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BMW’s Electric Car Rental Program

Douglas A. McIntyre

As the popularity of electric cars grows, the increasing number of competitors have to find an edge to differentiate themselves in what has already become a crowded market. Among these is a BMW E-Car rental program called "DriveNow."

BMW, due to its brand and a set of products already in the market, or about to be, is one of the few manufacturers that can challenge market darling Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA). Since Tesla is perceived as the gold standard of luxury electric cars, BMW has very few options in its work to move closer to the start-up in terms of reputation and sales.

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The car offered by DriveNow is an adapted Series-1 coupe, which is near the bottom of the BMW product family.

BMW describes the E-Car engine:

The BMW eDrive gives you pure, emissions-free performance. The rear-wheel driven BMW ActiveE is powered by a 125 kW (170 hp) and 250 Nm (185 lb ft) electric motor which develops full torque from a standing start for aggressive acceleration.

The rental is not wildly expensive, except for people who want to drive long distances:

$12 for the first 30 minutes. $0.32 cents for each additional minute of driving. Free parking and charging at any DriveNow station. No annual fee. No monthly fee. No insurance needed.

Tesla is not likely to launch a similar program. Due to the popularity of its cars, it does not need to. BMW's DriveNow will allow drivers to test its product, which will also get the German manufacturer free publicity.

For American drivers, there is only one large drawback. DriveNow is only available in San Francisco. BMW has 13 charging stations there. To roll out nationwide, it would need hundreds and hundreds, as well as a fleet of cars. And it may take a very long time for BMW to find locations for the charging stations and to build them.

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