Hollywood A-listers Sienna Millar and James Franco added some genuine glamour against a stunningly fake backdrop to launch BMWs new electric car, the i3.
They really were in London, at the launch in Old Billingsgate Market, on July 29.) BMW joining the battery pack is a sign that electric cars are coming, and gaining acceptance - just so long as government grants and tax structures keep on supporting them.
The i3 is the size of an average supermini, and it's been designed from the ground up as an electric vehicle. It uses the first-ever mass produced Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) passenger cell in the automotive business, to make it strong for safety and super-light for fuel efficiency.
It's propelled by a 168bhp electric motor, which drives the rear wheels, and its vital statistics are: top speed 93mph; 0-62mph 7.2 seconds.
More important to potential owners, it has a range of between 80 and 100 miles in normal driving — more in the Eco Pro modes. For those needing occasional longer runs, a range-extender version of the car includes a 34bhp two-cylinder petrol engine to charge up the battery pack. (The car is still always driven by the electric motor.)
Once you've plugged in your i3, a full charge takes eight hours, so it's ideal if you can leave it to charge overnight ready for short commutes during the day. Public charging stations are growing in number, but even fast chargers take 15-20 minutes.
Realistically the all-electric i3 would make a great second car. I would suit me fine, I could drop hubby at the station, do the shopping and collect him most days, but take the other car for longer trips.
It costs £30,680, but the Government chips in £5000, taking the cost down to £25,680; comparable to a top-of the range Nissan Leaf, but around £10k more than a Renault Zoe. BMW's i Wallbox, can be installed at your home for an additional £315.
To take away the concern about the life of the battery, BMW offers a lease deal. It will also offer some days in a conventional vehicle.
Emma Peel and Alice Morgan go boot to boot on Top Stories
So you want Alice's job? She says: "I'd graduated and done some work in a marketing agency but it was all biscuits and crisps where people just go for the latest offer. I wanted to get involved somewhere where the purchasing process was more involved. I'm 24 now, I went into Renault at 22 on the graduate scheme, and worked in different areas. I worked in a dealership, not selling, but working with sales, service and admin teams, and that was great experience. I'm not a petrol-head, but neither are most of our customers, so I'm on the same page as them." A number of manufacturers have graduate training schemes or placements for students with a year out as part of the course. Alice says: "Just have a look at the websites. A lot of women just don't know or think about the motor industry as a career." And that's a shame!
I had a very interesting chat with Ben Fletcher, Product Manager for Renault's electric dreams (Renault ZE). I enjoyed driving the new all-electric Zoe (left). It's a nice little car and at £13,995, after Government grant, seems like a genuine alternative to a 'normal' B-segment car.
You have to do some planning, but it will help you find charging stations on your route, and most people will be able to get by with the overnight charge at home. (Of course, you do need a garage or a drive.) But we're getting news stories about black-outs soon because we don't have enough power to keep the lights on - will the UK's already stretched grid be able to power up thousands, or potentialy millions of EVs?
Ben has a positively geeky interest in the conundrum, not just to answer awkward questions from journalists. He has a app showing how much power is being charged in the UK (Grid Carbon) and shows me the huge dip in demand overnight that could be taken up by EVs.
With the right technology, the charging could be switched off at peaks (eg half-time at a major footie game or ad break in East Enders when kettles go on all over the country.) In future, he reckons the power for the kettle could be drawn from the car's battery at peak times, because the car stores the electricity at times of low demand and feeds it back to the home when required. In the future, too, batteries taken out of EVs because they are no longer at their peak efficiency could be used to store electricity by power stations or businesses. All clever stuff, it just needs some joined-up thinking. Otherwise it's fracking until Yorkshire sinks.
£13,995 plus £70 per month battery lease for 7,500 miles per year, £77 for 9500 miles, and rising with mileage
Compared to Ford Fiesta TDCi 75PS 5dr £14,095 plus £65 for a 45 litre tank of diesel
Zoe attracts no road tax, congestion charge or benefit-in-kind tax
It's official range is 130 miles, but Renault reckons in real world motoring it will do 60-64 in witer, 90 in temperate w
This blog is by a woman driver, for everyone to read