MINI E - click above for high-res image gallery

BMW has gotten a lot of press (some bad) for their MINI E project. Even though the all-electric car comes with a plug, the plug-in advocacy group Plug In America (PIA) has a problem with the way that the Bavarians might be able to get a lot of legislative good will without really putting EVs on the road for good.

PIA released a statement (read it after the jump) that criticizes CARB's loophole that could allow BMW to get as many Zero Emission Vehicle credits for the one-year lease of the electric cars as it would for a standard vehicle production program. PIA's legislative director, Jay Friedland, said that, "CARB is allowing BMW to game the system by accruing the maximum number of ZEV credits with the least amount of effort." Friedland said that lease-only programs are what led to the EV crush-fest in the 1990s, something that long-time PIA members still remember as a real slap in the face. PIA wants BMW to only get the credits if the MINI Es are also offered for sale.

Another criticism of the lease program is that, according to PIA, when the June 30 deadline got closer and closer, BMW began:

dumping dozens of cars into municipal fleets to be leased for only $10 a month, most recently pulling some of those vehicles from retail consumers who had been willing to pay full price and complied with the nearly 8-month process required to get one of the cars.

Not long ago, we heard that the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department got a good deal on some MINI Es.

CARB's response was to say that it will look at its regulations next year and that "we've urged BMW to consider extending that one-year lease." Undoubtedly, there will be more to come on this.


[Source: PIA, Reuters]

UPDATE: typo fixed.

PRESS RELEASE:

PLUG IN AMERICA URGES CALIF. REGULATORS TO CLOSE DAMAGING LOOPHOLE

CARB Loophole, Allowing BMW to Lease its Mini E, Could Stunt EV Proliferation

Plug In America is urging Mary Nichols, chief of California's air board, to close a gaping loophole that could deal a blow to the proliferation of plug-in vehicles just as the federal government is awarding billions of dollars to automakers large and small to advance battery technology.

The California Air Resources Board's Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program has no minimum timeframe for vehicles used for compliance. Therefore, BMW's one-year pilot program consisting of just 500 converted electric Mini Coopers leased at an astonishing $850 per month will earn the same full credit as a standard vehicle production program.

"CARB is allowing BMW to game the system by accruing the maximum number of ZEV credits with the least amount of effort," says Plug In America legislative director Jay Friedland. Previous lease-only programs led to the crushing by automakers of thousands of vehicles in the 1990s, Friedland notes.

"We encourage pilot programs, which get cars on the road and enable valuable early feedback, but in order to receive full credit, these vehicles must be offered for sale," he says.

The ZEV program loophole, which Plug In America denounced before a critical 2008 air board vote, extends through 2011. "CARB had plenty of time to see this coming," Friedland says. "BMW is not the first automaker to take advantage of the loophole, but it should be the last. Consumers should have full access to the fuel efficient cars they are demanding."

Adds Plug In America advisory board member Chelsea Sexton: "This is turning out to be a half-baked, poorly executed program by BMW, who is acting solely for the sake of regulatory compliance. Shame on CARB for allowing it."

BMW's poor planning has caused a host of problems. The first Mini Es were delivered in late May, some six months after BMW's stated delivery date. This delay caused a large percentage of people to drop out of the program. Furthermore, BMW did not have enough proper charging cables manufactured, leaving up to 300 lessees with a minimum 23-hour recharging time. As a result, many drivers are not able to use the vehicle daily.

Meanwhile, in order to meet today's(6/30) deadline for maximum CARB credit, BMW has been dumping dozens of cars into municipal fleets to be leased for only $10 a month, most recently pulling some of those vehicles from retail consumers who had been willing to pay full price and complied with the nearly 8-month process required to get one of the cars.

"We're concerned that this situation won't be seen for what it is-a botched BMW program," Sexton says. "Instead, plug-in vehicles will be perceived as too expensive, problematic and not ready for prime time. BMW's mistakes reflect badly on other car companies, on the technology itself and on the plug-in vehicle movement."

Santa Monica resident Jeff U'Ren is one customer who was dropped from the program, without explanation, the night before he was to take delivery of his Mini E.

"I longed to drive a high performance EV again," says U'Ren, a former GM EV1 driver. "Just having that car on the road is such an important tool to show that EV technology is viable. People continue to think it's way too expensive and impractical."

In contrast to BMW's lease plan, Nissan has announced a late 2010 delivery of 5,000 all-electric vehicles designed from the ground up and offered for sale for between $25,000 and $33,000, before federal tax credits. The Japanese auto company, recently awarded a $1.6-billion loan from the U.S. Dept. of Energy to build a battery plant and modify its existing Tennessee facilities, has also announced that it will deliver hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles in 2012.

The Dept. of Energy also awarded $465-million and $5.9-billion loans to Tesla Motors and Ford, respectively, to make electric and other fuel efficient vehicles.

About Plug In America: Plug In America is leading the nation's plug-in vehicle movement. The nonprofit organization works to accelerate the shift to plug-in vehicles powered by clean, affordable, domestic electricity to reduce our nation's dependence on petroleum and improve the global environment. For more information: http://www.pluginamerica.org.


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