BMW changing the future of Electro Mobility in South Africa–what a ride !

Have you seen the price of petrol? It’s getting beyond ridiculous and doesn’t look like this increase is stopping anytime soon.

Perhaps it’s time to look at Hybrid and Electric vehicles?

These have come a long way since their inceptions and are no longer for the exclusive realm of the “golf-cart-looking-tree-hugging-hippies” kind of people. Times have changed and we can thank BMW  for that!

I spent two days with the cool people at BMW getting a glimpse into what the immediate future holds and it’s as bright as the 35 degrees South African sun in George. Put your shades on and check out what I have been driving:

BMW Active Hybrid 5

BMW Active Hybrid 5BMW Active Hybrid 5BMW Active Hybrid 5BMW Active Hybrid 5

The Active Hybrid is a mix between an electric motor and a regular combustion engine. It has all the bell and whistles that you expect from a high-end BMW with no compromise whats so ever. Yes, you can still be cool and luxurious and drive a car that doesn’t cost you every time you start and stop in the city traffic.

In Eco Pro Mode, when you are in town traffic, you simply use the electric motor and save on fuel as the electric motor seamlessly takes over. As you leave town and climb up the mountain pass or the freeway simply set it to Sports Mode and floor it. 0 – 100 km/h in 5.9 seconds with every bit of comfort of a luxury sedan.

While coasting at speeds up to 160 km/h you can set it back to Eco Pro Mode and the petrol engine is switched off and fully decoupled so you are cruising for “free” and no emissions too so even the planet thanks you.

BMW Mini E:

BMW Mini E electric carBMW Mini E electric carBMW Mini E electric carBMW Mini E electric car

Now, this is where it gets really insane – I drove the BMW Mini E. It is a fully electric car used by BMW as field test vehicles to get data in the real-world which is fed back to BMW headquarters.

The ride was such Driving Pleasure – no noise what so over. Almost surreal. You switch it on, put your foot down and off you go. What is really incredible and takes a bit of getting used to, is when you take your foot off the accelerator the car actively brakes. That is such superb feature that makes driving so much fun and at the same time saves your battery too.

Before you rush out to place your order, the Mini E is NOT available for sale…ever…as together with its brother, the BMW ActiveE, will go towards the BMW’s first fully electric production car, BMW i3 to be launched in 2014.

The biggest issue with electric vehicles is that we “don’t know what we don’t know”  in other words, people don’t even know what questions to ask in order to make an informed decision if Electric Vehicle is to be part of their future cars.

So here are some insights:

Driving Range

When people look at an electric vehicle and discover that their range is 160km they start to panic. But did you know that from the trials that BMW conducted around the world, people’s drive an average of 43 km per day? This is after 6 million km of testing. Therefore, the vehicles will handle the daily commute easily. Of course, if you regularly drive from Johannesburg to Cape Town, then the hybrid is a better choice for you.

Charging Time and Cost

The charging time can be 8 hours on a regular charge at home or down to 1 or 2 hours if you are on a 3-phase if the system has that option. The thinking is that when you drive into your garage at night, you plug in your vehicle – like you do with your mobile phone. In the morning, you have a fully charged vehicle.

The cost is dependent on many factors however it can be safely assumed that it will be a quarter of what it cost to fill a car with petrol.

Information:

BMW is building an entire eco-system around their Mobility Range of electric vehicle. You will be able to plan your route from your Internet, log onto the BMW marketplace and download apps to interact with your car and use the car’s system to get access to Assistance Services. All the time, being fully aware of where you are and how far your range is. The system will even calculate how to get to your destination via a charging point or via the most economical way.

Whilst these are still in development, there is less than a year to go before BMW has commitment to launch this vehicle so it’s moving beyond just concept to reality.

The BMW i3 is meant for city driving – but if you are in the market for a high-end sports car, BMW has you covered too. They have the BMW i8!

So in summary:

We need a mind change. As more and more people are moving into Mega Cities we need to have vehicles that can get us in and out, without killing the planet (and us in the process). We need vehicles that can work with the system and not against it.

What BMW has done with their electric cars is not only made them sexy but made them high performance too. BMW approach was not to retrofit a vehicle but rather create a vehicle from scratch that is purposefully built for electric needs. And what a great vehicle it is.

As they say: “The future is here, we just don’t know it yet”

Well, BMW is bringing the future even closer and it’s a future that you have to experience to believe it.

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