For some, it’s hard to imagine the sonorous buzz of an electric vehicle (EV) inspiring the same excitement as the roar of a V8 engine. Whatever your preference, however, the electric transport revolution is well and truly underway and electric cars are here to stay.
We are at a turning point in transport history and – as with each preceding era – it’s come as the result of game-changing technological innovation. If we can make cars cleaner and more sustainable, it is imperative we do exactly that.
There are many predictions as to how mainstream electric cars will look and perform in the coming decades, and how our infrastructure and psychology will be able to cope with what is essentially an entirely new mode of transport. Customers demand satisfaction in various ways, including price, fuel economy, emissions and comfort. They want more from a luxury brand than simply a great product; they demand a premium experience. And that means combining intuitive technology with stunning design.
EVs are powered by rechargeable batteries that drive an electric motor. The prospect of reducing carbon emissions with a vehicle that’s sustainable, safer and requires less maintenance was the premise for a movement that will see the automobile industry change more in the next decade than it has in the last 30 years.
The challenge for mainstream car manufacturers is to continue the pace of innovation and investment, and we have all been developing our own versions of long-range fully usable electric vehicles.
At BMW Group, we’ve taken strategic steps to sustainably enhance our operating performance and concentrate on faster processes and leaner structures to ensure greater efficiency. Evidenced by what we’ve achieved in electric mobility over the past 10 years, our range shows the experience we’ve garnered in both small-scale and large-scale production.
Our BMW i models are being improved all the time, and their technology is being employed to gradually electrify most series’ models from the BMW and MINI ranges. There has been a marked intensity in our investment, and we will now introduce the 25 electrified models previously announced for 2025 release in 2023, with more than half fully electric. Our goal is to have 500,000 electrified vehicles on the road worldwide by the end of 2019.
We are also focusing on driverless cars, as demonstrated with the opening of our Autonomous Driving Campus in 2018 in Germany. Autonomous driving promises virtually no road accidents, which warrants significant investment into research, and we are currently analysing possible critical road-based driving situations as well as using virtual simulation. Safety is our top priority; by the time we launch our Level 3 system in 2021, we will have clocked upwards of 240 million test kilometres, with around 95 per cent from simulation scenarios.
E-mobility as the new normal
Last year, the number of electric vehicles on the world’s roads exceeded five million, representing a 40 per cent increase on 2017. Although this is a significant jump, it’s important to debunk a few prohibitive perceptions before EVs become universally accepted in the global psyche as ‘normal’. For example, contrary to popular belief, there are many vehicle options to choose from with more and more brands entering the market. This will eventually result in a rise in the number of EVs on the road and improved infrastructure to support them.
Although EVs achieve, on average, around 320 kilometres or more per charge, there is a significant psychological consumer influence. To ensure that customers don’t suffer range anxiety, manufacturers must continue to reduce EV charging times and increase the pace at which they charge. It’s also important that policy makers focus on e-mobility and ensure the physical infrastructure is there to support it. Of course, there are challenges, such as cost. Many find EVs expensive, albeit cost-efficient following the initial investment. It is the batteries that bump up the cost, although these are gradually lowering in price.
There are also radical shifts occurring in four key areas that the industry must adapt to: autonomous driving, connectivity, electrification and services (ACES) such as car sharing. At BMW Group, we’ve been sure to meet the challenges of the digital age and play an active role in shaping developments. Our goal is to seamlessly integrate the customer’s digital lifestyle into our vehicles. This means systematically enhancing our offering to meet this aspiration and evolving into a mobility tech company. Connecting people, vehicles and services plays an increasingly important role and is impacting all areas. All these visions will go into series production in the new BMW iNEXT.
Partnerships are vital to accelerate and streamline the development of future technology and help the automotive industry tackle the technological challenges of ACES. Working together, we can cater more effectively to customer needs by shortening development time and bringing state-of-the-art technologies to market more rapidly.
Since 2016, BMW Group has established partnerships with specialists, suppliers and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to bring the technology to series maturity. The generation of technologies currently under development will go into series production as Level 3 automation in the BMW iNEXT in 2021. With this vehicle we hope to set the benchmark for highly autonomous driving and digital connectivity and will offer customers a fascinating mobility experience.
Our partnership with Daimler AG is a long-term, strategic cooperation aiming to make next-level technologies widely available in the next few years. We’re also working together in the field of mobility services, creating a new global player that provides sustainable urban mobility for customers. We are investing more than €1 billion to develop and more closely mesh our car sharing, ride hailing, parking, charging and multimodal transport offerings. The combination of both companies’ expertise is significantly boosting our innovative strength.
Our co-operation with Jaguar Land Rover is in the same vein and is something that evolved through our shared strategic vision of environmentally friendly and future-oriented electric drive technologies. We’ve joined forces to develop next-generation electric drive units in a move that supports the advancement of electrification technologies necessary to transition to an ACES future. We can both take advantage of cost efficiencies arising from shared development of future evolutions and production planning costs, as well as economies of scale from joint purchasing.
Regionally, BMW Group Middle East is working closely with our network of importers to ensure we give added value to our customers. This is already a reality at the BMW Group Training Centre in Dubai South, which was launched in February 2019. The state-of-the art facility is now a world-class training hub for BMW Group Middle East and its importers. We’re excited to be building an even more customer-oriented workforce.
Whispering power quietly
The coming years will see this region undergo a shift in consumption patterns, the adoption of more connected technology and increasing government emphasis on environmentally friendly solutions. These trends are already evolving and demand new business models. We predict that highly autonomous and partially autonomous vehicles will be key technologies for future mobility.
EVs play an important role in reducing carbon emissions and supporting the environment. We’ve been continuously increasing the efficiency of our combustion engines for many years. Our goal is emission-free mobility. With its sustainable 360-degree approach, our BMW i3 was a pioneer in electric mobility back in 2013. In 2018, we had already delivered more than 140,000 electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids worldwide, and we will continue to electrify all our brands and model series. Our aim is for all our plants worldwide to run on green electricity by 2020.
Taking social and environmental responsibility for everything we do is an integral part of how we perceive ourselves at BMW Group. Sharing environmental concerns, governments are spearheading initiatives to convert motorists to electrified vehicles. As a result of the Norwegian government offering tax exemptions and perks such as free parking and reduced tolls, Norway is the world’s undisputed leader for electric cars and around 70 per cent of BMWs on its roads are electric.
Dubai is also taking steps to encourage EV ownership and there are commendable efforts by road and energy authorities to persuade motorists to convert. All-electric cars can currently recharge for free at DEWA-approved stations, be registered for free with the RTA, enjoy zero renewal fees, obtain a free Salik tag, and also use free designated green parking spots in Dubai. In May 2017, the Dubai Police introduced a BMW i3 to its all-electric fleet, joining the plug-hybrid i8 which they have had since 2015. We’re encouraged by Dubai’s smart city vision and how progressive and conscientious the government is. These efforts warrant the significant investment we’re making in the region’s automotive future.
Our Dubai Training Centre enables us to continue to deliver unrivalled levels of service and care to our customers here. This is vital as regional customers are extremely service-oriented, demanding visually pleasing, sustainable models packed with performance capabilities. Even if the pace here is different from other regions, the automotive industry will also continue to see an increase in smarter, cleaner, and sustainable mobility.