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Published on January 30th, 2014 | by Zachary Shahan


BMW Chief Thinks BMW i3 Is Greenest Car On Planet & Better Than The Model S?

January 30th, 2014 by  

I almost passed this one up, since it’s not all that useful of a story, but it’s hard to not cover wild claims made by a BMW chief. It’s also hard to avoid jumping into discussions comparing two of the hottest electric cars on the planet — perhaps the two hottest. Also, the story triggered an interesting thought in my mind, so I felt compelled to just go ahead and share, after publishing over on my EV site, EV Obsession.

The BMW i3 and the Tesla Model S aren’t even in the same class, but they’re close enough that there seems to be a bit of rivalry going on between them, or at least that’s what the media likes to argue.

BMW i3 and me at Arc de Triompf in Barcelona, Spain. (This image is available for republishing and even modification under a CC BY-SA license, with the key requirement being that credit be given to Zachary Shahan / EV Obsession / CleanTechnica, and that those links not be removed.)

BMW’s North America chief, Ludwig Willisch, recently claimed that the BMW i3 was the “greenest” car out there, apparently taking a shot at the Tesla Model S. The i3 may very well be “greener” than the Model S, but I think it’s quite a stretch (an incorrect one) to say that it’s the greenest car out there. We’re yet to see an official MPGe for the i3, but I don’t think it will beat the current frontrunners. And while the production process is important, MPGe rules the day when it comes to being green.

But aside from the above, this claim also made me think of something else — which car is “greening the world” more? In more specific terms, which car is inspiring more people to go electric?

The BMW i3 has a lot of appeal. As I noted, it’s the nicest car I’ve ever driven. Surely, it will bring many a non–EV lover into the EV fold. However, I don’t think there’s any chance it is going to do so to the same degree that Tesla has done with the Model S. Sorry, BMW, but the Model S is widely considered the best mass-manufactured car on the planet. It got Consumer Reports‘ top rating ever, and it is inches away from landing an unprecedented 100/100 on their scale. I think the i3 is a great car, but I don’t think it compares to the Model S.

Unfortunately, Willisch did take a pointed stab at the Model S in his recent statements. He noted that the Model S is “very heavy on the braking. Our car feels just like a normal car. That’s a big difference when it comes to driving.” Hmm, haven’t seen anyone else make such claims….

As I noted and recorded back in August, when asked about the BMW i3, Tesla Motors CEO & Chief Product Architect Elon Musk laughed. However, I personally think that laugh was blown out of proportion. If you listen to the recording, the questioner starts laughing first, which brings Elon to a sort of awkward laugh.

Nonetheless, Elon’s follow-up statement once the two of them stopped chuckling was pretty critical: “there’s room to improve on the i3, and I hope that they do.” Notably, Elon isn’t the only one to have made this statement — I’ve read it numerous times from other EV owners and reporters. I haven’t heard Elon comment on the i3 since then, but I think BMW’s leadership would be better off not starting a very public comparison of the i3 and the Model S.

In summary:

  • The BMW i3 is certainly green, but I don’t think anyone can claim it’s the greenest car on the planet.
  • The BMW i3 is arguably greener than the Model S… but I don’t think it will “green the world” as much as the Model S.
  • The BMW i3 is a superb car — I’d buy it over just about any other car — but it’s not the Model S, if you know what I mean.


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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA] — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in this company and feels like it is a good cleantech company to invest in. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort on Tesla or any other company.

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