse. According to New York state DMV records and Syracuse.com, there are only 30 vehicles in the five county region that could conceivably use those 68 charging stations. Six Nissan Leafs, one Mitsubishi MiEV, 21 Chevy Volts, and a Toyota Prius (I’m assuming that’s one of the new plugin Prius models), plus one government-owned Ford.
Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS