BMW To Offer Gas-Powered Loaners to Its EV Owners

By · March 06, 2013

BMW i3 owner with app

A BMW i3 owner could conceivable use the car's app to order up a gas-powered loaner for long trips.

MIT Technology Review reported today that BMW will provide owners of its electric vehicles a gas-car loaner for trips that exceed EV range. According to the article, the idea for BMW’s loaner service grew out of the company’s field-testing of prototype EVs—which revealed that fewer than about 10 percent of daily trips exceeded 100 miles.

“We offer you a fallback solution in case you purchase this car and then need to go on a 500-mile trip,” said Rolf Stromberg, BMW’s vice president of business environment and public affairs strategy.

The solution is not dissimilar to Tesla’s strategy of offering free highway quick-charging to Model S customers who want to take a road trip. While many of the details about the BMW approach are still unknown, it is a decidedly low-tech and low-cost (and smart) approach to alleviating one aspect of range limitation. For the few days out of the year when you want to go on a longer trip, EV owners might find it fun to swap out their electric car for a stylish luxury gas-powered Bimmer.

Of course, plug-in hybrids—which carry a gas engine on board—don’t face these problems at all. These vehicles travel a first set of miles, somewhere between 10 and about 40, depending on the model, purely on electricity—after which the gas engine extends range to the same level offered by gas cars.

Bear in mind that BMW already operates DriveNow, an EV carsharing service in Europe and San Francisco. Presumably, the expertise gained in carsharing could be applied to loaning gas cars to owners of the BMW i3, the company’s first vehicle that might take advantage of a loaner program. BMW is making an investment in a range of solutions for mobility in large cities.

Even without such a loaner program offered by BMW or other car companies, EV drivers who have a second car, or who participate in cost-effective carsharing programs, could apply the same strategy: Drive your EV on a daily basis, but on those few occasions when you want to take a long road trip, borrow a gas car. Whatever expense that entails can be paid for with savings from using cheaper electric fuel throughout the year.

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