The BMW i3 isn't quite a Tesla Model S, but it hopes to offer an unparalleled electric vehicle ownership experience when it rolls into North America next spring.
From the start of the purchasing experience, buyers will be allowed to customize their financing and accessories, including solar charging options and range extender.
BMW chose Bosch to provide “concierge-level services” to BMW i3 drivers in North America for the charging installation. Although Bosch makes electric vehicle chargers, including one of the cheapest models on the market, it will only be acting as an advisor and installation manager for the BMW i Wallbox, a Level 2, 240-volt charging station. Bosch also provided some installation services for the U.S. Department of Energy's EV Project.
“When [drivers] contact Bosch regarding installation, we’ll be taking them through the whole process and holding their hand to make sure things are done correctly,” said Charlie Yankitis, director of business development at Bosch Automotive Service Solutions. Yankitis added that BMW had learned a lot through its electric vehicle pilots and was applying those findings to the i3 rollout in Europe and North America.
Bosch will coordinate the in-home consultation, installation with an electrical contractor, permitting process and ongoing technical support. Bosch is the preferred provider of residential level 2 charging stations for the Chevy Volt.
“Electric mobility is new to many customers, and in order to give them maximum confidence and a premium experience, we have partnered with Bosch Automotive Service Solutions to ensure our customers have the quality service that our BMW customers have come to expect,” Robert Healey, BMW of North America’s Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Manager, said in a statement.
BMW is not the first carmaker to offer charging-station financing as part of the overall car financing, but it goes much further. The home charging experience is part of BMW’s “BMW 360º Electric,” which is intended to overcome the barriers buyers face when making the switch to an electric car.
BMW built a "venture group at the brand level to create an infrastructure around the recently introduced i3,” Mark Platshon, a partner at Birchmere Ventures and senior advisor to BMW i-Ventures, said at GTM’s NextWave Greentech Investing event. The idea, he added, is to build an entire ecosystem around charging, mapping, multi-modal transit, car-to-car communications, car-to-infrastructure communications and a whole bunch of other environmental ecosystem stuff around the electric vehicle and the future of transportation.
Customers will also be able to receive a 10 percent discount on SolarCity’s home solar offering, according to Green Car Reports, with no upfront installation costs for the solar array and a locked-in solar rate.
The i3 will also come with the option to hire a gas-powered BMW for longer trips, or purchase a range-extending option that drops a 650cc twin-cylinder engine into the back of the car to deliver about an extra 80 miles of range. The range extender will not be for daily use.
The BMW i3 will also be able to find the closest charging station. In Germany, BMW i had partnered with ChargeNow for customers that want to join a public charging network. A recent survey by Recargo found that correctly priced fast charging is key to EV adoption. In the U.S., BMW has chosen ChargePoint to be part of its ChargeNow program. BMW i3 drivers will automatically receive a ChargeNow card that can be used at more than 14,000 ChargePoint stations.
And while BMW’s electric efforts are being compared to Tesla, Green Car Reports found that the driving experience was entirely different than any other electric vehicle.
“Unlike the old Roadster, the BMW i3 regeneration can slow the car right down to a stop. Once a driver gets used to the characteristics of the accelerator pedal -- and learns to look for the gliding mode on the power-delivery meter -- it’s rarely necessary to touch the brake pedal at all,” writes John Voelcker.
“This stands in sharp contrast to electric cars like the Chevrolet Volt, the Nissan Leaf, and even the Tesla Model S. Those cars all, to various degrees, mimic the behavior of a conventional car with an automatic transmission.”
The 2014 i3 will be available for about $42,000 before any federal or local incentives.