It looks like European drivers are turning their backs on battery-electric vehicles (BEV), before the technology has even had a chance to grow and develop. Well, that’s if you believe the German car-making giant’s development director, Klaus Frölich. Strangely, quite a few people don’t.
“There are no customer requests for BEVs. None,” claimed Frölich, speaking at a round-table event earlier this week, and reported in Forbes.com on Thursday.
No BEV infrastructure
“Carmakers are playing a high-risk game where they’re deliberately postponing sales of cleaner cars to maximize SUV-fueled profits,” said a spokesperson for Transport & Environment, a lobby group pushing transport policies based on sustainable development. Frölich responded by arguing that European customers are not prepared to risk an EV because the “infrastructure is not there.”
“If we have a big offer… we could flood Europe and sell a million (BEV) cars but Europeans won’t buy these things, [and] from what we’ve seen, BEVs are for China and California.”
Everywhere else, he argues, is better off with with a PHEVs (a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle, whose battery can be recharged either externally or from a small internal generator) or an EV (an electric vehicle using one or more motors for traction).
“The shift to electrification is overhyped,” added Frölich. “Battery-electric vehicles cost more in terms of raw materials for batteries. This will continue and could eventually worsen as demand for these raw materials increases.”
However, demand for electric cars, at least in the UK, appears strong, and getting stronger. According to a Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders report published late last year, 1 in 12 new car purchases in the UK in August 2018 were electric, with demand for hybrid and plug-in cars surging by 88.7% on the year.
Meanwhile, in Germany, according to comparison and pricing website InsideEVs, plug-in electric car sales in the country continued to grow in April this year, at almost 35% yearly, now just under 3% of the total market share.
Lessons from history
Twitter uses also appeared highly skeptical. One user, EV Maps, self-described as an ‘early adopter of all things tech’, commented that this is “clearly nonsense as there are 12+ month waiting lists for virtually all EVs in the UK, there’s hardly a lack of demand. The only reason those waiting list times aren’t getting longer and longer is people are giving up and going PHEV instead.”
While another said that “Nokia said the same about phones with keyboards, Kodak about cameras and film. And a 100 years ago the farriers, hay balers and muck sweepers thought they had secure businesses too.”
Another asked, “Where did he got those numbers from? None? In Europe? Norway is full of EVs, Tesla deliveries in the UK are through the roof, and this guy says there’s no demand.”
BMW is set to build 25 new plug-in models by 2025, including several BEVs and PHEVs. The assumption of 30% of electrified sales by 2025, concluded Frölich, would see 80% of our vehicles retaining an internal combustion engine.