BMW has announced the i3, their first from the ground up electric vehicle. It’s interesting, but at the end of the day it runs up against the same old stumbling blocks that EVs always do. To start, there is the price. $41,350 might not be a lot of beans for A BMW, but it is an awful lot for THAT BMW. You can get into a 3 or 4 series car for less than that. I suppose the argument is that you’ll make that extra coin back in not buying gasoline, but I don’t think the math really works there either.
Let’s do some back of the napkin calculations. Based on looks and capability, the i3 is in the ballpark of things like Honda’s Fit or Ford’s Fiesta. You can get into either of those for around 14 or 16 K. The fun bit of math comes in discovering how far you could drive those cars for that extra 25 grand. At $4 a gallon, you’re looking at around 215,000 miles (14 years at 15K miles per) before the break even point. That is without factoring in any money spent recharging the i3. With that added, the number increases.
To be fair, a Fit or a Fiesta might not be a perfect comparison to the i3. There is something of a cachet to driving a BMW that one doesn’t necessarily find in a Ford. But the Fit and Fiesta are a lot closer to the i3 than the i3 is to its $40,000 internal combustion peers. And getting back to that charging thing… The range of the i3 is 80 to 100 miles. Perfectly usable for certain people, in certain situations, but once again lacking in one of the crucial areas that EVs will need to conquer in order to attain the mass appeal that will bring about an actual change.
So, meet the new EV boss. Same as the old boss. It’s really expensive, with an iffy range, and refueling/recharging remain orders of magnitude apart. At best, it’s one small step for EV kind, but we are really no closer to the alternative fuel future.
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