How to drive an electric car - BMW studies our driving habits
What's the fuss about?
Why should how we drive our cars now matter to electric cars in the future? With electric cars you simply press the accelerator and go. Right?
BMW, however, doesn't see things quite so simply. It will be launching an all-new premium electric car in 2013, but it wants to know exactly how its city-dwelling customers of the future will use it long before the first cars roll off the production line.
What do they want to know?
BMW wants to know how people in big cities (the ideal environment for electric cars) use cars, when they use them, how long their journeys are, do they carry passengers and, if so, how many. In fact, BMW want to uncover all there is to know about owning a car in the city.
To help find out, BMW undertook extensive market research conducted in major cities around the world, including Barcelona, LA, London, Mexico City, Paris, the Ruhr valley conurbation in Germany, Shanghai and Tokyo – researchers even drove to and from work with BMW customers to try and further understand their driving behaviour.
The next stage of finding out how customers use electric cars was to give them one. In 2009 BMW launched the world's largest trial of electric vehicles when it gave 600 customers around the world the chance to run on of its all-electric Mini Es.
In the UK, the first part of the trial has recently ended with 20 private customers and 20 fleet customers handing back their cars after six month of ownership.
They paid £340 a month to lease the Minis and the results of the first trial are expected to be released around the time when a second six-month trial gets under way in September. The research will be published by Oxford Brooke University.
However, if the results reflect those of studies in Berlin towards the end of last year, then it should reveal some interesting habits.
Researchers found that:
• 80% of testers parked their car for more than five hours a day
• They charged their car on average two to three times a week
• They charged their car either at work or at home
• Few of the trailists used public charging points.
Research from Mitsubishi during trials of its i-Miev electric car was comparable, where the majority of journeys lasted just five miles (when a petrol or diesel engine would be at its most polluting). The cars were parked for 97% of the time and plugged in for 20% of the time – more than would be needed to recharge them after their journeys.