BMW positive on e-mobility, and the cultural capital of green cars

March 21, 2013 § Leave a comment

bmw-i3-i8BMW has received “several hundred” advance orders for the i3 EV and early interest in this and the i8 plug-in hybrid is higher than expected, said global sales and marketing chief Ian Robertson at the company’s annual accounts conference this week. There has also been significant interest from fleets and rental organisations, he said, citing the early success of the DriveNow short-term rental scheme in San Francisco.  Board chairman Norbert Reithofer noted that “we are compelled to introduce e-mobility” to meet EU emissions targets, but that “it is the right strategy. It is a must and not an option”… “to have any chance of addressing the growing ecological challenges in the world’s metropolitan area”. The i3 will be launched in around six months’ time. BMW executives also reported that 92,221 EVs were sold worldwide last year, up from 4,669 in 2010. You can stream the conference here.

BMW Guggenheim Lab advisory committee member Juliet Schor – also professor of sociology at Boston College, and co-founder/co-chair of the Center for a New American Dream, a non-profit looking at a more ethical and ecologically-friendly approach to consumerism and consumption – spoke at a pre-conference dinner, reports Headlineauto. Schor brought up the evidence suggesting that young people are less interested in cars than they once were, putting more of a priority on social media. She said that “green is becoming a status symbol. We call it ‘altruism signalling’ – showing the good that you are doing by perhaps having a hybrid or electric vehicle in the driveway. Altruism is a major evolutionary behaviour – it’s why the Toyota Prius has become so popular in the US”.  Schor, who has written extensively about consumer culture,  believes that sustainable products are now “mainstreaming”, and that “sustainable luxury” has high cultural capital amongst consumers (she’s a Bourdieu fan). She reckons that though younger people are leaving it longer before buying cars, they do want a more sustainable lifestyle, and that they will opt for options such as city car-shares and rentals (like DriveNow) in the meantime.

  • Only two-thirds of Japanese EV owners questioned in a McKinsey & Co survey said they were satisfied with their purchase; 34% reported that they would not buy another EV, and cited higher electricity bills and the problem of finding somewhere to charge up. The research suggested that these buyers were less well-informed than the other “green enthusiasts”, and pointed to the need for better consumer education. Much more positive feedback from the UK Technology Strategy Board’s 300-EV, 12-month trial, however (case study updated today): 92% of drivers involved said the car had been fun to drive, 72% said an EV would be sufficient for their daily needs, and 91% would recommend an EV to others.
  • OK, so the fuel duty rise was scrapped. Some good news for greener fleet car-buyers, though: the first-year 100% tax capital allowance for businesses buying ultra-low emissions cars has been extended till 2015. The qualifying threshold will be reduced from the current 110g/km to 95g/km come April, and then 75g/km 2015-2018 subject to review in 2016. Eligibility for main-rate capital allowances will have a cut-off of 130g/km from next month. Two new company car tax bands for BIK (benefit-in-kind) allowance will come into play April 2015: 0-50g/km, and 51-75g/km, the first taxed at 5% 2015-16 rising to 7% 2016-17, and the second at 9%/11% respectively.
  • A fleet of BYD K9 all-electric buses (80-seater, 12m long) is to go into trial service in Bogota, Colombia. More here.
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