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BMW’s Solution to Limited Electric-Vehicle Range: a Gas-Powered Loaner

BMW’s approach to quelling range anxiety differs markedly from the tactics of other automakers.

?While they wait for cheaper batteries that can store more energy, carmakers are trying a range of strategies to compensate for the shortcomings of existing batteries. One of the latest, coming from BMW for the electric i3 slated to come out this year, is to offer customers loaner cars for long trips (see “BMW Shifts into Electric Gear”).

To compensate for the limitations of current batteries, GM added a gasoline motor—and a complex transmission—to its electric Volt, to allow drivers to take long trips. Tesla, meanwhile, offers very large and expensive battery packs to allow a range more than twice that of the electric Nissan Leaf, and it’s installing a network of fast charging stations that can recharge the batteries most of the way in about an hour. The Tesla Model S with a 265-mile range sells for $80,000.

BMW’s approach is based on several years of field testing with customers of prototype electric vehicles with a range per charge of about 100 miles. The automaker found that range was only a problem with about 10 percent of daily trips. It plans to provide a gas-powered loaner vehicle for these infrequent trips. “We offer you a fallback solution in case you purchase this car and then need to go on a 500-mile trip,” says Rolf Stromberger, BMW’s vice president of business environment and public affairs strategy.
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