One of the most significant issues affecting electric vehicle consumers today is vehicle range: considering how far the vehicle will be able to travel before the battery runs out of charge. This is an understandable concern and one that EV manufacturers have been working to address in recent years. One solution has been to equip EVs with navigation systems to indicate where charging stations are located and another has been to offer customers an optional combustion engine to generate electricity on board and to extend the vehicle’s range. A third solution has been to offer customers free roadside assistance in case the battery does end up losing charge during a trip.

BMW, the world’s largest manufacturer of luxury vehicles, will be offering all of these solutions for customers of its battery-powered i3. However, the company has also revealed a brand new solution for range anxiety: offering its customers free access to a SUV for several weeks a year. In other words, i3 owners have free access to a full-sized BMW X5 SUV for a few weeks each year for extended family trips and can continue to rely on their i3 electric vehicle for short, commuter trips.

The solution works well on multiple levels. On the one hand, customers will be able to drive the battery-powered i3 for daily trips, charge it overnight, and reduce vehicular emissions. On the other hand, vehicle owners will not have to worry about the occasional long-distance trip.

BMW i3

The BMW i3 is made of light weight Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic. Credit: BMW.

BMW i3 Interior

Pictured above is the interior of a BMW i3. The display options include a navigation system to indicate where charging stations are located, one way that many automobile manufacturers are helping to ease range anxiety. Credit: BMW.

On average, U.S. drivers travel less than 45 miles a day, according to a 2010 study done by Nathaniel S. Pearre, Willett Kempton, Randall L. Guensler, and Vetri V. Elango. The study, entitled “Electric Vehicles: How much range is required for a day’s driving?” also reveals that drivers rarely exceed a 100 mile range when travelling. (On average, drivers travel 100+ miles less than 7% of the time, or for 23 days a year.)

BMW’s solution to range anxiety fits in well with this finding, since the vast majority of customers will not need to travel over 100 miles on an average day and will be able to drive their BMW i3 for these regular, day-to-day trips. Yet the SUV will also be available for those 23 days a year that drivers need a longer vehicle range or do not want to have to plan their trip around charging station locations.

Whether or not BMW’s solution will be adopted by other EV manufacturers, however, remains to be seen.

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