On the same day last month that BMW announced the BMW Active E electric vehicle (see story), the CEO of BMW of North America announced, “From a practicality point of view, (EVs) won’t work for most people.” That was April 18, the week of the New York International Auto Show. Detroit may not at full strength in the automaking business, but the Detroit News knows a good car story when it sees one, and jumped all over it. Now BMW NA CEO Jim O’Donnell has issued a clarification saying he was speaking personally and he’s also disappointed that U.S. policy rewards EVs with fat tax credits ($7,500) but hasn’t done much to jumpstart clean diesel technology in the U.S. AdChoices广告According to the Detroit News, O’Donnell said, “From a practicality point of view, [EVs] won’t work for most people. For at least 90 percent and maybe more of the population, [an EV] won’t work [at the current battery range, about 100 miles if you drive cautiously].” All of this is very true, but never mind. Fans of electric vehicles were aghast. He also said, “I believe in a free economy. I think we should abolish all tax credits …. What they [U.S.] are doing is putting a bet on technology, which is not appropriate. As a taxpayer I am not sure this is right way to go.” That was then. Now, O’Donnell issued a clarification and mea culpa: “I sincerely apologize if I have offended the strong network of electric vehicle advocates whose support has been deeply meaningful to us at BMW … [I am] 100% behind our company’s plans to design, develop, lease and sell electric vehicles.” Like most people working for European automakers, O’Donnell believes a clean diesel can play an important role in the future mix of high-mpg, low-pollution vehicles. Ironically, the U.S. has stricter diesel emissions rules than Europe does, although the two standards will effectively merge later this decade. The current crop of 40 mpg gas-engine compact cars introduced at the New York show might be 50 mpg running on diesel fuel. A diesel hybrid might combine the best of both worlds – good battery efficiency around town, superior fuel efficiency on the highway. Diesel’s downside currently is the higher cost of building a diesel engine that has to withstand higher compression ratios, that and the perception that diesels are slow and sooty, which is about two decades out of date. O’Donnell’s concern is that diesels are “slightly disadvantaged” by current tax structure. If you buy an electric vehicle such as the Nissan Leaf, you’re eligible for a $7,500 tax credit. Would you believe a BMW diesel sedan can get better fuel economy than a Toyata Prius? Believe it: In 2008, the Times of London decided to check out reports that British fuel economy measurements gave an unrealistic advantage to hybrids. They drove a Toyota Prius and BMW 520d from London to Geneva (via the Chunnel) and added 100 miles of urban roads that would be advantageous to hybrids. The outcome: BMW diesel 41.9 mpg (converted to U.S. mpg), Toyota hybrid 40.1 mpg. Three years old, this is still one of the best-read, most-commented stories ever published on Gearlog’s mobile section. See BMW Diesel Beats Prius in Economy Run.