SINGAPORE (June 25): “Disruption” is the word of the decade, and it is happening in almost every industry. The automotive industry, in particular, has been impacted by everything from oil crises to private-hire car services. However, the most influential disruption of the past decade that will impact future mobility and the environment is the introduction of the electric vehicle (EV). 

BMW kicked off the era of electrification in 2011 when it launched the BMW i brand. Since then, it has introduced the BMW i3, the most succesful compact battery EV in the premium segment worldwide; the BMW i8, the most successful hybrid sports car in the world; and the widest range of plug-in hybrid vehicles in the market.

When first introduced, the sleek, futuristic design of the BMW i3 and i8 models caught everyone’s eye, but the beauty is more than skin deep. Both vehicles feature extremely lightweight but strong carbon fibre — a first for series production vehicles — and the exterior skin (excluding the roof) is thermoplastic, a material that is lighter than metal equivalents

What’s inside is even more exciting. Sections of the dashboard and trim of the BMW i3 are made from sustainably grown open-pore eucalyptus, adding a bit of zen to the interior. The fine leather upholstery in the BMW i3 and the all-new BMW i3s is tanned using olive leaf extract, a natural process that uses olive production byproducts to protect against fading and wear. And to top it off, the fabric in the seats is made from recycled bottles.

However sleek and innovative the BMW i models are inside and out, there are still barriers preventing buyers from choosing fully EVs. First is range anxiety, the worry that you might be stranded once the battery power is depleted. Fortunately, the current BMW i3 on sale in Singapore delivers a practical real-life range of 200km. And, yes, that’s with the air con running.

Another barrier to greater adoption across many markets is access to a reliable and extensive charging infrastructure. While the charging infrastructure in Singapore is still in its infancy stage, there is no denying it is a great start for the island city and will only grow in the coming years.

BMW Asia has been working with Greenlots and partners such as CapitaLand to build up the charging infrastructure in Singapore since 2014. There are currently 52 ChargeNow public EV charging stations at 36 locations across the island with another 17 stations across seven locations to be activated. Drivers can locate the charging stations nearest to them in the ChargeNow network by using the BMW Connected app and the BMW ConnectedDrive services in their vehicle’s navigation system for real-time status, pricing information and turn-by-turn directions. ChargeNow is a mobility service from BMW i and is the largest public charging network in Singapore.

Meanwhile, the Land Transport Authority and Singapore Economic Development Board will invest in 2,000 charging points between 2017 and 2020, with up to 400 available for public use. In February, Singapore electricity retailer Red Dot Power announced it would invest $500,000 to install at least 50 EV charging stations in the city state by the end of next year.

BMW also offers the BMW i Wallbox for fast home-garage charging or charging in a private parking space. This Wallbox offers a charging capacity of up to 22kW in a three-phase operation and can fully charge the battery of the BMW i3 in three hours and 30 minutes.

In the end, driving an EV is more than just a lifestyle choice; it is an environmentally conscious one. In late-May, Ulrich A Sante, ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Singapore, received the keys to a new BMW i3, making the German Embassy the first diplomatic mission in Singapore to employ an EV for official use.

“Global warming is a serious issue that is impacting our lives today and will continue to [do so] for years to come. Everyone can do their part to reduce the effects of this situation, and today I am proud to say the German Embassy in Singapore is doing its part by purchasing a BMW i3 electric car,” Sante had said. “By taking this step, we are significantly reducing our daily carbon dioxide emissions and thereby contributing to the ambitious objective of the Paris Agreement to keep the global temperature rise in this century well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

“Although electric cars still make up only a small percentage of cars on the roads in Singapore, we hope Singaporeans will follow our lead and make the choice to switch soon!”

On the topic of EVs, Paul de Courtois, managing director of BMW Group Asia says, “Singapore is the perfect market for EVs and we are committed to working with private and government organisations to drive adoption of EVs and improve the environment. As once said by Harald Krueger, CEO of BMW AG, the electric-car race is a marathon, not a sprint.”

Thanks to BMW’s forward thinking, the future of mobility is here. From practical daily transportation with zero tailpipe emissions combined with BMW luxury in the case of the BMW i3, to stunning supercar performance and looks of the i8 combined with up to 37km of electric-only range — with an even more exciting i8 Roadster coming to Singapore later this year — and the iPerformance range available now, the revolution has arrived. Its quiet electric power may be the reason you have not heard it.

When not reviewing cars and bikes, Tony Watts enjoys the good things in life.