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BMW quicker than Tesla to bring "Bluestar" to the market?

http://green.autoblog.com/2011/05/17/bmw-i3-priced-at-35k-with-160-mile-...

Pretty much the specification I'd expect from Tesla's "Bluestar" model. Is BMW stealing the show?

Update: The 160 mile range seems to be a conversion mistake. More like 160 km (100 miles). This of course leaves the door open for a model from Tesla with a more versatile range...

BMW cannot even commit to sell an EV in limited numbers now, I'll be shocked if they even sell an ev by 2013 let alone mass produce one.

The $35k price tag is a pipe dream BTW.

The $35k price tag is a pipe dream BTW.

Only time will tell. Not many were convinced that Tesla could make its target in terms of range and price, either. Maybe you'll be shocked! ;-)

The roadster is $109k and the Model S is $57k, hardly cheap for an automaker with low overhead and battery prices that are half of the big automakers.

If Bmw brings a $35k EV to market, it will be an econobox with pathetic range and performance.

Don't get me wrong, I love EV's and want them to totally replace ICE cars, but most automakers are stalling or building pathetic looking/performing Ev's at the moment, especially Daimler/BMW.

Alot of companies are planning to produce EV's that they don't expect to sell, or that they don't expect to make money on, for the purpose of bringing up their average fleet vehicle efficiency. I could prove to be cheaper to lose money on selling EV's than to re engineer their entire fleet for the new CAFE rules.

Mittar, I second that. Big automakers (Nissan included) are foraging into the EV filed with money-losing cars. They can afford that, for image, and/or increasing fleet efficiency on paper.

That's actually a good thinking from carmakers. Even if they sell these EV:s losing money now tech advances and they don't need to do it for long. So even if it is way to "cheat" CAFE regulations it is good for future for these companies as well. It's a win win win -scenario for us EV enthusiasts.

I agree that it is extremely unlikely that BMW is going to make any money on a $35k EV. Point is, to BMW it does not matter. There is only one thing that would really hurt them now: Make it an econobox with pathetic range and performance.

I agree that most automakers were stalling or building pathetic looking/performing EVs, including BMW. However, at the time those projects may have had the purpose to "prove" that EVs are not viable. That's a convenient finding for a gas-guzzler company.

However, times are changing and if at some point BMW actually wants to bring a successful EV to the market, they have a couple of huge advantages over Tesla (all of which are so obvious that they are hardly worth mentioning):

  • As it was said before, BMW could care less about buying their entry into the market by selling one or two models at a loss. Tesla cannot afford no loss no more.
  • BMW has a lot of experience in designing cars. Yes, EVs are different, but car design is not only about center of gravity, either. It's also, e.g., about user experience/user interface, an area where BMW excels in my opinion.
  • BMW has a huge infrastructure in place to support the entire process from research to design to manufacturing to selling and service. What is more, the infrastructure is already paid for by their successful ICE models. The amount and cost of adjustments necessary to use this infrastructure to support EVs is up to debate, but its mere existence is certainly to BMW's advantage.

Tesla deserve all the credit for facilitating EVs that (to a large degree) can actually replace gas guzzlers. They also must be credited for lighting the fire under the ICE industry's ass. I am happy about it and I support Tesla by holding a reservation for the Model S and by holding stock. Still I wonder when the indisputable advantages of the established automakers will start to kick in and dwarf Teslas efforts and achievements.

@qwk, why should Tesla have battery prices that are half of the big automakers? This does not make sense to me. Yes, they may have had an advantage in battery prices at some point, but in my opinion that must be attributed to the fact that the big ones were not seriously interested. I do not see any reason why any of the big ones should pay more for the same battery cells than Tesla, more like the other way around. And Panasonic is not the only battery cell manufacturer in the world.

@Volker EU#P1

You are misinformed on some key points. You should learn a bit more about a company in which you are invested. General EV battery cost is in the range of $500-$600/kwh. Tesla's cost is $200-$250/kwh. That's because they are the only ones who are riding on the back of the consumer electronics industry, using 18650 cells that have already payed for the manufacturing infrastructure. There is a huge market here that advances by itself (around 8% cheaper and 8% more capacity every year). That's why Daimler and Toyota have Tesla build batteries / power trains for them.

