Monday, February 10, 2014

BMW i3 Born Electric Guest Blogger: Meet Jan From Belgium

A while ago I announced that I would be starting a new series here called, "I was Born Electric on...". The series will be featuring readers who are i3 owners and who are willing to share their thoughts on the car after owning it for a while. They will begin the post by introducing themselves and stating the date they were Born Electric, which is when they picked up their i3. Andy from the UK kicked off the Born Electric series and we then visited Hil from Holland and Toni from Belgium. We will be staying in Belgium for this next installment as we hear what Jan has to say:

My name is Jan and I was Born Electric on Wednesday, 30th January, 2014. 
How did I get to know the BMW i3?
Well, by coincidence. I saw the small car on the Brussels car show/exhibition (Autosalon) last year in January. It was presented there as concept car which would be available very soon to the audience, as kind of a car of the future which one could buy now. When I saw it I couldn't make up my mind: Did I like this car, or not? It was so special I couldn't turn my eyes off it. I had to see it closer. I asked a salesman if I could enter the closed area to have a look inside. Then was the moment when I fell in love. This car was so unique in a pleasant kind of way. The interior looked like the interior of a small science-fiction spaceship. The exterior was so special yet attractive looking in every kind of way.
I must say I had many questions before starting this adventure. I had never driven an electric vehicle before. The salesman could answer most of my questions. What made me take my decision to consider this BMW i3 as our next second car were not only the unique looks of this car, but also all the advantages which came with it: it was for 120-150% tax reductible, it doesn't spill any CO2 whatsoever, no taxes when the car needs to driven first (it has a name 'inschrijvingtax' 'registration taxes?'), the lowest yearly driving taxes since it is full electric. All this just looked too good to be true.
I came home and told my wife 'Yes! I have found the perfect next car for you!' Yes, this car is for purpose as a second car to us. It is the car my wife uses to drive to her job on a daily base which is only 10km away, and to drive my son to his gym training four times a week which is about 30km far away. So, there really wasn't any real range anxiety to the story either. For long distance driving we have our other bigger family car. All I needed to do now is to convince my wife, which didn't seem to be as hard as I thought. She seemed to like this strange little car on first sight too!
The waiting:
As from this moment I checked out everything what there was to be found on the net about electric driving in general and the BMW i3 in particular. That's when I soon became a big fan of your specialized blog. Already in February I had told the BMW salesmen I showed a big interest in this car and if any news would be still as positive as all that I had read until then, I would like to be one of the first who would drive the full-electric BMW i3 in Belgium. BMW kept me posting on regular intervals. I could download the BMW I electric app on my smartphone and calculate my daily traffic to see there was no need in range anxiety at all. I was invited in an exhibition of the BMW i3 in the summer. Each time I got more convinced I was going to make the right decision. I was kept waiting until end of October to actually register me for a confirmed interest in buying this car, and finally the first week of January I signed the contract and closed the deal. The car would arrive 4-5 weeks after...
I was Born Electric On...
Wednesday 30th of January! Finally the car had arrived. It had taken less time as predicted, but still I am an impatient man. I was very curious of how it would look like, because I had never seen the car in the combination I had ordered it: BMW i3 Advanced in Ionic Blue Silver with Loft interior design. And I must say: I loved the looks! I have been the lucky one to own the first BMW i3 in our state. It all makes it even more special.

I think these colours are just the real deal for this car. It is extra-ordinary looking, special and shiny. It contrasts greatly with the black toppings and with the (electric) blue stripes beneath the doors. (The colour showing here doesn't really add up to it, but there are plenty more better pictures to be found to show the perfect match of this color for this car).
 I am very excited of the choice of my interior: Loft. It just ads up to the uniqueness of this car. It just fits. It makes it so much more space-like and futuristic looking. It is light, spacious looking and yet thrilling due to the electric lines fitting of the car seats and the blue lines which contrast nicely in details. One can tell that a whole team of enthusiastic decorating engineers have worked on this here. 
 The dashboard just like so great! Spacious, nicely shaped. I love the look of the darker dashboard going down under the console. It isn't the eucalyptus wood. That was nice too, but I thought it kind of disturbed the futuristic looks of the dashboard, making it a more ordinary car. Well, everyone has it taste, but I am happy with my decision. The big center screen which one can module along one's taste: here shown with the electric features and the entertainment details with a nice big picture of the song that is playing. 

