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Idling on the Stanley Park Causeway, I’m attracting looks. Okay, it’s probably not me drawing attention (sigh) so much as the car I’m test-driving. This isn’t the priciest of BMWs, but it’s worth the looks because of what’s under-or rather, what’s not under-the hood. The i3 is part of the manufacturer’s small suite of electric vehicles, and though I’ve driven e-cars before, this is my first experience at the premium tier.
It’s pretty swell, and not just because it has that electric-car hush. (To be clear: I’m getting nothing from BMW for saying this.) What I really like is the innovation that drives the machine. Consumers are leery about electric vehicles’ range, so the car’s engineers went NASA on this one’s design, tossing every gram of superfluous weight-including the CD player (who needs one in the age of Sirius?) and the poufy leather and weighty wood that traditionally connote luxury-to improve battery life. Those omissions, plus a carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic chassis, cut the car’s weight by 1,000 kilograms. Nearly half.
I appreciate any industry that can take a hard look at its business practices and dare to attempt something different. In our Wine Awards package (pg. 42), the most legendary winemaking region in the world shook up its appellation tradition, inspiring one historic producer to create a game-changer so delicious that our judges gave it their highest ranking. I applaud both sectors for setting out to re-educate their buyers about the meaning of performance. These thought leaders leave me impressed by their commitment to building businesses that are future-proof-crucial since the future we’re all facing is one of scarcity, and we need to learn to be more ant, less grasshopper, to meet it.
Here’s a concrete step: the City of Vancouver has a goal of reducing car use to only half of all trips by 2020. (We’re at 56 percent now.) Not only is the i3 electric, it comes with a smartphone app that works off local intel. Type in your destination, and if congestion is bad the car suggests you’re better off taking the bus. Which means you can stop and have a glass of that Bourgogne Gamay on the way home. That’s smart.