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Would You Drive An EV If It Came With A Gas-Powered Rental?

A new plan from BMW gives you access to a conventional car in case you want to go on a trip that your new EV can’t handle.

Though high prices are a turn-off, "range anxiety" is the main reason electric vehicles haven’t been selling well (Ford sold 685 Focus Electrics in 2012). Consumer Reports’ Car Brand Perception Survey last year found that 77% of potential customers were concerned about "limited range."

So, what’s a car company to do? We wrote recently about efforts to sell EVs as part of a lifestyle choice, and a means to get cheaper electricity for household products. Tesla is building out more, and faster, charging points. And there are navigation system fixes that increase the distance drivers can go.

Now, BMW has had another idea: If the EV won’t go the necessary distance, then loan a separate car that will do the job. Its thinking goes like this: Most of the journeys that many people need cars for are short ones, where EVs are just fine. You want to go to the store, or school, of work, and it’s well within the range of Nissan Leaf, or a Chevy Volt. The issue is with the weekend trip to grandma’s, 200 miles away—roughly one in 10 trips, according to BMW’s research. So, BMW plans to offer a separate (gasoline) car for that journey type.

The company has been testing two EVs (including an electric Mini). It plans to release its i3 Concept Coupe in some markets later this year. It has a range of 80-100 miles, and includes a "dynamic range display" that shows how far you can go using different energy-consuming modes.

BMW has revealed almost no details about the loan program (for example, whether the option will be included as part of the purchase agreement). One BMW representative says only that, "We [will] offer you a fallback solution in case you purchase this car and then need to go on a 500-mile trip." But the idea, potentially, could allow carmakers to get through a tricky transitional moment. After all, it’s not that people don’t want electric vehicles, period—they do. It’s that they don’t trust them for longer driving. A separate car caters to that anxiety perfectly.