 









The supercool startup-close status of the car. When one closes the car with the key, the insides of the car glow blue, the lights in the door handle turn on. This really ads a nice touch to the futuristic space-oddity of the car! (only available if LED packet is taken). You can be sure there are lots of amazed faces when these lights are set on on a public parking lot at night.
Driving experience:
I am really, really impressed by the fun driving experience of this little car. Also my wife, who isn't into cars at all, loves this one all the more. The first time she drove this car together with the kids my daughter said: mom, this thing is propelling like a rocket. She had just left our parking lot and stepped on the pedal; after merely 100 metres she was flying at 60 miles per hour. Which is kind of dangerous, because judging by the quietness in which this car boosts off, you really can't tell how fast you are driving. I love the sound of the car when I give full throttle. It's actually more like an electric train than a car. No roars, just power whistling.
And if you are driving at slow pace, you really can't hear the car is running, not at the inside, neither at the outside. The onboard entertainment system is just great also. Lots of options, lots of possibilities, all pleasantly and clear shown on the big central screen. Another great feature which works great is the full automatic parking. It all adds to the ease of use and to the futuristic impression one gets driving this car. Also the very small turning circle is quite impressive and it makes this car very easy and agile to drive.
About the range anxiety, I have to be honest, that's something I still got to get used to. I always am quite focused on the remaining range, especially when I have taken the highway, since the range goes down quite steadily and fast. Especially if one is driving vividly, it really can be seen on the remaining range. But that's a choice everyone makes for his own. I personally enjoy this car's potential too much for now, to drive it in a real eco pro mode. (But I am sure it will come eventually). I love to stand next to a fast car (yes, mostly BMW or Audi) at the red lights, then step on it when it turns green, and enjoy to see the amazed faces in the rear mirror as my car sprints before them without any effort!
Of course it means that the battery has to be charged more often, and it means also that we - for the first time- have to somewhat plan our trips with this car, because where I liked to use my first car in the past to do the shopping and stuff, I also take this car now because hey - it's cheaper, it's more fun and it's ecologic.
And it means that sometimes we just have to wait and don't take this car because it's not yet charged enough to take the trip. However, I have to be honest that I have not already installed a wallbox and am still charging the car on our regular home electricity network. I have chosen to go for the Wallbox Pro - which is a real supercharger - but it will only be available second trimester of this year. I will surely let you guys know what's the difference with the ability to fastcharge. I am sure we will use the car even more then.
Another not so pleasant thing is that I have been trying to install the Connected Drive system for more than four days now, and it just doesn't want to work. The problem is that my registration to Connected Drive on the net isn't transferred to the car, so I don't get a confirmation code in the car to finish the connection. It's an internet portal problem, they said at the local Connected Drive center in Belgium, so they have to manually fill in an application and send it over to Germany. It will take about a week before it will be solved. Which is kind of disappointing because I really wanted to try out the BMW i Remote app on my smartphone right away. I will keep you posted too when this is installed and working too.
But besides that, it really is a superb car to drive. As an owner of a BMW i3, you will have to get used to all the looks of amazed and sometimes confused faces. I just come back from a restaurant, and while I sit inside, I see people stopping by the car and taking pictures. I have never experienced something strange like this. And returning from a great meal at the restaurant, driving this unique car, fast and agile in total relaxing silence, while playing 'Life's for the Living' of Passenger out loud like you are in a concert hall on the first row; there's only one thing I can say: Sheer pleasure and happiness!
A little about range:
I have been driving the car for about a week now and I come to understand the calculation of the estimated range a little bit better now. I have noticed that the car calculates the maximum range after a night's charging depending on the driving style and circumstances of the last drive. So, when fully charged the maximum distance can vary from about 113km (70 miles) to about 135 km (84 miles)  in comfort mode.
On a morning when fully charged, and when the day before the car had purely driven in the city (meaning lower speeds) the battery indicated 135 km (84 miles) in Comfort mode, 137 km (85 miles) in Eco Pro-mode, and 150 km (93 miles) in Eco Pro+ mode. I think this must be about the real maximum range one can get with this car, stating that the car is driven in the city in an average driving style, lower speed, and frequent stops to recharge the battery while driving. However, if I step on the pedal and drive more sporty (and I must admit it is difficult not to do this, because it's just sooo much fun! ) and certainly if I drive on the highway, meaning speeds of about 130 km/h ( 80 mile per hour), you can't really depend on these figures anymore.
Eco Pro Mode only added 1 mile 
In Comfort mode the range was 84 miles
However Eco Pro+ mode added 9 miles for an estimate of  93 miles
To give an example I have noted precisely a trip I have driven: 
The trip goes from my home to the sportshall where I drop my son off. It's 28 km in total (18 miles), of which about 18 kms (11 miles) on the highway, where I usually drive about 130 km/h (80 miles per hour). After a night charging the range meter shows 113 km (70 miles). So normally when the calculation would be absolute there would still be 85 km (52 miles) left on the counter when I arrive at my destination. However, when I arrived at my destination the counter only showed 53 km (33 miles) left! Which is kind of scary, because a big part of the battery range seemed to be lost there!
However, when I get back in the car to come back to home, it's another story: The meter now shows 59 km (36.5 miles) left. So normally when I arrive at home there should be 31 km (19 miles) left. However when I arrived at home the calculator still showed 33 km (20.5 miles), which was a gain of 2km. So it was actually quite perfectly measured. It seemed to really have taken into account the weather conditions, the road ahead, the driving style, the maximum speed etcetera.
To sumarize: If one drives always into the same pace and always into the city at lower speeds I really think that 130-140 km (80 - 87 miles) is quite a realistic estimation of the effective driving range. However if one like to drive sportive and quite some distance on the highway doing higher speeds, I think 100 km (60 miles) would also be a realistic estimation as the maximum range. 

