Friday, August 30, 2013

Register to Test Drive an i3


For a while now BMW has allowed interested parties in some areas of Europe to register to test drive an i3 when they are available. In fact they made some news a few weeks ago when they announced they have over 100,000 people already signed up to do so. Well, i3 enthusiasts here in the States can now register also and they will be notified once BMW begins offering test drives. It's likely that will happen well before the cars are available in dealerships for purchase, so if you are interested in seeing if the i3 lives up to BMW's "Ultimate driving machine" heritage then follow this link and sign up.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

New Video Shows i3 Having Some Fun

A video posted on YouTube today by BikingInTheFreeWorld shows a Capparis White i3 having some fun on some roads in Germany. The video was shot from behind by the driver of a motorcycle and it's clear the driver of the i3 had more on their mind then "sustainable transportation". See for yourself.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Possibly the First Ever BMW i3 Street Race!

The BMW Car Club of America is a large organization that is well known for their extreme enthusiasm for BMW automobiles, particularly the ones that are fast or modded to be so. It's unknown how many of the existing members feel about the i3, but my guess is they will be hard pressed to accept it into the family of "performance" cars, unless of course they have the chance to drive in one.

Such was the case for Satch Carlson, BMW CCA member. Satch posted his story called "Satch Meets the i3" on the CCA website recently and described how he was converted from an electric drive doubter to a believer in one short ride.

He starts the post off with saying: "Okay, I liked it a hell of a lot more than I expected to". Satch goes on to tell the story of how he was riding in an i3 when a journalist driving a MINI Cooper S pulled up next to them and challenged them to a race. The i3 with at least two passengers beat the Cooper S much to the surprise and enjoyment of Satch. He commented on the torque and how much fun it was to ride in, and summed up his experience by saying "the fact is that this here little hot rod is ludicrous fun".

This is what I've been saying for four years now. These cars are FUN! The instant torque is really addictive and driving electric electric quickly becomes the drivers preferred method of propulsion for many people once they have had a reasonable amount of time behind the wheel of one, especially one with power. The i3's 0-60 time is about seven seconds. That's not M3 power by any means, but what it does have is instant neck-snapping torque at speeds up to 60mph, and makes it a blast to drive at these speeds. Yes, the power dips off at higher speeds, but for stoplight to stoplight fun, it's really hard to beat.

I understand there will be apprehension from the BMW loyalists that are so conditioned to hearing the rumble of the exhaust and equating that to power and fun, but they'll eventually come around. We just need to get them to drive the i3 for a while and like Satch, they'll find themselves with an "EV grin".
Is the i3's performance good enough for CCA mambers to welcome it into the family?
the fact is that this here little hot rod is ludicrous fun. - See more at: http://www.bmwcca.org/node/6424#sthash.RWYTmLD8.dpuf

Okay, I liked it a hell of a lot more than I expected to. - See more at: http://www.bmwcca.org/node/6424#sthash.RWYTmLD8.dpuf
Okay, I liked it a hell of a lot more than I expected to. - See more at: http://www.bmwcca.org/node/6424#sthash.RWYTmLD8.dpuf
Okay, I liked it a hell of a lot more than I expected to. - See more at: http://www.bmwcca.org/node/6424#sthash.RWYTmLD8.dpuf
Okay, I liked it a hell of a lot more than I expected to. - See more at: http://www.bmwcca.org/node/6424#sthash.RWYTmLD8.dpuf

