It seems like a simple solution to a complicated problem.
BMW has an expensive EV, the i3, with a short range. Unwilling to go the Tesla route of offering a staggeringly expensive, long-range version, BMW has instead decided to offer i3 buyers a gas-powered loaner car for longer trips.
This works on two levels: it incentivizes customers who might normally shy away from an i3 purchase by giving them an extended range option on the cheap while also cutting negative press off at the root. It also gives drivers a sort of test drive in a different BMW model.
According to an MIT Technology Review report, BMW found in early EV testing that a limited electric range only hindered around 10 percent of EV drivers’ trips. That’s when a gasoline-powered loaner would be offered. The i3 is purported to have a range of around 100 miles – or less.
Why has no one thought of this before? Well, they have.
When Mercedes rolled out the Smart Car in Europe, it offered a similar deal for a time. Smart Car buyers who wished to take a family on a weeks vacation could drop off their two-seater city car for a week each year and take an E-Class wagon for a free European road trip.
If the BMW program works, we wouldn’t be surprised if other automakers didn’t follow suit.
What’s not yet known, however, is which vehicle BMW will offer to i3 customers or for how long or how often the loaner will be made available. Presumably, an offer like this would expire with the warranty, so in five years owners would be out of luck.
The MIT Technology Review report did also make reference to a possible two-cylinder gas motor being added as an optional extra to the i3. To us, that seems unlikely. Adding a gas generator is a bit more complicated than upgrading to heated seats. Unless BMW planned it from the beginning – and we’ve not heard of a gasoline i3 onboard generator until now – it probably won’t happen, at least not right away.
When we learn more about the official details of the BMW i3 gas loaner program, we’ll be sure to update you, so check back in soon.