BMW i3 Hot Lap Shows Car Buyers What They Really Want In An EV

For as long as we can remember, electric car adverts have focused on how environmentally friendly EVs are, how easy they are to drive, and how an EV is made for the  daily to and fro of suburban life.

But BMW’s latest advert for the BMW i3 doesn’t contain any of the usual ‘green’ car accoutrements. It doesn’t tell us how good the car is at saving the planet. It doesn’t have any polar bears, singling plugs or aliens. It has a BMW i3, and a race track.

Lasting just 49 seconds, the BMW i3 Hot Lap video shows the BMW i3 being put under its paces at the Monticello Raceway in Sullivan County, New York. Driven by professional NASCAR driver and stunt specialist Erin Crocker, the BMW i3 takes curve after curve with ease, and even takes time to pull a few donuts mid-course.

Better still, BMW took ActiveE driver Chris Neff — who was on yesterday’s show — along for the ride. For Neff, it was the first time in the i3, the first time on a race track, and the first time being driven by a professional race driver. For Crocker, it was her first time behind the wheel of an electric car, and Neff said she wasn’t shy about pushing the i3 to its absolute limits.

“This was an absolutely amazing experience, being that this was my first true tack experience, that alone was cool enough, but that it was in the i3 and with a professional race car driver that had never driven an EV before made it all the more fantastic,” said Neff. “As EVers, we always want to give EV newbies seat time for that ‘A ha’ moment but the opportunity to get a professional race car driver into one and watch her expressions as she clearly enjoyed the car was icing on the cake.”

Good on the road -- a race track too?

Good on the road — a race track too?

While BMW released the video of its i3 hot lap over the weekend, the filming for the commercial took place more than a month ago, with Neff and Crocker getting a chance to play with two pre-production i3 Rex cars. As you might expect after what must have been several hours of fun on the track — and despite there being charging facilities at the track — the i3 REx did occasionally need to be used, turning on when there were just 5 miles of range remaining in the battery pack. Neff reports that despite the speed they were travelling at, the tiny 660cc engine gave enough power to boost the i3’s state of charge, and didn’t impact performance.

Having spent some time on a race track ourselves with the i3 — although admittedly not that fact — we can certainly testify to the i3’s impressive acceleration and gut-wrenching ability to slow down on just accelerator liftoff alone. While we didn’t pull donuts on the track, we also got to try our hand at some cone-weaving (although nowhere near as fast) and feel the amount of body roll shown in the i3’s Hot Lap matches our own experiences. While the body roll is far more perceptible thanks to the i3’s tall body and narrow wheels, both our own experience and the video show the car generally goes exactly where it’s meant to.

But while own track time, on a closed section of Brands Hatch race track, gave us the opportunity to pouch through a few corners with surprising speed once we’d found the correct line, Crocker’s driving skill makes the BMW i3 almost look like it was built with racing in mind. Which clearly, it wasn’t.

Yes, we know most BMW i3s will likely be doomed to spend their lives living in the dull mundanity of suburbia, but we’ve got to hand it to BMW: showing its first ever production electric car race around a track is far more likely to get bums in electric car seats than a polar bear hugging someone for buying an EV.

Don’t you agree?

To hear Chris Neff talk about his experiences filming this commercial, be sure to watch or listen to Transport Evolved Episode 178, which you can watch or download here.


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