Saturday, August 24, 2013

i3 REx in US Spec Spotted at Pebble Beach

You can tell this is a US spec i3 by the red and orange reflectors on the edge of the wheel wells. Look at the previous pictures on this blog and you won't see the reflectors there because they were all European spec pre-production i3's
I've had people ask me if I had any high resolution pictures on an i3 in Laural Grey already but till now I didn't. there were a couple pictures out there of i3's with the partial camouflage in Laurus Grey but none since all the wraps have come off. So when I came across these pictures posted on Bimmerpost taken a couple days ago at the Pebble Beach Auto Show in California I grabbed them and figured I'd put them up here for those that want to see this color on a real car and not just on the online Visualizer.
The only thing I'm thinking about with this color is the details get hidden because everything looks nearly black. Another reason I need to see it on a car in person.
I happen to like this color a lot. In fact it may have escalated up to the top of my want list now but I still need to see all the colors on cars in person. Another thing people have asked me about is the blue stripe below the side doors. Can it be ordered in different colors? The answer is no it can't. All of the cars will have the "BMW i Blue" accent there, as well as on the inside of the double kidney faux grill in the front of the car with the exception of i3's ordered in Solar Metallic Orange. The accent color on Solar Orange is called "Frozen Grey Metallic". Unfortunately you cannot mix and match. I suppose the only option you'd have is to customize it yourself and have the pieces painted after you purchase the car if it really bothers you.

You can see the blue trim piece here below the carbon fiber door sill. It's much more visible when you open the door
The BMW i Blue grill really stands out when it's on a Laural Grey i3.

So if you really don't like the standard accent color on your i3 your only options are to repaint it or possibly apply a vinyl wrap - at your expense. I happen to think the trim colors look good, but that is obviously subjective. Actually, if I were to complain at all about the exterior colors, I'd wonder why BMW stuck so much grey scale. Other than the Solar Orange all the other colors are a shade of white to black with slivers and greys in between. The Solar Orange is the only real bold color and I think they could have been a little more creative there. How about borrowing a cool color from the M division?

The Frozen Grey Metallic accent on the Solar Orange i3's will look less prominent than the BMW i Blue will on the other cars in my opinion since it's not as bright of an accent


Thursday, August 15, 2013

BMW i3 Wins Two Next Green Car Awards


Winners of the 2013  Next Green Car Awards winners were announced yesterday and the BMW i3 claimed the top prize in two of the eight categories. The Next Green Car Awards are said to be the most scientifically-based Green Car Awards in the UK.


Courtesy Gerald Belton
The i3 won  the "2013 Supermini Award" for being "set to change what we expect and demand of an electric urban vehicle; one that maximizes electrification, connectivity, quality and driving performance.” It was won the "2013 City-Car" award. Of that, Suzanne Grey, General Manager BMW i said: "We believe the BMW i3 is a real game changing vehicle because it has been born electric. Being designed from the ground up to be an electric vehicle has resulted in a number of benefits in terms of weight, packaging, range, emissions and driving dynamics."

Other winners included the Nissan LEAF which took home the "Small Family Award", The Tesla Model S (Executive Award), the Volkswagen e-Up! (Next Generation Award) and the Volvo 360 Plug in Hybrid (The Large Family Award).

Dr. Ben Lane, Managing Editor of Next Green Car said: "The 2013 winners reflect two key elements underlying current green car development: drive-train electrification and continuing improvements in fuel efficiency. While all the winners are highly distinctive in the innovations they employ, they all excel at using new technologies to enhance the driver experience."

I have a feeling these won't be the last awards handed out the the i3. It will be interesting to see how the i3 is received when the big automotive news outlets hold their annual "Car of the Year" contests. The Tesla Model S swept many of these awards last year. While I don't expect the i3 to claim as much hardware as the Model S did, I do believe it will score very well up against the other new cars introduced this year.

Sources: Autoevolution.com, insideevs.com

Sunday, August 11, 2013

i3 Modifications, a Sport Version and Fun

I found this photoshopped i3 on Bimmerpost. It looks to me like the creator has the right idea!
Now that we've seen the production i3 and BMW has revealed most of the specifications, I'm ready to begin the modifications! Evidently someone on the Bimmerpost forums is ready also because he used his photoshop skills and went to work on creating his own autocross-ready i3. I like it! It's even in the Laural Gray that I'm leaning towards so that made it all the better.

