Wednesday, July 29, 2009

“Put a Plug in it“

Plug in America has crossed the line from advocacy to opposition. That is my opinion.

They could have and should have done a legislative piece about balancing and changing the CARB rules without throwing BMW and the Mini-E under the bus.

Here is their press release.
Judge for yourself.

Advocacy for plug in cars is something I whole heartedly support, ripping into one of the very few (two) car companies that has a Li freeway legal plug in Electric car on the road today is not.

It is my sincere hope that the Board of Directors of Plug in America do not allow board members or advisory board members who have family working for rival companies to launch into an ill informed hit piece against any company, especially a company who has 500 plug in vehicles on the road and a division dedicated to advancing plug in electric drive technologies.

The majority of the press release was sourced form two individuals and their issues with BMW. I note with significance that that their issues were not with the car or the performance of the car in general, but rather the company, during the deployment and with about a third of the cars going to fleets at near zero rates.

What the press release was not about, is BMW putting 500 plug in electric cars on the road, the large majority of them in private drivers hands and the complexities of that deployment. It was not about BMW Mini-E promoting excitement and media across the world for plug in cars. It was not about BMW waiving a months lease to show good faith to their drivers while dealing with some delays, It was not about how the Mini-E is part of the development process “BMW Project I” working towards a BMW city car coming in 2011-12 . It was not about the overwhelming satisfaction and emission free driving that the vast majority of drivers are getting from the Mini-E.

It was not about the fact that I, and hundreds of other Mini-E drivers, and thousands of others who ride in the car, and tens of thousand who see the car on the raod doing 85 on the freeways are now convinced that plug ins and electric vehicles are the future that we need (is that not a goal of Plug in America?)

None of these pro plug in facts were even touched on by Plug in America. Shame on them!

Plug In America advisory board member Chelsea Sexton said: "This is turning out to be a half-baked, poorly executed program by BMW, who is acting solely for the sake of regulatory compliance.

I disagree with vigor. What the program consist of is putting 500 plug-in BEV Mini-Es with Li batteries on the road. There has been straight talk from BMW from the beginning that this is a one year development field test program with no expectations that you will be able to buy the car. I reject 100% the argument that we are done with development and testing phase, that we should complain that this is just another test as opposed to a mass market retail product. The key component to the opening of the electric car world to the masses is the energy density of the Li batteries and that needs to be tested rigorously in all driving climates and conditions which is exactly what GM and several other car makers are doing…. Testing, just like BMW for their future BMW City Car

The press release further states

In contrast to BMW's lease plan, Nissan has announced a late 2010 delivery of 5,000 all-electric vehicles designed from the ground up and offered for sale for between $25,000 and $33,000, before federal tax credits. The Japanese auto company, recently awarded a $1.6-billion loan from the U.S. Dept. of Energy to build a battery plant and modify its existing Tennessee facilities, has also announced that it will deliver hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles in 2012.

There is an axiom that says “half a truth is worse than a lie.”

The Plug in America press release told half a truth and chastises BMW for the high cost of the Mine-E lease. It Ignores that a leased of financed Tesla can cost $2000 a month, and scolds BMW Mini-E that it will cast a negative impression on folks that Plug ins are expensive, while praising Nissan for offering for sale a market rate between $25,000 and $33,000, before federal tax credits car.”

That’s a half truth and they as plug in advocates know it, Nissan is going to sell you the car and then lease you the batteries. “Ghosn aims for Nissan's electric cars, minus the battery, to cost as much as a standard car. Consumers will lease the battery at a cost that, including charging, will match what they would have paid for gasoline. “

Any car company can make an electric car without the batteries for the same price as a car with a traditional gas drivetrain. The cost is in the batteries and the fact that Nissan is leasing the battery packs is a convenient omission by Plug in America to fit their “ BMW is the bad guy” story line.

Plug in America, you blew it. You gave a platform and the benefit of the doubt with the weight of the story to one disgruntled individual (who BMW has graciously agreed to be released from his lease obligations) and an ev entusiast who was cut from the program thus a bit of an axe to grind. Those voices while important, were not balanced by the hundreds of very satisfied Mini-E Drivers and the goals and accomplishments of the program.

