Ignition Fall 2016 (#16)

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Celebrating anniversaries, gas savings and what makes a car fun?

BMW’s centennial celebrations strike a special chord amongst automotive enthusiasts because no matter what you drive, or your opinion on current BMW models, there has always been a heartwarming focus on performance from the popular German luxury brand.

Though some Jaguar and Alfa Romeo Giulietta fans may debate this, BMW is generally credited with the spiritual birth of the sport sedan, with its venerable 2002 back in 1968. BMW’s definition of high performance has morphed somewhat as it has added family-friendly SUV models, full-size luxury machines
and zoomy plug-in electric cars – on top of adding traditionally British brands Mini and Rolls-Royce to the BMW Group fold.\

But with all their vehicles, there remains a key DNA strand of performance emphasis, even if they can’t always be deemed the ‘ultimate driving machines’ in their respective classes. Their Vision line of concepts (page 32) highlights where this performance DNA may take all three brands in the next decade or ten.

Speaking of plug-in electric cars, this year’s EcoRun spotlighted not only 27 vehicles that offer great performance at the fuel pump, but also the relatively sad state of zero emissions vehicle infrastructure in Ontario (page 13), though changes and improvements are reportedly on the way. Part of the reason the usual
four-hour drive from Toronto to Ottawa took two days is that the battery electric vehicles available for this test didn’t have the charging stations to refuel in the EV charger desertoutside those major cities.

The infrastructure challenge is even more dire for fuel cells. Toyota’s Mirai fuel cell was perhaps the highest profile vehicle attendee, but it took two examples of the Mirai to complete the drive: one to go halfway, and another for the last few legs, since there were no hydrogen fueling stations outside the Greater Toronto Area that could refuel it. Even the one available there couldn’t fill up the hydrogen tank fully.

So it couldn’t reach Ottawa (at approximately 450 km) on one hydrogen fill up, despite its official EPA estimate of 500 km range. The Mirai is still not sold in Canada, thanks to the lack of very expensive hydrogen fueling infrastructure, which neither the automakers, nor government or the retail fuel industry have committed to supporting.

What the Ontario government has recently committed to supporting is a network of high-speed electric vehicle charging stations. They announced in July that it would fund a network of 500 charging stations throughout the province by the end of March 2017. Roughly 200 of the 500 stations will be Level 3 chargers, which are designed to allow pure electric vehicle drivers to drive long distances with minimal (10-30 minute) recharge/refuel time. The rest will be the more common Level 2 chargers, designed for more leisurely two to five-hour charging popping up now in malls and Ikea stores across Canada. Either would have come in very handy at this year’s EcoRun.