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The BMW i3’s lithium-ion battery technology is mature and not likely to advance further, according to experts of the EV.

BMW

BMW Canada Inc.'s new electric car comes with an unusual optional accessory – a set of solar panels you can install on the roof of your house.

The car company's Canadian arm is teaming up with Toronto-based solar installer Pure Energies Group to give buyers of the BMW i3 electric vehicle a discount if they put panels on their home.

The idea is to let car buyers have a truly "green" package when they purchase an electric vehicle, BMW spokesman Rob Dexter said. By generating electricity from solar panels on their houses, car buyers are indirectly ensuring clean power is fuelling their cars.

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"Adding this is the greenest way you could possibly go, for those people that want to pursue it," he said.

BMW began selling its i3 compact urban vehicle in Canada in the past few weeks. The plug-in car, which has a rear-mounted electric motor and a range of up to 160 kilometres, has a list price is $44,950. For $4,000 more, buyers can get a model with a small gasoline engine that charges the battery when it runs down – effectively doubling its range.

An average rooftop solar-panel system costs about $20,000 to install, said Pure Energies vice-president Chris Stern. BMW buyers in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia – the provinces where Pure Energies operates – will get a 10-per-cent discount off the price, if they sign up. Customers' houses will have to be capable of holding a solar panel system, which means having a south or west facing roof in good condition and not in the shade.

That is a similar deal that BMW i3 buyers can get in the United States, where the car company has linked up with solar panel installer SolarCity.

Mr. Stern acknowledged that his solar systems will not directly charge the cars, because the power the panels generates actually flows to the local electricity grid. Homeowners get paid for that power, and it effectively replaces any electricity the utility produces from non-renewable forms of power generation.

With the high rates Ontario pays for solar-generated power, the payback period for a rooftop system is about eight years in that province, he said. In Quebec and British Columbia, where the price paid for electricity is lower, the payback period is considerably longer.

BMW clearly wants to be associated with solar electricity, Mr. Stern said, "and with the electrification of the car industry, we'll see more and more people tying [electric cars and clean power] together."

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BMW's Mr. Dexter said his company has been developing its electric-vehicle arm for seven years, and will expand it further. "Everyone realizes that electric cars will be a huge part of our future, probably eventually for all manufacturers," he said.

BMW also sells gas/electric hybrids, and it will be launching a new high performance plug-in hybrid sports car, the i8, later this year. It will sell for about $145,000.

BMW executives recently met with their counterparts at Tesla – Elon Musk's electric-car company – to talk about promoting electric vehicles and the possible joint use of charging stations.

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About the Author
Reporter, Report on Business

Richard Blackwell has reported on Canadian business for more than three decades. At the Financial Post and the Globe and Mail he has covered technology, transportation, investing, banking, securities and media, among many other subjects. Currently, his focus is on green technology and the economy. More

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