The weight and credibility of Plug in America via this press release was then used by major media including the La Times to trash BMW in other stories.

It certainly tarnishes Plug in America in this plug in drivers mind.

That is regrettable.



  1. We at Plug In America would like to congratulate you for leasing one of the new all-electric BMW Mini E cars and look forward to hearing more from you about your EV experience. The good news is that yours is in private hands. We continue to believe that the best way to further the movement to electric transportation is to get as many regular citizens driving EVs on a daily basis as possible. The hundreds of us who have already been driving Toyota RAV4 EVs for years know that the technology is ready, and has been ready for over a decade. Our RAVs, still on their original battery packs, are proof of that.

    Regarding your criticism of our press release about CARB, and BMW subsequently gaming the system, we stand by our comments. Our research and analysis included talking to many more than just two Mini "Pioneers," and we continue to receive reports from people we haven't previously talked to that support our analysis. We are optimistic that lessees like you might be able to keep your cars for more than just one year. If this possibility winds up on the table, it will be because of the efforts of Plug In America.

    About the pricing issue for Nissan's new LEAF EV, we have confirmed our understanding that the cars they will be releasing in the US are not being artificially reduced in price via a battery-leasing option. The full battery cost is reflected in Nissan's introductory price estimate of under $35,000, according to Nissan spokesman Tim Gallagher. The company continues to have a partnership with Better Place, however, and that program may produce cars with swappable battery packs and/or battery leasing. Nothing definitive has been announced yet, and we're all staying tuned to see what develops in the months to come.

    Thanks again for being a BMW EV Pioneer. We look forward to hearing more about your experience with the car, except the part about going 85mph, of course. We already know how fast EVs can go! Please stay safe.


    Dan Davids
    Plug In America

  2. Dan,

    Thank you for your comments and congratulations.

    I agree with your organization and your release regarding amending the ever changing CARB rules. BMW followed the rules set for all car makers, it’s just that all car makers were not making plug in electrics to take advantage of the rules clearly crafted to promote such plug ins. After that we part ways.

    The BMW Mini-E appears to be the plug in car (one of two now on the road) that Plug In America hates by any neutral reading of your release. That is regrettable because it’s a great plug in electric car in a field trial involving mostly private drivers. That trial is part of a larger corporate strategy to deliver more plug in electric cars in the future.;do=show/site=a4e/sid=18335681704a76eb0d71ad6373617873/alloc=1/id=10190

    A person would think that BMW would get accolades from an organization called Plug in America who advocates for plug in electric cars. This is hardly as your advisory board member said, solely for regulatory compliance and half baked.

    I did not know Plug In America was a key player in the lease conversations with BMW but if you are, and if it is because of Plug In America that the leases could be extended, I am happy to hear about that and thank you very much.

    That is big news.

    What you have said regarding the Nissan in your press release and in response to my writing appears to be in contrast to what the LEAF Website says, still not determined regarding battery lease or sale, and the Nissan CEO.

    Yesterday, the CEO of Nissan at the unveiling said "The price of the five-passenger electric Leaf will be “competitive,” Ghosn said at the unveiling. Excluding battery, it will cost about the same as an equivalent gasoline-powered car, he said."

    His words are identical to the words used in my rebuttal to your release that you take issue with.

    This is the car you contrasted with the Mini-E calling the Mini-E exorbitant at $850 a month and praising the Nissan as a market rate electric car. You just forgot about the rest of Ghosn’s words “Excluding batteries.”

    The LEAF will be a a nice addition to the ev world.

    My perspective is that you ripped into BMW needlessly and your assumptions and comparisons were wrong.

    But hey, It’s America! We have a great way of solving these disagreements.

    How about the two of us have a beer and talk about our passions for Plug in Electric Cars!

    I do appreciate the efforts of your organization.

    Mini-E# 183

    Living and Driving on Sunshine

  3. Interesting commentary by both of you. Shirts are hitting the USPS train starting tomorrow.