Moreover, all other EVs / hybrids use DC motors which need powerful magnets which need rare earths. China has a quasi-monopoly on those metals' production capacity (not resources, but still a 5-10 year lead). Tesla use their own design of AC induction motor that is not only more powerful and efficient, but more sustainable.

Tesla developed a new car with a new tech and bought / equipped the manufacturing facility for $.5B while an established company needs about $1B for a new model with the same tech and the same factories - not to mention that they did it faster. I just don't see where is their advantage !

As for the experience, yes, Tesla is young ! But they hired the best engineers / designers around and once the Model S will be successful, they will have no (serious) disadvantage compared to any car company.

Nicu, thank you for the additional insight. I did not know about the rare earths aspect of Tesla's AC induction motor vs. off-the-shelf DC motors.

I did know about the "trick" with the 18650 cells, though. And of course, everybody in the industry does. So my logic goes like this: Others could use 18650 cells as well, if they like.

I understand that the packaging of the 18650 cells is Tesla's key advantage at the moment. When talking about battery cost, you must be fair and consider the entire package. The cells may be relatively cheap, but Tesla has massively invested in the packaging, i.e., the research cost must be taken into account, as well as the cost to manufacture each individual package. The cells are just a part of that.

When other car manufacturers decide to go with different, more expensive battery tech, it is their call. They may argue that developing a safe and durable package of 18650 cells, like Tesla did, is too expensive or takes too long, or they may have other arguments in favor of other battery tech. My point is: Tesla has no monopoly on 18650-based EV batteries, therefore I cannot see how the price of 18650 cells is an advantage for them. They certainly have a lead in packaging those cells, but the cost for this advantage still have to amortize with each car sold.

Tesla developed a new car with a new tech and bought / equipped the manufacturing facility for $.5B while an established company needs about $1B for a new model with the same tech and the same factories - not to mention that they did it faster. I just don't see where is their advantage! (Nicu)

Tesla has made great achievements, there is no doubt about that. And they have been damn lucky with that plant, to be sure. Why do the established automakers spend 1B on a new model? My guess is: Because they can afford it. Tesla did not have a choice. Either they pull off a revolution (which seemingly they do), or they are doomed. The mere fact that they did not have 1B was probably a major reason why they did not spend it. And don't forget two other things: They have yet to sell the Model S (although reservations are promising, the money is not yet in the bank), and 20.000 units is peanuts for the big automakers.

Up until this year, the big ones did not see any reason to take Tesla seriously, and to make any attempt to compete with Tesla. Up to some point, of course, sheer size is a disadvantage which Tesla turned into an advantage for them. I agree with you. An ocean liner cannot be abruptly stopped, and it has one hell of a turning circle. But once it is tuned into the right direction, you are having a hard time stopping it, and Tesla may find itself tumbling in the bow wash. I am not talking about 2011 or 2012, more like 5 to 10 years ahead.

I'm not very concerned about BMW, Nissan or any of the currently active EV developers as competition for Tesla. I get worried when VW group (VW itself, Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, SEAT and Škoda) gets interested. Porsche, which VW group owns nearly half, is perfect platform to build EV, already aerodynamic front design, they only need to adjust the rear end of their car to make pure EV. There is already indication that they are doing some research (hybrid Porsche racing cars/KERS in all their incoming models).

When Porsche gets serious with EV Tesla gets direct competition in exactly same class of vehicles, and Porsche has a lot of experience how to make very good relatively cheap fast cars (in both top speed and cornering).

:) in 5 (resp. 10) years, Tesla will sell 500k (resp. 1-3M) cars a year.

This is Apple of the automotive world. Apple was almost broke a little more than 10 years ago but they managed to keep the startup mindset for a long time. They become the huge boat with the agility of a motorcycle.

