Why BMW i3, Tesla Model S Lost European Car of the Year: Sticker Shock, Public Charging

Earlier this week, the Peugeot 308 was crowned European car of the Year, beating both the Tesla Model S and BMW i3 to the coveted title. With cars like the Nissan LEAF and Vauxhall Ampera (Chevy Volt) among past winners, we struggled to explain why neither luxury plug-in won, and while we made some fairly generic observations in our Thought of the Day episodes this week to try and explain what happened, we’ve been in the dark as much as anyone else.

For several days we've been trying to answer why the Peugeot 308 beat the Tesla Model S and BMW i3 to European Car of the Year. Now we know why.

For several days we’ve been trying to answer why the Peugeot 308 beat the Tesla Model S and BMW i3 to European Car of the Year. Now we know why.

Now, courtesy of the just-released official voting grid and juror verdicts for each of the finalists in this year’s European Car of the Yearwe’ve got a better understanding of what stopped the Model S and BMW i3 walking away with the title: sticker shock and charging misinformation.

We’ll explain. While many judges loved driving the BMW i3 and the Tesla Model S during their time with both cars — and unsurprisingly chose the Model S or BMW i3 as their favourite car of the finalists — many said both cars were simply too expensive to be considered for the exalted accolade.

Many more said they were down-voting the car due to a lack of public charging infrastructure, a misconception it seems is still rife among a shockingly large majority of the mainstream automotive press.

Too expensive

Both the BMW i3 and Tesla Model S were praised, but 'too expensive,' most judges said.

Both the BMW i3 and Tesla Model S were praised, but ‘too expensive,’ most judges said.

Price first. For the Tesla Model S, which gained almost universal praise for its acceleration, impressive range and handling, a high number of judges said its high sticker price was too prohibitive for most drivers, meaning that they could not place it at the top of their list.

For Tesla this is a massive hit, since even those who down-voted the car due to its price raved enthusiastically about how revolutionary the car was.

BMW’s all-electric i3 was similarly critisized for being too expensive, but due to its lower sticker price, less so than the Model S. While the Model S was praised for its performance, handling, and revolutionary technology, the i3 was praised for its fresh approach to electric cars, its lightweight, futuristic construction, and unusual design.

Misinformation on charging

Despite having a massive range of more than 250 miles per charge, the Tesla Model S was heavily critisized by many judges for not being adequately supported by a charging infrastructure. In some cases, it was the primary reason why the high-performance luxury plug-in was awarded so few points.

With a rapidly-expanding Supercharge network across large swathes of mainland Europe, we’re not sure why so many judges claimed charging infrastructure was a problem, but it is fair to say that the majority of judges who claimed a lack of charging infrastructure seemed to live in countries where Tesla’s Supercharger network has yet to expand.

While the Tesla Model S was popular among some judges, others couldn't justify its price.

While the Tesla Model S was popular among some judges, others couldn’t justify its price.

Similarly, the BMW i3 was critisized for a lack of charging infrastructure by some judges, suggesting they either didn’t understand the fact that most EV drivers only ever charge at home, or believed there was a lack of public charging because it wasn’t something they would ordinarily seek out. While some countries do admittedly have far less charging infrastructure than others, we’re not sure the charging infrastructure argument wears out in every instance.

Good prospects for the future

While it seems the BMW i3 and Tesla Model S failed to win this year’s European Car of the Year award due to high sticker prices and a real (or perceived) lack of charging, the positive reaction to both car’s handling, performance and drivetrain indicate that while these two particular cars came second and third respectively, electric cars are now gaining significant recognition among mainstream automotive journalists.

With battery prices falling and the cost of electric cars in general predicted to dramatically fall over the next ten years, this shows great promise for electric cars in general. And with Tesla planning its more affordable ‘Model E’ for launch in the next few years, we’re sure Tesla still has a chance to win a future European Car of the Year. BMW too.

What do you think? Were the judges fair, or are their criticisms unjust? Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

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