So this gets me wondering if BMW even realizes there are people out there that will want to modify their i3. BMW has already said there won't be an M version of the i3 and I conformed that with a program manager recently, but that doesn't mean they won't offer modification parts for those interested. After all, BMW cars are some of the most modified of any manufacturer. I hope they aren't under the assumption that just because i3 customers are concerned with things like sustainability, environmental issues, energy policies or just like driving electric that they won't share the same enthusiasm for driving as their combustion car customers do.

I'll take it one step further. Even if they don't cross pollinate the i and M brands, they could still make an i3 Sport version. Give it a special interior, offer it in a unique, bold exterior color, beef up the suspension, put on some real tires and give it a little more torque and HP(I'm sure they can do that with the same motor they have with very little tweaking) and you'll have a 6 second 0-60 car that will have better handling than 90% of all the sports cars out there. Sure it will probably cut 10 miles or so off the range but I think there are many of us out there willing to make that sacrifice.

I know BMW knows the market, and they know people want fun. Even if they are driving a "futuristic, sustainably manufactured" car. All that's great, but it's nothing if it's not fun. :)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Silence of The Cars

Well Clarice, can you still hear the sounds of the engine screaming in your dreams?
There has been a lot of discussion about adding artificial noise to electric cars to serve as pedestrian alerts. I've been driving electric for over four years now and have driven over 120,000 miles, and I say they are simply not necessary. However as much as I wish it were true, I know the discussion doesn't begin and end with my opinion on this. Personally I'm all in favor for a backup beeper, which I actually think should be on all cars regardless of the type of fuel they use. But artificial noise when the vehicle is moving forward is silly and simply unnecessary. The quietness of the EV is something to celebrate, not shun.

Electric cars are quieter than gas cars, but only while driving at very low speeds (like under 10 mph) is there much of a difference. At speeds higher than that you can hear the tires on the pavement and the whine of the electric motor. Automakers are spending tons of money to make their gas cars quieter, and most cars - especially premium brands are extraordinarily quiet unless they are under heavy acceleration. In situations where pedestrians are most likely to have an issue, say crossing the street, cars are usually rolling along at lower speeds, coasting much of the time and much of the noise you hear anyway is the tire noise on the pavement. Plus, I think a bigger issue here is simply getting people to pay attention. Get off the cell phone, pull the Earbuds out and pay attention when you are crossing the street! And drivers need to stop texting and just drive the car. Look it's your responsibility not to run people over, it's not their responsibility to hear you coming and jump out of the way just so you can send "lol" to your bff! This is a sore subject for me because I was hit while crossing the street by a person texting three years ago and even needed surgery. I heard the car coming (a gas car!) just before it hit me and couldn't manage to get out of the way in time anyway.

Unfortunately our opinions may not eventually matter because our government may very well mandate a solution to a problem we don't have. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has proposed a new rule requiring hybrid and electric cars to make sounds to alert pedestrians. Even though our friends across the pond have actually done studies and come to the conclusion that these artificial noises are not necessary. Still, We'll likely rush to legislate something we don't have actual data on. In the UK, a study commissioned by the Department for Transport came up with these findings: "At low speeds of 7-8 kmh (5mph) electric cars were just one decibel quieter than petrol cars. When speeds were increased to more than 20 kmh (12mph), the noise levels were "similar", with tyre noise dominating. "There does not appear to be any significant difference in the acoustic nature of [internal combustion engine] vehicles and [electric and hybrid] vehicles, and as such nothing suggests a pedestrian would clearly be able to differentiate between vehicle types,"

Anyway as I said I'm just one opinion. I want to know your opinion on this issue. Automakers are struggling with this. They are conflicted because they aren't clear exactly what the consumer wants and they are also not sure themselves if it is actually needed. I know because I've talked with people from various OEM's about this very subject and they have asked me what I think about it. Some believe that while hardened EV supporters like me don't think it's necessary, that people new to electric vehicles may believe it is. That may be true in fact. So I'm putting up a poll here and asking people to vote how they would like to see their EV deal with this issue. Please vote, I can assure you this blog is monitored by every major OEM, and nearly on a daily basis. You never know who's listening. The poll is at the top of the right sidebar. Let your opinion be heard! By the way, all cars already have a pedestrian alert, it's called a horn!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

How CARB May Make The i3's Range Extender Less Attractive

The range extender engine for the i3 is seen here to the left of the electric motor

According to the UK price list for the i3 the range extender will automatically come on when the state of charge falls to 18%. I've been guessing that will happen at about 20% so I was pretty close. It will then attempt to maintain the battery SOC at 18%, while allowing the car to continue to drive along relatively uninhibited. The only time there will be a problem is if your driving is demanding a high level of energy output for a prolonged period of time.

