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The information gathered in the driver experience questionnaires and interviews is being used by a variety of organisations involved in the trial to inform their product development and strategic planning around the increased popularity of electric vehicles.
The study has informed companies of the major issues faced by EV drivers in this critical period that will lead to their widespread commercialisation. In this way, the work of Oxford Brookes has accelerated the pace of innovation and increased the likelihood that EVs will be brought to market successfully.
In response to our findings (PDF), BMW developed the new position of EV Mobility Consultant and began the construction of showrooms specific to EVs. Together, these will ensure drivers’ needs are met and that the transition to these new types of vehicle is smooth. In addition, BMW explicitly acknowledge that our findings fed into the design and delivery of their new EV range, the i3 (to be released in the UK Autumn 2013) and i8 (expected late 2014/early 2015). In particular, they responded to drivers’ concerns over long-distance travel by offering the vehicle with a range-extending combustion engine and through a scheme by which drivers of the new i3 and i8 models will be able to lease a conventional vehicle from the manufacturer on occasions when travel exceeding the range capabilities of the EV is expected.
Suzanne Gray, General Project Manager of Project i at BMW said, 'The early project findings [of the Mini-E trial] ... informed the development of the 2011 BMW ActiveE, a four-seat car based on the BMW 1 Series coupe, but the biggest beneficiary will be the BMW i3, the first purpose-built EV from the BMW Group, due in 2013. This information has also helped to inform UK policy-making decisions and other EV market stakeholders. The 40 Mini Es are still on UK roads in partnership activities which continue to promote awareness and understanding of electric vehicles, and they [formed] part of the BMW Group UK’s official vehicle fleet for the London 2012 Olympic Games. The feedback from the [ULCV] trial has been invaluable in helping our understanding of how people respond to electric cars and other factors necessary to support electric car drivers. With this information we will be in a strong position to provide a well-rounded product and service proposition to customers of the BMW i3 and to work with other players in the electric vehicle market to make it a successful experience for a new generation of users.'
Critics' early reviews ahead of the general launch have been overwhelmingly positive for the i3, with many suggesting that it could be a game-changer in the EV market, taking them out of the 'niche' category and into the general motor market.
The work of the ULCV team has been disseminated through initial and final reports and presentations to the Technology Strategy Board, car manufacturers, energy suppliers, and to government departments and agencies (Dept. for Transport, Business Innovation and Skills, Dept. of Energy and Climate Change, The Office for Low Emission Vehicles). In addition, the team have engaged the wider community through conference presentations and academic journal articles, to drive awareness of this electric research.