|The i3 used for ride-alongs at the San Diego National Plug in Day event. Photos courtesy Chris Llana|
This weekend there were over about 100 National Plug In Day events held around the US. I was at the North Jersey event held at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, New Jersey. I was there with my new ActiveE and we had a total of about 25 electric vehicles in attendance. By all means it was a great day and we helped spread the word about how great plug in cars really are. However across the country at the San Diego Plug in Day event something special was happening. BMW had an i3 there, and for the first time in the US they were taking customers on test rides.
No one was allowed to actually drive the car, as it is a pre-production i3 and only BMW employees are allowed to actually drive it, but the driver was definitely giving the passengers a taste of what the i3 is capable of. He wasn't just rolling around a parking lot at 15 mph like many EV ride-alongs do, they went for a real drive on the streets and the driver was punching the accelerator to show off the power as well as the cars grip on the road. Since I wasn't there, I reached out to three people, Peder Norby, Grant Kluzak and Chris Llana, that were there and had the opportunity to go for a test drive to get their impressions.
Peder and Grant are very experienced electric vehicle drivers. Chris doesn't yet own an electric car, but has been closely following the electric vehicles currently on the market and intends to buy one soon.
First up is Grant Kluzak. Grant drives a Toyota RAV4 EV and his wife Kristine drives an ActiveE and here's what he had to say:
"At the San Diego National Plug-in day event I had the opportunity to ride as a passenger in a pre-production model of the BMW i3. Since my wife is the primary driver of our BMW Active E, I am somewhat of a professional passenger in an electric BMW. I had a slight hang-up on the overall look of the i3, however after the ride, I now think the look fits the vehicles behavior. It's not an SUV and it’s not a traditional BMW sports car. It is truly a cross-over. You do not feel as low to the ground, or sporty as you do in the Active E.
It appears to handle nearly as well as an Active E, possibly even accelerating faster. One truly amazing feature is the incredibly tight turning radius which will be very handy in tight parking lots or small city streets. The driver told us that the regenerative braking feel is nearly the same as the Active E and that he finds himself one pedal driving most of the time. I’m excited about this because I drive a Toyota RAV4 EV and find the regenerative braking is too light compared to the Active E. The interior cabin was comfortable and supportive as we would expect from BMW. There is an interior finish on parts of the dash and doors that looks and feels like felt. We were told that it is made from recycled carbon fibers. I really liked the look of this new material and was glad to hear it is made from recycled material.
Riding in the back seat behind the driver was comfortable for me a six foot two large man. That is not something I can say about the Active E and the i3 was much easier to get into with it’s “suicide” doors in back. There are plenty of cup holders, two in the back and one fixed and one movable between four different locations up front. The BMW engineer I talked too found it amazing that Americans were so fixated on the cup holders in our cars. Apparently there was much debate between the US and Germany on the number and location of the cup holders. I think they got it right with one per passenger. Yes, it’s a four seat vehicle. Having loosely followed the development of the i3, I was under-impressed with the slight glimpses we saw of the vehicle along the way. I did not think it would be a good follow on to the Active E. Having now ridden in an i3 and getting to see and feel the ride comfort, I can’t wait to get behind the wheel and test drive one. I think it has great potential as being the vehicle we will replace our Active E with."
|Photo courtesy Peder Norby|
Next it's Chris Llana. Chris has been a longtime follower and commenter on my blogs and he even helped me out with photo-shopping for my April Fools post here this year.
"I attended the National Plug In Day event in San Diego on Saturday. There were about 110 privately-owned plug-in cars there, of all sorts, as well as more than a dozen plug-in cars available for drives and rides (the Model S and the BMW i3 were passenger rides only). There were seven ActiveEs there (and almost 40 LEAFs).
I arrived early and headed right for the i3. Not a lot of people there at that time, but lots of enthusiasm. I ran into Peder Norby there; there were at least a couple of other ActiveE drivers inspecting the i3. The car looked better in person than in photos, Tom, as you have mentioned before. The interior, in particular, was much nicer than the photos let on. The driver's position was very comfortable, with ample head and legroom for my more than 6'2" height; the steering wheel was very nice, and placed to perfection. Visibility was great.
The back seat was the big surprise -- very usable by full-size adults, and the front seats did not have to be moved forward to give room for the backseaters' legs. At one point, both Peder and I were in the back seat -- both of us commented about how comfortable it was, for short runs at least. Peder is about as tall as me, and not a small man. We pretty much filled all of the available space, with no extra headroom, but that means most adults will find the back seat more than adequate.
I was in the i3 for the first ride of the day (in the front passenger seat), along with two others in the back seat (including one ActiveE driver). A BMW engineer was driving. The drive was out on the streets surrounding the parking lot where the event was held -- city speeds, no highway travel. The acceleration from a stop was impressive, even with four people in the car! I can only imagine what it would be like with just the driver in the car (and 500 fewer pounds). With the windows open, the car under hard acceleration sounded like a muted jet engine spooling up -- very cool sound! The ActiveE driver in the back seat said it was quieter than the ActiveE, and after one spirited take-off, told the driver he had just sold a car! All in all, I was very impressed!"
Lastly, it's Peder Norby weighing in and he's a real EV pro. Like me Peder has been BMW's e-mobility trial lease programs since 2009. Peder had a MINI-E and now has an ActiveE as well as a Honda Fit EV and has racked up nearly 70,000 all electric miles. Here's what Peder wrote on our i3 group's Facebook wall:
|There was plenty of room for Peder and Shawn in the backseat|