Celebrating Eco-Progress: BMW*

So, what’s up with the asterisk?

I’ll get to that in a minute, but in keeping with my mission to give props to big businesses that make efforts towards more sustainable practices, today’s Celebrating Eco-Progress shout-out goes to Bavarian Motor Works (BMW).

Via Wired:

The company that claims to build the ultimate driving machine wants to build the ultimate green machine and is launching a brand dedicated specifically to cars with cords.

BMW announced the “i” — yep, just like Apple — brand today, promising to deliver an electric vehicle and a plug-in hybrid by 2013 while also branching out into “mobility services.” The company promised to offer a “seamless network” of services, including intelligent navigation, vehicle connectivity and even parking solutions.

It’s pretty exciting stuff and the full article is worth reading, but the other seriously notable piece that I’d highlight is…

As the Financial Times notes, “mobility” is the hot buzzword in the auto industry as automakers scramble to develop cleaner, greener vehicles. In addition to developing electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, many automakers hope to capitalize on new technology like batteries and vehicle-charging infrastructure.

To that end, BMW also is launching the “i Venture” venture capital division and bankrolling it to the tune of $100 million. General Motors, for example, has done the same thing, investing in battery technology firms, EV startups and other companies through General Motors Ventures. To offer another example, both Daimler and Toyota have invested tens of millions of dollars in Tesla Motors.

Here’s where the asterisk comes in.

When I read the name Tesla Motors a red flag instantly goes up for me. I can’t help it. I absolutely abhor the massive and growing economic inequality on our planet (I’ll have a related post out soon), and so when I think about Tesla’s $100K+ Roadster models I can’t help thinking how symbolic they are of screwed up priorities.

I mean, if you really want to address the twin crises of global climate change and a finite supply of oil, we need super-affordable cars in order to get as many people out of their gas guzzlers as soon as possible. Instead, Tesla’s first priority was to build flashy, expensive sports cars for rich people so that they can brag about how green they are.

Yes, Tesla is working on the cheaper Model S sedan, but, according to Wikipedia:

The Model S is designed as an alternative to cars such as the BMW 5 Series, the Audi A6, and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, with an anticipated base price of US$57,400.

And so we come back to BMW.

The rich will spend their money and they happen to typically drive large, oil-hungry beasts. So, I suppose we should mostly celebrate efforts to get them into more ecofriendly cars. Also, you could argue that Tesla’s and BMW’s innovations and the venture capital initiatives mentioned above could lead to the development of technologies that could make it easier for other lower-end automakers to mass-produce more affordable electric cars.

So, for now, we celebrate your efforts, BMW. Keep up the good work!

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