14 comments:

  1. Another great post Tom! These born electric posts are really interesting, thank you for doing this. When will you be getting your i3?

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    1. Thank you, they do seem to be very popular so I'll definitely continue doing them. The i3's for the ActiveE drivers like myself are special edition "Electronaut Edition" cars and they will be the first cars that come to the US. We don't have official delivery dates yet and the cars haven't even begun production, but what we are hearing is they are scheduled to be released from the port here in the US sometime in the end of April.

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  2. Thank you for sharing your i3 experience Jan. I have a question please. Once in eco pro+ is speed limit restricted? Also can the heater still keep you comfortable. I understand power to motor and heat is reduced effectively to primary power for range. Can you explain than you.

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    1. Yes, speed limit is limited to 90 km/h (55 mile per hour) in Eco Pro + Mode. Also, there is no more heating through the car ventilation system.
      in Eco Pro Mode there is no limit in speed, but you can notice that the car is kind of forced not to drive to wildly and fast. Hitting the pedal doesn't spurt as quick as in Comfort Mode.
      Hope to have answered your question
      Jan

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  3. Thanks for the informative blog. I have a few questions if you don't mind?

    Firstly I note that your delivery was very quick after ordering, orders in the UK have a waiting list of 4-6 months. I see you have the LED upgrade, have you noticed an improvement and do the lights change brightness depending whether the road ahead is clear or busy with traffic?
    Would you have gone for a darker interior to reduce a build up of dirt?

    Thanks, Bo

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    1. Yes, delivery here in Belgium was rather quick. But maybe that was because I was really one of the very firsts. I have no idea what the deliverytime would be now.
      Yes, the LED upgrade is very noticeable. The headlights are Adaptive LED Headlights and shine a very bright blueish light which adapts. Also it comes with a blue mood light inside and lights under the doorhandles.
      I haven't really noticed that the light dims when there is a lot of traffic. I am not sure about this.
      It's true that the lighter interior build up dirt more easily and certainly because the delivered footmats are in eggschale white too. Those tend to get really dirty. The interior dashboard and seats however are still like new, not very sensitive to dirt.
      I am happy with my choice of the Loft Interior.

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  4. Thanks Jan, the power consumption at higher speeds is key for me. I think the i3 gives the power use. Can you tell me what that is at 130 km/h please?

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    1. I am not sure if it is what you are looking for, but I have found a mean consumption of 19 kWh/100km driving at 130 km/h.
      Driving slow and steady comes around 10 kWh/100km ; driving fast maximally comes around 30 kWh/100km

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  5. Thank you, Jan, it is quite of an essay! You will see as the Summer approaches that the range will get close to 100 miles and maybe even above.

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  6. I want to echo the first poster. This is a terrific series, indeed. And thanks to Jan and the other contributors to provide this info. I think that the range numbers are encouraging. This is the winter, and even though Belgium is not particularly cold (don't believe this year was an exception), the numbers should still improve markedly as the year progresses.

    Dan Hue

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  7. Yeah these are great and I was also surprised at the quick delivery. I ordered around the same time and got a 5 month wait.

    The analysis of the range estimate calculation gave me an idea. Wouldn't it be cool if it based the estimate, as long as you were using satnav routing, on your history of previous journeys on the same roads you're about to use, blended with current traffic avg speed data?

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  8. nice review Jan. I'm considering the i3 as a second car (approx. 70km / day of which 50km highway). Could you give an update of your experiences so far ? Would you still recommend the car, any flaws, problems ?

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  9. Thank you for sharing this, the i3 BMW is a phenomenal car and I am actually in the market to get one for my wife. She needs a small economical car for the short commute and I think those things look so cool and futuristic. They really did a great job with the design. Thank you again for sharing this.

    Cedrick @ Viva Chrysler Dodge Jeep

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  10. My impression of electric cars has always been they are slow moving vehicles that can only go a few miles before needing to recharge. When I first saw the BMW i3 I thought the same, until we took it for a drive. Forget everything you know about electric cars: this is an incredible driving machine that will turn the auto industry on its head.

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