The Motor Press Guild played a key role recently during Industry Day at the Electrify Expo in Long Beach, where journalists and industry insiders experienced a wide array of electric vehicles, firsthand. From big names like Toyota and BMW to pioneering micromobility startups focusing on electric scooters, skateboards, and bicycles, the event offered a variety of options for test rides, drives, and demos. Even Tesla, known for their aversion to auto shows, had a notable presence.
Some of the more compelling attractions included an MPG-hosted state of the eTransportation Industry panel discussion, as well as the unveiling of the Hypercraft (an all-new, electric high-performance race vehicle) and the opportunity to test drive electric vehicles such as the BMW i4.
The panel discussion, hosted by MPG President of the Board Jack Nerad, presented mixed feelings on the state of electric vehicles. Auto industry veterans Ed Loh (Head of Editorial, MotorTrend) and Ed Kim (President, AutoPacific) joined Nerad on stage in front of a packed house at the Long Beach Convention Center to present and analyze the results of a survey of MPG members on the EV industry.
More than half of those surveyed believe implementation of EVs is off to a good start, and though the full ramp-up of technology may be 10 years away, the industry has some great vehicles/technology and the start of necessary infrastructure. Conversely, 27-percent of those surveyed believe the ramp-up is only 5 years away, while 19-percent remain uncertain and believe it’s 25 years away.
The biggest obstacle in the development of electric vehicles, according to the MPG member survey, is not price or not range anxiety, nor product misinformation, and it certainly isn’t the raw materials needed for production. The biggest obstacle, members said, is infrastructure.
More than 50-percent of members surveyed agreed that Tesla is leading growth in the EV segment in terms of product, path to market and consumer sentiment, with runners-up Hyundai Motor Group (including Hyunda, Kia and Genesis) in second place with 20-percent and a small piece of the pie belonging to Toyota, the only other notable manufacturer.
According to the survey, MPG members believe there’s a long road ahead of us in terms of infrastructure for eTransportation. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so we shouldn’t expect support for EVs to be up and running from day one either. But, before we look at how far we need to go, let’s take a look at how far we’ve come.
Hypercraft Racing at Pikes Peak with High-Performance EV
During the unveiling of an all-new, all-electric high-performance race vehicle, the Hypercraft, it was announced that Lucy Block, the wife of late action sports superstar Ken Block, will race Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC) in partnership with SIERRA Cars and Hypercraft. Doing so in Ken’s honor will perpetuate his legacy and “gives us a way to carry Ken's spirit forward and do something he was excited to do himself,” Lucy Block said.
But, why here? Why now? I caught up with Cole Powelson, founder of SIERRA Cars, and asked him the same thing.
“The Electrify Expo’s probably the best place to debut something like this. You know, the Block family has ties to Long Beach… It just felt right,” said Powelson. “The timing worked out, the location was right, the venue… everything came together in kind of the perfect storm. I can’t imagine a better place to debut it than here.”
Quick Drive Impressions: All-Electric BMW i4
Being behind the wheel of the BMW i4 eDrive40 proved to be a mundane experience. Lots of people believe electric cars are these performance monsters that’ll tear any ICE car apart. Although the i4 is pretty quick, it sadly felt like a normal EV with a BMW logo slapped on.
The massive 14-inch infotainment screen that stretched from the driver’s side to the center console was more an eyesore than anything else. I wonder if this is the new design for vehicles moving forward or if it’s just a fad. In any case, the driving experience was smooth and fun. The 335 horsepower coming from the single motor via the rear wheels is torquey from a complete stop. The same cannot be said when flooring it from rolling speeds, though the disparity wasn’t too noticeable.
I was pretty swamped with trying to figure out what the heck the “ePower %” gauge to the right of the speedometer was for. In all other cars, that gauge would be RPM. In an EV, it lets you know how much battery power is being used at any given point.
Last but not least, the interior was very calm for a BMW. It had a lot of plastic, which for $60k+, is diffiuclt to swallow. You know how EVs have crazy interiors with buttons and screens all over the place that scream electrification? Well, nothing about the interior of the i4 lets you know that this is an EV, save for the aforementioned 14 inches of screen in your face.
Final verdict? The BMW i4 eDrive40 doesn’t feel like an exceptional car. If you’re seeking an EV with much better quality control than Tesla, I suggest you perhaps start with a more cost-effective alternative, but if you have the money, go nuts and go BMW.