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Can electric mean luxury?

Despite generous government grants, sales in the UK of electric cars have remained stubbornly sluggish. Last year, only 1,200 of us bought cars that were solely powered by electricity. In comparison, we bought some 2 million normally powered cars.

Despite generous government grants, sales in the UK of electric cars have remained stubbornly sluggish. Last year, only 1,200 of us bought cars that were solely powered by electricity. In comparison, we bought some 2 million normally powered cars. Sales are rising, slowly, but then they could scarcely get lower. That situation may be about to change as one prestige marque introduces its first luxury electric cars onto the market. BMW is the world's largest manufacturer of luxury cars and this week saw the launch of its first electric model, the i3. The car is said to be the first in a range of electric cars from the German giant and features range enhancing innovations, like a lightweight carbon fibre and plastic body.

BMW is basing its new offering on the belief that the market is ready for a more premium experience in the electric vehicle market. They say that this niche will also be boosted as more people tend to live in cities and the government clamps down hard on emissions. A BMW spokesman at the launch claimed: "More and more people are living in cities, with restrictions on travelling into the city; both emissions and access. As time goes on, these legal restrictions will become ever tighter. We've looked at the driving profiles of people in metropolitan regions and a car with a range of 150km (93 miles), which needs to be charged two to three times a week, is something which meets people's needs completely."

BMW may be right but so far there has been little sign that the British motoring public is convinced. Concerns persist about range and the danger of being stranded somewhere with a dead car. This 'range anxiety' is joined by the limitations imposed by long, often overnight, charging times. BMW has a host of measures to address these concerns, though. The i3 will come as part of a package that includes a normally powered car for use during holidays. The company will also install a charging station at home and the cars will ship with sat-nav to guide them to the nearest charging station when out on the road. The i3 will also come with the option of a small petrol engine, which can extend the car's range to around 180 miles. In future, BMW plans to assist its electric vehicle drivers with a mobile charging service for stranded drivers.

The BMW i3 will go on sale in the UK in November. Prices will be from £25,680, including the government's £5,000 electric vehicle grant.
 

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