Ramesh Divyanathan talks with Joezer Mandagi about BMW Group Indonesia’s bold next step to introduce electric vehicles to the nation’s roads.
Cars have long been the poster child of air pollution. That image, however, has been changing rapidly in the past few years. Case in point: Last year, the market share of plug-in electric vehicles—or EVs—in Norway reached almost 50 percent. The situation in developing countries like Indonesia, however, has more often than not devolved into cases of “the chicken or the egg dilemma” where manufacturers and legislators wait for each other to make the first move.
Ramesh Divyanathan, President Director of BMW Group Indonesia, recently revealed to Prestige how the storied car brand planned to break this cycle and take the first steps towards real change—which, in turn, would lead to cleaner roads and cleaner air.
“Since 2014, we have consistently focused on introducing and developing an electric vehicle infrastructure in Indonesia,” Divyanathan explained. “In fact, we pioneered this field with the launch of the BMW i8 in 2016. To date, we have opened two BMW i dealerships to cater for the needs of our customers who are keen on owning an electric vehicle. All in all, we are the only premium brand which provides a complete ecosystem for electric vehicles in Indonesia.”
Around the end of June, BMW Group Indonesia will introduce a true game changer and invited Prestige for a sneak peek of what would be Indonesia’s first commercially-available plug-in EV: the BMW i3s.
Now, the BMW i3 is not a new design, having made its debut as a prototype all the way back in 2011. Yet, seeing it up close was a real treat: The smooth lines of the hatchback, its eye-catching two-tone colour scheme, its sporty curves. “We didn’t want it to look just like any other car,” Divyanathan pointed out. “I think it deserves its own design, it deserves its own design language.”
The model to make its debut in Indonesia is the sporty BMW i3s, whose newest incarnation sports a 120 Ah battery and acceleration worthy of its “s” marker. “The BMW i3 is paving the way to a new era of mobility. It is recognised the world over as a symbol of driving pleasure, sustainability and intelligent connectivity in the urban traffic environment, which is why it has become the best-selling electric car in the premium compact segment,” Divyanathan further elaborated. “The recipe for success of the BMW i3 has now been further improved, thanks not just to refreshing styling accents, cutting-edge equipment features and new digital services, but also to the addition of a new model variant.
“The new BMW i3s comes with a higher output, model-specific chassis technology, and noticeably more dynamic driving qualities and design features all of its own. It completely embodies the sporty driving pleasure associated with electric cars from the BMW Group. By offering a premium-quality, all-electric driving experience—meaning zero local emissions—together with a whole new level of connectivity technology, both models represent the future of urban mobility.”
Interestingly, “zero local emissions” is only part of how the BMW i3 line is intended to positively impact the environment. “Over 80 percent of the surfaces visible to the passengers are made from recycled materials or renewable resources,” Divyanathan indicated. It’s also interesting to learn that BMW’s Leipzig Plant, where the i3 is produced, has become an exemplar of green manufacturing, most notably for its four on-site wind turbines.
Of course, BMW Group Indonesia is under no illusions about the challenges of marketing electric vehicles in Indonesia. “We need to constantly communicate about the benefits of using electric vehicles. Right now, the discussions are more about ecosystem readiness, regulations etc.,” Divyanathan said. “These topics tend to create more confusion for customers. Instead, we need to win customers over by providing affordable electric cars, supported of course by the right regulations and tax incentives. Affordability not only refers to price but also to economic benefits.”
To that end, the BMW i3s cars entering Indonesia will become pioneers in the truest sense of the word. This first batch isn’t likely to become common on the roads of Jakarta and beyond, but they will—hopefully—pave the ways for EVs to become common. “When market demand for a new innovation increases, business people and stakeholders are compelled to follow it.
An analogy from the automotive sector is when the automatic transmission emerged as an alternative to the manual transmission. Customers tend to prefer a transmission system that makes driving easier, so these days most of the latest vehicles come with an automatic transmission. Likewise with electric vehicles, when market demand increases, the entire infrastructure will follow.” Then Divyanathan concluded: “With the right policies in place, we can certainly expect to see support for the growth of electric vehicles in Indonesia.”
All that being said, the BMW i3s looks and feels exciting. While you might want to wait for charging stations to become more commonly available before turning to the i3s as your primary vehicle, it is a solid choice for short commutes and weekend trips. And knowing how this car is a herald for real, positive change is certainly a huge incentive for the environmentally-conscious driver.
“When you drive an electric vehicle, especially when you drive in an environment around where 99.9 percent of the cars around you in traffic are not green cars or not EVs,” Divyanathan said as our conversation came to a close, “you really feel that you are in the future.”