Monday, June 30, 2014

EV Business Case - Shopping for an EV - 3rd Chapter

Click here if you missed the first chapter...

...Or the second.

Test Drive




Smart

After a few delays and phone calls  to schedule a meeting, i finally got to test drive the electric Fortwo in downtown Lisbon.

A friendly salesperson asked me if i had any experience with electric cars (Negative answer), making made a brief introduction to the car and technology, saying that it was the fuel source of the future.

After sitting in the car and explaining me the main features in the car, i finally got to drive it around town, where it felt just perfect, small enough to travel around through narrow, ancient streets of old neighborhoods, and powerful enough to climb steep hills and sprint through heavy traffic. Oh, and because it doesn't have that nasty gearbox of ICE Smarts, it is a much more relaxed drive than their gas siblings.

Back to the dealership, i considered that the car didn't justified the huge price difference regarding their ICE siblings, to which the sales person replied that he couldn't make a significant discount on it because few were sold and there wasn't enough scale to lower the price, leaving the possibility for me to buy a gasoline Fortwo or renting the Fortwo ED as alternatives.

Smart believes that electric cars are still for a few single-minded people that buy more with their heart than with their wallet.




BMW

I've saved the best for last, when i got into the dedicated BMW "i" dealership in downtown Lisbon (In a strategic spot, with other dealerships nearby, like Audi, Peugeot, Toyota or Chevrolet), the first thing that it struck me was how different it looked from other dealerships(1), Premium or non Premium, with minimalist decoration and a nice contrast between colors, it looked more like i've entered an Art Gallery than a car dealership. 

Two minutes after getting inside the dealership, i'm greeted by a salesperson in a "i" polo shirt (Like every other staff members), and after a few early questions, the i3 is showed to me by him, with the salesperson proving to be a devoted fan of electric cars and very much focused in highlighting the top selling points of the car.

After this first presentation, i'm introduced to another staff member that would be with me during the test drive. Before getting into the car, i'm asked to lend my ID car for them to register my data on their Db (Glad for them i'm not paranoid about this kind of stuff).

The test drive had predetermined route, that pretty much covered all kinds of roads and situations, with the added bonus of visiting one or two more scenic places in Lisbon.

As for the i3 itself, all i can say is this: "Weeeee!", besides being a small car with not that much weight to carry around, it shows on how lively it is, it has more than enough power to blast every other car in traffic lights, let's just say that if i had one, i would jeopardize my drivers licence every time i had to drive it...

After stopping in Monsanto Green Park, the staff member (An electronics engineer), explained me how to plug and unplug the car to a fast charger, encouraging me to unplug it. During the test drive i made a few questions on the technology behind the i3 (Materials, charging rates, batteries, software, etc), to which he replied willingly and accurately.

Back to the dealership, i'm introduced to a third member of the staff, "which would assist me through the configuration of the car" (It takes a specialist to do this?!?!?).

During the extensive configuration of the car, at times it felt more like we were doing Interior Decorating of a house than a car, so many were the options. (Yes, it does).

After more than 5.000 euro of optional equipment later, we finished the configuration and by then the salesperson joined us and asked my opinion, i objected that the price was too high, to which he replied that there was a lot of new technology involved in this car, so the price had to be high. I asked if they had any demonstration car, but they responded that BMW Portugal had yet to put any demonstration i3 for sale, giving the possibility for me to rent the car at an interesting fare.

The best plug-in car i've tried and probably the best staff in selling electric cars. But be careful with the options list as you might end up with stratospheric numbers in an already overpriced car.  

(1) - At least from what i remembered from my college-student-part-time-mistery-shopper days

5 comments:

  1. Thanks for this great story. Question: were you actually looking to buy a car, or all of it was just for the purpose of comparing the sales process?

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    Replies
    1. A little of both really, the BMW was too expensive for me and Smart was out of question because it only seated two, so for them i was only interested in the sales process, but the Ampera, Zoe and Leaf were real buying prospects, unfortunately i didn't got to try the Ampera, so it was out right away, the Zoe looked nice but the sales process didn't go well and the battery renting was a deal breaker.

      As for the Leaf, as i mention in the text, i actually considered to really buy it, i could even forget the frog face of it, but the 200 kms range is too short for me, considering i usually do a 250 kms trip every month to my folks house. Maybe the 2nd Gen Leaf brings those 250 kms range and hopefully better looks...

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  2. Is your monthly trip ... 250km each way?
    If not, the LEAF could probably do 125km on a single charge.
    with the 6kw onboard charger it could be back to 100% under 4hrs.
    Another option would be to use Quick Chargers which are becoming more common even in Portugal.

    Cheers,

    Mike D

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  3. only 160 km is realistic for the leaf... But jeah with the new Leaf available in the US next year and 2016 in Europe, you will get a car, that can drive 240-300 km ;-)

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  4. Unfortunately it's 250 kms each way, it's not impossible to do it today with the Leaf (I know someone that did more or less the same trip with one), but it's not practical.

    With the 2nd Gen Leaf things should be different though :)

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