For instance, driving along at 60 mph on a flat surface you may only need 10 or 11 kW's to sustain the charge because that's about all you'll be consuming. That's no problem for the REx because it can provide up to 25kW's of constant supply. However if you need to drive up a steep grade at highway speeds for 10 continuous miles or so you may have a problem because the car will likely draw more than 25kW's under these strenuous conditions. The 18% buffer combined with the REx pumping out it's maximum output will allow the drive to continue for quite some time, but after a while of using more energy then it is capable of replacing, it will eventually need to reduce power output. What happens then is unclear but I would imagine the car would slow down to a speed it can maintain power for. Again, this should not happen on flat land, as the energy consumption should be able to be replace by the REx. It will also have plenty of power for most hills and bursts of speed when needed. I'm talking about long, extended drives up steep inclines that happen at the end of your journey after you've already depleated the battery and the range extender has come on. Personally I have a situation where this could come into play myself. My in laws live in Vermont and the last 10 to 15 miles to their house is mostly uphill. I'd already have the range extender on by the time I get to this final leg of the journey so I'm curious if I'll have a problem making it. I could stop along the way and charge for a while if necessary but I'd prefer just driving nonstop. After all, that's why I'd get the range extender; so I don't have to stop to charge along the way of a trip.

So what can be done to alleviate this? The Chevy Volt has a "Hold Mode" that the driver can initiate at any time. This manually turns on the range extender without waiting for it to automatically turn on when the battery is depleted and holds the battery state of charge at the level it was when you turned it on. Sounds like a great idea, so is BMW going to do the same thing? Yes, and maybe no. If you look at page 8 of the UK price list that I provided the link to above, you'll see it says: "Manually activated when the vehicle is below 80%". Brilliant! So if you buy an i3 in the UK, you can turn on the range extender once the state of charge drops below 80%. Therefore if you know you'll be driving up a long, steep hill or mountain at the end of your journey, you can turn on the range extender and "hold" the charge so when you arrive at the mountain you'll have plenty of charge to complete the journey. Perfect, so US customers will get this feature also, right? Unfortunately, maybe not.

CARB's restrictions may hinder the REx
California is the #1 market for electric vehicles in the US and one of the reasons they sell so well there is zero emission vehicles are allowed carpool lane access regardless of the amount of passengers. This is a highly sought after perk in California and cars that qualify for it usually sell very well. The all electric i3 will definitely qualify, but the under the new more strict rules for PHEV's, an EV with a range extender will only qualify for the valuable HOV access sticker if it operates this way: "engine operation cannot occur until the battery charge has been depleted to the charge-sustaining lower limit". So that means the range extender cannot be manually turned on at 80% and still qualify for HOV access in California.

It's clear to me BMW will make the i3 conform with CARB's rules so it will have HOV access is California, but will they do this to all the US cars, or just for the ones shipped to California? I don't have the answer. I tried to get clarity on this at the i3 Premier but nobody wanted to confirm it one way or the other. Hopefully that means a decision hasn't been made on this yet and there is hope for the rest of us. If so and the powers to be at BMW find their way to read this blog post, please consider offering the same ability to manually turn on the REx for US customers outside of California. The vast majority of customers in the US don't need carpool access, why should they have their range extender neutered so people in California can have it? This is a simple software change. It's available in the UK and probably for the rest of Europe so it's not like it will cost BMW anything to develop. Let's hope BMW does the right thing and makes this feature available to US customers outside of California. It really makes the range extender a more useful asset, this shouldn't be a hard decision to make.