Tesla is about the same, only 10 years younger. Unless there is some serious cataclysm (economic, war or otherwise) or some magic scientific discoveries (e.g. EEstor, General Fusion - some may be good for Tesla, others may just render it superfluous), Tesla will rule on top of them all dinosaurs - with the condition to succeed with the Model S and become profitable in at most two years.

Timo, you most probably have heard about the eRUF Porsche? If not, go Google. :-) It just proves you right.

@volker eu

You are forgetting about patents. Other manufacturers have no choice ; go with large format or licence Teslas tech.

Since it takes a very long time for big automakers to develop a new model, Tesla has between 5-10 years minimum before any car even comes close to matching range or performance at the same price.

When a Tesla rep is interviewed, they are always asked about competition, and they always reply that their goal is to electrify the automotive industry. So, egging the big boys into the market, and even into direct competition is in line with what Tesla is trying to accomplish. There's plenty of money out there to be made, a little competition won't hurt anything.

qwk, I understand that patents exist but I find it hard to believe that GM or some other big auto company could not easily use 18650 cells and use standard antifreeze and individual regulators/fuses with minimal concern about patents or paying a very small license fee. They must have other reasons. These may not be cost or efficiency or even sensible reasons, but reasons none the less. My brother who worked at GM over 10 years ago as an engineer was continually amazed at the strange choices that were made. Often done because of personal power or odd budgetary constraints such as save a penny but some other department spends a pound.

IE I believe smaller, newer companies can compete and win.

One of the very likely reasons is cannibalizing sales. If GM came out with a 300 mile range EV in the same market segment as an ICE model they sell, they will loose sales of the ICE car.

It's going to be very difficult for existing manufacturers to switch over to decent EV's. I bet a fair share of automakers will not make it.

To respond to the original post; The article is pretty short on details, and I'm fairly sure the 160 mile number is actually 100 km. Also, the car goes from 0-60 in 9 seconds, which by the way is slower than the leaf. Finally, even without the camo paint, that is one ugly car.

Steal the show by coming out with an ugly, slow, short range car a year after the Model S is in production? Hardly.

There's also a key point I think is missed in a lot of discussion. Anyone can strap a battery under and hook it to a motor. Tesla expertise is in the configuration of the cells and in the electronics. The thermal control of the batteries and the way in which they are charged and discharged has a huge impact on the life of the battery, and in that respect I believe Tesla has more expertise than any other company.

did you mean to say "160 mile number is actually 100 miles" (i.e. they meant to say 160 km)?
You said they meant 100 km which is closer to 62.5 miles which would be very laughable if that it is what they are offering ...

Let's not underestimate the resources of OEM's like BMW or VW. If they want (and I think they don't just yet) they can free resources to develop a good EV very quickly. I suspect they will stay on the side of the road raking in the profits from ICE driven cars (have you seen the quarterly results of automakers?) until market conditions force them to step in the EV market.

I think there is one "chicken and egg" problem which is causing them to wait, namely existence of charging stations. There are no charging stations if there are no EV:s and vice versa. Unfortunately betting that governments support unused charging stations isn't really very smart move, that is why there is so few real EV:s, almost all of them are city cars with very limited range.

Tesla is exception and driving the change from city cars to real cars. More than double the range of its competition it is capable of some real traveling, which prompts the need for charging stations.

Soon things will change with battery tech advances large range EV becoming cheap enough to be useful to main population without very dense charging station network. This then means end of the ICE age.

It's rare for a company to survive a major transition in their core technology.

In the early days of the transistor, the dominant technology was electron tubes. Companies were formed to develop and sell the transistors. Despite the fact that early transistors had limited performance, were expensive and hard to make, and weren't even all that reliable, those with the foresight to invest and stick it out eventually ended up owning the market.

Some of the tube companies realized that transistors were a threat, and started making transistors themselves. But they had an established, successful and profitable tube business, and it was difficult to argue that they should pour resources into transistors. In the end none of the tube companies survived.

