Fuel for thought - Could it be too much?

Fuel for thought - Could it be too much?

I'm still slowly digesting the data supplied in the launch announcement for the significant new BMW EV, the i4. The sporty M50 variant apparently weighs 2.3 tonnes unloaded, and its electric motor delivers 537bhp. It somehow makes me feel that we are entering the realms of science fiction, and I am personally quite appalled by the ridiculous level of performance being offered. No doubt it will be explained that with its braking energy recovery, it is nevertheless a phenomenally efficient vehicle, in spite of its 0-62mph figure of 3.9 seconds, and an arguably quite pointless maximum speed of 140mph, whilst lesser i4 variant owners have to get by with a mere 118mph top speed.

But affluent electric vehicle enthusiasts with a caravanning bent will be delighted to discover that the i4 can actually pull a caravan of up to 1,600kg. I still don't know the real reasons why so many other EVs cannot (with the approval of the manufacturer) tow even relatively modest weights, but BMW seems to have overcome the problems with the i4. I have read, and been told, that EV energy recovery systems cannot handle the deceleration, with the higher kinetic energy of a heavy electric vehicle pulling a decently heavy caravan. But it surely cannot be quite as simple as that? The kinetic energy of a body is proportional to half its mass, times its velocity squared – 0.5MV2. So any EV travelling solo at 100mph, from which presumably it can stop safely, has four times the kinetic energy that it does at 50mph. Yet it has only twice that of the solo figure when towing a 'van of equal weight at 50mph. Many (most) EVs cannot tow caravans of even half their own weight – it just does not make sense!

On an entirely different issue, the whole situation regarding the finance of new cars, expensive EVs in particular, is somewhat farcical. Many private buyers are financing new EVs they cannot really afford to buy by leasing and personal contract hire, often with maintenance and other replaceable items included. It's just about the only way a lot of people can afford many EVs. But first you need a sizeable deposit, maybe generated from the disposal of your old car, if it has any equity in it from the previous PCP. Fortunately, just now, that may be the case for many, with the recent explosion in used car values. So punters then take on such leasing plans, which sound like a nice simple deal, at an interest rate of maybe five, seven, or even nine per cent APR, that looks pretty cheap alongside credit card interest rates. It is actually a very nice little earner for finance companies borrowing at under three per cent APR, and the car retailer's cut from interest charges of several thousand pounds on the deal probably far exceeds any profit they make on the car itself. But down the line, three or four years later, when the lessee with personal leasing comes to hand the car back, they have absolutely no equity in the car they are then driving. Look back at their deposit and the monthly payments, and you discover that over 36 or 48 months, and 36,000 or 48,000 miles, they have possibly paid out as much as £1 a mile in leasing costs, without even factoring in charging electricity and insurance costs. It totally overshadows those headline low EV charging costs, and it leaves them penniless, with no deposit whatsoever to fund the next car.

Let's go back then to the £63,905 BMW i4 M50, perhaps financed with a deposit of say £6,000, and 48 payments of around £800 a month. To that you need to put away another £150 a month to generate the £7,000 deposit to finance the next new lease car. Just how many i4 M50s are BMW UK expecting to move, and what proportion of our readers can possibly afford such extravagance? I see it strictly as a car for highly imaginative tyre kickers. Having written the above, some days later I'm now reading about rumours of the next generation BMW 5 Series, with a range topping 750bhp V8 M5 PHEV costing six figure money. Like the i4 M50, it will steam into the DC and EC data pages, based on its fraudulent CO2 emissions, but can we really think of it as an Eco Car?

“Many private buyers are financing new EVs they cannot really afford to buy...”

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