Electric BMWs spur lesson in sustainable business

Electric BMWs were brought to Fordham University as part of a lesson in sustainable businesses.

Electric BMWs were brought to Fordham University as part of a lesson in sustainable businesses.

It was a testament to the allure of two BMW electric cars that students in Michael Pirson‘s Foundations of Sustainable Business class stayed outside on a bitter cold day for the chance to take one for a spin around a Fordham University parking lot.

Shivering but enjoying the show, the students talked about the vehicles’ power, inside room, quietness and gadgetry. The students’ consensus was that the BMW REx, billed as 100-percent sustainable, is a pretty nice car.

But there also was a lesson behind that curiosity: Sustainable business products can be practical, upscale and, above all, very real.

“We’re talking sustainable business and for many people it’s … theory, it’s something they can’t grasp,” said Pirson, an associate professor of management systems for Fordham’s schools of business.

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“You can read about it, but when you touch it, when you sit in it, when you feel a product that’s sort of representative of these new ideas … sustainable business imperatives, then it’s just different,” Pirson added.

Rob DeFeo of BMW of Mamaroneck, left, talks with Michael Pirson, right, about the electric BMW.

Rob DeFeo of BMW of Mamaroneck, left, talks with Michael Pirson, right, about the electric BMW.

Amy DiReda, a senior from Fair Haven, N.J., said the concept behind the electric BMW is “pretty interesting.” The car’s development (for instance, the carbon fiber used in the vehicle is made in a Washington state factory which runs on hydroelectric power) puts it on the cutting edge of sustainable manufacturing.

“That fits in with Professor Pirson’s sustainable business course because it’s showing us different ways that you can potentially create a sustainable product,” DiReda said.

Made in Leipzig, Germany, the BMW REx has a range of between 110 and 150 miles. It is, said Rob DeFeo of BMW of Mamaroneck, a city car. The vehicle, which is price between $51,000 and $52,000, automatically brakes when you take your foot off the accelerator and the friction from that helps regenerate the battery.

“Its doing the right thing for the environment. It really is,” DeFeo said.

As part of the class, students are supposed to come up with an idea for a sustainable business, Pirson said. Getting exposure to different businesses  helps his class to realize there are many paths to creating sustainable products.

Using environmentally friendly practices is not a fantasy, as the BMWs proved.

“This is what sustainable business is,” Pirson said. “You don’t have to question it.”

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