|During the i3's development, BMW often used a large city as a backdrop for the concept i3 photo shoots.|
BMW has all along told us that the i3 was designed for urban transport, a glimpse at the future of personal mobility in the megacities of the world. Heck, the code name for it was even "The Megacity Car." However now that the i3 has been available for over a year, BMW is realizing that the Megacity car is selling better outside the city limits.
I've never really accepted that the i3 would do well in the megacity markets, at least in the US, and I've voiced that opinion on many occasions. Having lived with electric cars for the past six years, I've had the experience of driving and charging in the both suburbs and in the city, so I'm intimately aware of the challenges of public charging. I live about 50 miles from New York City and go there frequently. Driving my electric cars to and around the city isn't a problem, however charging it there is. There just aren't enough places to charge your car there to make living with an EV in New York City palatable. There are public parking garages and a few lots that have EVSEs, but finding one that works is one problem. Then, if you're lucky enough to find a lot that has one which is working, you often have to fight with the attendant to make sure they plug you in once you've left your car there.
|This time in New York I was able to charge up at an underground parking garage, but only after 45 minuted on the phone with ChargePoint trying to get this unprovisioned station operational.|
|Electric range insufficient. Not what you want to see when you return to your car after leaving it in a public parking lot to charge. Luckily I had the range extender to fall back on.|
So it was no surprise when I read an article this week by Diana Kurylko of the Automotive News quoting BMW NA CEO Ludwig Willisch saying i3 sales have been weaker than expected in large cities like New York: "The strongholds in this country are parts of California, Texas and southern Florida, rather than large cities, he said" The article further says: "The big urban centers in the Northeast, especially New York City, haven't embraced the i3, Willisch said. Unlike Californians, he said, New Yorkers apparently don't have sustainability and the environment "at the top of minds." I don't think it's a lack of a desire to be sustainable as much as it's difficulty charging the car there. California has a much more mature public charging infrastructure, and most people there live in private residences, unlike New York City. Overall, BMW is pleased with US i3 sales, and they are on pace to sell about 12,000 i3s per year here, they just seem to be a little surprised where the sales are coming from. I'm certainly not surprised, and I even wrote a post about a year ago that said the i3 was better suited for suburban and country life than life in the city, and I listed the reasons why I believe that to be true.
|My i3 lives about 50 miles west of New York City... and fits in perfectly|
Accessibility to charging is paramount for daily EV life, and in New York the public charging infrastructure has a very long way to go before it becomes convenient enough for many more people to consider an EV if they live there. Life in the big city is tough enough, and fighting on a daily basis for somewhere to charge your car is probably something most New Yorkers aren't willing to deal with. However there is hope that things will get better. Last year New York City passed the "Charger Ready Bill" which requires all new construction in New York City to dedicate 20% of the new parking spaces for EV charging spaces. I actually was asked by Mayor Bloomberg's office to testify in front of the committees on buildings and transportation in favor of the bill, which I did. This law will dramatically increase the amount of public charging locations in New York City, but it will take years before the results are really seen.
So are megacities like New York ready for electric cars? Not really. Not yet, I'm afraid.