Aye for an i : Top Gear Singapore Talks to Dr. Alexander Kotouc

By davidkhoo, 27 June 2018

Dr. Alexander Kotouc gives us the lowdown on BMW i’s highs

Think of BMW i as a technology think-tank and incubator to research and develop the ‘new’ to help future-proof BMW. Since its inception in 2011, the BMW ‘i’ brand has garnered its share of fans, and the current model portfolio includes the BMW i3, a zippy urban EV runabout; the BMW i8, a petrol-hybrid sportscar; as well as the plug-in hybrid versions of the 2, 3, 5, X5 and 7 Series. These iPerformance models make up the largest range of PHEVs offered by a single manufacturer to date and give consumers a peek into the future in an assortment of shapes that are easily relatable.

Now ask yourself, “Do I really want to buy an electric vehicle that resembles a conventional car?” If you’re the average consumer, then yes! The BMW iPerformance cars will help you get accustomed to an electric powertrain in a familiar form, before you commit to the truly outré designs. That being said, if you’re someone who aspires to be a pioneer in your own right and wants to make a real difference for the environment, “going electric” with a BMW i3 or a BMW i8 is the big step off the beaten path you’re looking for. 

However, going beyond the design, such new technology might still be a bit intimidating to many consumers as they’re still concerned with one main thing – driving range. As battery technology evolves and range increases, this “range anxiety” will hopefully dissipate. Until then, it’s important that brands are being authentic, or realistic, with customers when it comes to real-world range according to Dr. Alexander Kotouc, Head of Product Management, BMW i.

We recently spoke with Dr. Kotouc during a lunch and he said, “New mobility solutions should make life more comfortable and should fill customers with confidence. These are key reasons for people to change from something they are familiar with to something that is completely new.”

For those truly environmentally conscious individuals out there, you’ll be happy to know that the BMW i cars are produced at the BMW Leipzig plant, one of the most modern and sustainable car plants in the world known for sustainable sourcing of materials as well as the use of renewable energy. You have to appreciate how BMW ensures its concept of a green vehicle isn’t just a trendy catchphrase, but encapsulates all aspects of said vehicles’ creation, from idea to road.

“Once customers take that first step,” says Dr. Kotouc, “and have the opportunity to positively experience electro-mobility, they will realise that these cars are not only fun to drive but they are also good for the environment.”

He continues, “Going electric is a behavioural change – you need to remember to plug-in your car in to charge it, much like any other tech gadget. Since I started driving the BMW i3 several years ago, it has become second nature to plug the car in when I get out; I’ve never had to go to the gas station so I’m technically saving time without having to make a stop for petrol.”

On a country scale, Dr. Kotouc thinks Singapore is the ideal test-bed for such mobility solutions. “Looking at the map of Singapore, it would make so much sense to embrace electro-mobility on the island. It could be electric buses at first because the technology would be perfect to cope with the limited range required for Singapore.

Ending the lunch, Kotouc commented, “BMW’s promise to the consumers is, by 2025, there will be at least one electrified option in the model range, from the smallest to the largest model. In the future, we will have one architecture that is exchangeable between different powertrain options, be it ICE to hybrid to full-electric so it won’t be difficult to switch production depending on demand. However, we are still BMW and understand what our customers like, so even if we introduce new electric cars, we won’t change how our cars are made or the way they drive – they need to be desirable and every BMW will still have a steering wheel!”

PHOTOS Jonathan Lim

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