There are no guarantees that cars will play out the same way, but the same dynamic is at work. Tesla is a "native" EV company and they will do everything they can to optimize and sell EV technology. Existing companies have a lot of legacy ICE technology. They need to make a radical decision to throw that away; that's very hard to do.

Nissan appears to "get it", but who knows if they'll persevere. It depends on their CEO turning the ship. GM, Volvo, etc. seem to be going about it in a half-hearted way. Their future is uncertain.

With demand exceeding supply - and this is only going to get worse - gas prices are going to go up. They won't just go up, though, there will be wild swings in the price both up and down. This will be extremely disruptive both to the economy in general and to car manufacturers in particular.

Maybe BMW will execute a Bluestar-like car faster than Tesla, but I wouldn't count on it. It's not a slam-dunk for any manufacturer. Tesla does have a significant chance of becoming a major player in the industry.

Big automakers (Nissan included) are foraging into the EV filed with money-losing cars. They can afford that, for image, and/or increasing fleet efficiency on paper.

Increasing fleet efficiency "on paper" means that you've increased fleet efficiency. Period. Actually , I seriously doubt that Nissan will sell enough Leafs to make any appreciable difference.

"Don't get me wrong, I love EV's and want them to totally replace ICE cars, but most automakers are stalling or building pathetic looking/performing Ev's at the moment, especially Daimler/BMW."

Stalling my foot. Too many automakers are trying to build low costs Evs and end up with crappy, impractical vehicles like the Volt and the Leaf.
The market simply isn't there for $40K electric cars that have a range of less than 100 miles, regardless of how much the Feds tax
in order to subsidize those who will buy.
If I were an automaker I wouldn't offer an electric at "lower price ranges" (LOL) - they make zero sense. Notice that Elon Musk pointedly observed that lower cost EVs will have to wait for lower cost batteries. Tesla is not going to build an impractical EV simply because BMW does. Only EVs with decent ranges and recharge times are practical and right now they only exist at Tesla. And regardless of who builds them, they will cost a lot and therefore can only be competitive at upper price levels. Battery prices totally control the EV business, and low cost practical EVs are nonexistent because they are impossible to build.

Go Ramon123

@Timo;
"end of the ICE Age". Cute. Surprised I haven't seen it before!

Ramon123,

I'm not sure I can even settle for a ~100 mile vehicle of much lower general quality than the Model S even though it may be $17000 less.

I just wish we could get enough rapid charging stations that people in general see that they can go where they want.

There are already enough 70A J1772 stations between Seattle and LA to make it, but travel time is going to be about double that for an ICE. I hope that there can be enough of the 480V stations set up that you can make it in less than 25% more travel time than for an ICE. As it is, even with the 70A stations it may not be quite as bad as double, since you're probably still stop overnight, and stop for an hour at each station, even with ICEs.

For Tesla users that means we're going to have to have the high voltage AC stations compatible with Teslas.

BMW certainly aims at Tesla's market segments. Their weakness is the electrical part. Currently they try to fill the void through a JV with Siemens and Samsung. Both are very large companies. Such JV's are hard to manage and whether they will be able to deliver the electrics for more than a relatively short range (the often quoted 100m/160km) car is anyones guess. It is likely that Tesla can hold on to its current lead for the time being.
Do not assume that to match Tesla's drivetrain is a simple affair.
- Alfred
http://web.me.com/alfredar/

I'm not very concerned about BMW, Nissan or any of the currently active EV developers as competition for Tesla. I get worried when VW group [...] gets interested. (Timo)

Timo, you may be right. I just came across an article that is already 6 months old (and in German, linked from AlfredG's website):
http://www.teczilla.de/vw-elektroautos-mit-800-km-reichweite-bis-2020/12844

Essentially, it says that Martin Eberhard is now working for Electronics Research Laboratary (ERL) which is a Volkswagen research center. Eberhard is quoted stating that Volkswagen is looking into using a cluster of 18650 cells similar to Teslas battery package.

You are forgetting about patents. Other manufacturers have no choice ; go with large format or licence Teslas tech. (qwk)

That is certainly an issue, but not a show stopper. The race has only just begun... :-)


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