Somehow we feel inclined to take an issue within motoring that little bit more seriously once BMW get involved.
Generally speaking BMW are one manufacturer that journalists and consumers take very seriously.
There have been rumblings from BMW for a while about the prospect of an all-electric vehicle. But as is the way with concept cars, the overriding feeling is one of fundamental scepticism rather than belief. We refuse to believe it until we see it. And there is a sense with electric cars that they may in fact never come to exist.
It is this feeling of the unlikely which paradoxically adds to the appeal of electric cars. And for an automotive industry desperate for a boost the radical new cars coming to market may go some way to reigniting consumer interest in the idea of a new car.
And how new and radical those technologies seem. BMW are set to release both the i-3 and the i-8 supercar in 2013 and there are some extraordinary features offered on both cars.
These are the sort of cars designed to appeal to the ever-more conscious consumer. And we’re not just talking about design-junkies here either, although the coach doors and plate-glass styling will appeal to the schoolboy in all of us. The new conscious consumer will, BMW hope, care as much as they do that instrument and door panelling use natural fibres and that 25% of the interior plastics come from renewable or recycled raw materials.
But that’s still 25%. And the i-3 still has leather seats which somehow feels a little retrograde when we consider the car’s other credentials.
But then the transition period between now and the belief in the ever-purer green future of motoring is all about concessions to the known: to people’s expectations, to the hangover from decades of being sold increasingly large and luxurious cars. Austerity does not sit so well with our memories of what seems increasingly like another age of motoring.
It is in this context that we have to understand the dual-fuel reality of both the i-3 and the i-8. The i-8 will come with a small petrol engine, as well as a genuine electric motor. This will supplement car’s performance and range. As with the Vauxhall Ampera, a dual-fuel car seems like a sensible halfway house for consumers still being weaned on to the idea of EV motoring.
The foundations for BMW’s future have been laid with massive investment and a solid base of technological innovation. BMW have been working with carbonfibre to strip out weight from the chassis, as well as lithium-ion battery technologies which permit this car to be fully charged in six hours from a domestic plug.
That sounds like very economical refuelling for a BMW.
And whilst these features sound high-tech they are designed to allow driving as unrestricted as our current fossil-fuel experience. Hence they are light and so easier to move; and the batteries have required so much work because we still don’t want to think too much about refuelling.
Unrestricted mobility of course is why we liked cars so much in the first place. And there are plenty of other reasons to like the BMW i-3 and i-8. The i-8 is a genuine supercar boasting figures of 0-62 in 4.6 seconds and a top speed of 155mph. All this from a car which is confirmed for production and which will do 104mpg and return 66g/km.