Why BMW Is Tackling Car Sharing With the Electric i3

RONNY HARTMANN/AFP/Getty Images

RONNY HARTMANN/AFP/Getty Images

What would it take to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions without cramping the lifestyle of busy city residents? Automakers and governments alike are turning to car sharing in the densest urban centers, and electric vehicles are becoming a bigger part of that equation. In the latest effort by BMW, the automaker replaced ActiveE vehicles in the DriveNow car sharing service abroad with 100 models of the electric i3.

According to a company statement, BMW had a positive response to its green vehicles running in the DriveNow, which operates in Munich, Berlin, and Hamburg in addition to London and San Francisco, its only U.S. location. The automaker is dividing the 100 i3s across the three German cities with plans of adding more in London and around the world.

In addition to the problems faced by cities with respect to GHG emissions, the glut of vehicles hampering mobility in urban centers is creating even more problems for the population. German legislation aims to lessen the effects of stifling traffic by reserving parking spaces in the city for shared vehicles rather than privately owned cars. Initiatives aimed at increasing the number of EVs on the road may even have spots reserved only for electric cars.

“A significant change has taken place within the BMW Group,” said Dr. Bernhard Blättel, Vice President Mobility Services at BMW AG. “In line with our strategic goals, we are setting out to establish ourselves as the leading supplier of premium products and premium services for personal mobility worldwide.”

As Ford Motor Company has seen in its research into sharing and mobility, millennials are increasingly open to the idea of sharing cars and rides to better the transportation situation downtown. Yet obstacles remain in most American cities.

GERMANY-TRANSPORT-ENVIROMENT

RONNY HARTMANN/AFP/Getty Images

In places like New York City, electric vehicle charging stations are mostly located in parking garages, where drivers pay exorbitant parking fees in addition to covering the electricity and related service fees. Public chargers around the city are virtually nonexistent and, given the value per square inch of Manhattan and Brooklyn real estate, the situation is unlikely to change.

Only mandates from city and state governments would be able to move the needle when it comes to available charge ports, and automakers may have a hard time supplying the infrastructure that could electric cars downtown. (Tesla, the most high-profile of the electric car makers, has taken to establishing its own SuperCharger network around the world.)

Meeting the demand for green vehicles in congested cities is the best technique being deployed by automakers like Ford and BMW, and it appears that the private sector will have to lead the way outside of California. It is no coincidence that San Francisco is the only U.S. city accommodating the DriveNow service. Convenience and expense are two of the biggest obstacles to EV adoption and reducing the emissions in urban centers. Green car sharing is the way to address problems, which bodes well for BMW’s growing i3 fleet and its overarching mobility mission.

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