Monday, February 24, 2014

BMW i3 Born Electric Guest Blogger: Meet Steven From The Netherlands

So Far we've had Andy from the UK , Hil from Holland , Toni from Belgium and Jan From Belgium. We'll now be traveling to The Netherlands to see what Steven has to say about his Laurel Grey i3 REx which he picked up on Valentines Day:

My name is Steven and I was Born Electric on Friday, 14th February, 2014. 

Love

Do I? Oh yes! BMW may not have delivered the alpha and omega of the motoring world, but boy, how good is it?

Every aspect to like has been covered in many a publication on many a different medium, but does this bombardment of information convey the feeling of ’togetherness’ of the finished product I have? I guess not, but I leave this for everyone to judge for themselves. Having driven 1600 km (around 1000 mi) the last week, of which 1230 km (765 mi) electric, my preliminary conclusion is that BMW has delivered something good here. And I’m not going to be talking about the performance, which is excellent, E-range, which is adequate, or about the battery, knowing that it could have been larger, but I will tell you a story about what you can do while having a nice conversation with your mother-in-law.

Our i3/REx at a motorway charging station
To begin with the latter: the effortless way the performance is delivered is absolutely fabulous. It is not just about sheer speed, there are faster cars, it is about acceleration with a creamy topping. This allows, for instance, for keeping up nicely, in this case up to 80 km/h (50 mi/h) in city traffic, with, say, a dark-blue 911 with spoilers extended and engine roaring. Whilst having a civilized conversation. With my mother-in-law, her being the least ‘brave’ of passengers one could imagine. Not a peep. At least not in the i3 :-) Just the subdued jet-airplane whine of its motor.

The same goes for decelerating. The recuperation is done very well, it comes naturally almost instantly. If one does need the footbrake, the transition is seamless. It is like the engine braking of a heavy diesel-powered vehicle and then some. Excellent !

To round it off, the comfort level is kept up nicely by the suspension and the road holding abilities are surprisingly good. The suspension is not soft, the wheelbase is on the short side, you’ll notice this on speed-bumps and short humps, but safe and comfortable it feels. It could be it is simply exactly to my taste and on par with my expectations. Just don’t ask me for an unbiased review then…

So, I like driving it. Almost as much as I like the interior now, for which I needed some time to get accustomed to the wild styling. We went for Lodge, being the light wool/leather combination. In our original order, we ordered the standard grey, but after driving our friend’s BEV with the white Loft interior, we changed our order on the very last moment. The light upholstery combines so much better with the interior design. Especially while ours is Laurel Grey on the outside. Not a topping, but a creamy center in this case. Nice. The feel and quality of it is absolutely on par with other BMW products, I am relieved to say, for we where a bit worried by the pre production cars we were presented with last year. It looks good, it feels good, even the doors sound fine now.

The ergonomics are ok. Some bonuspoints are not scored, some function follows form, as is the case in some other aspects of the i3, but if you are accustomed to other BMWs, you’ll get in and drive off. Also, the interior space is quite good. Everyone taking a ride is surprised the car is bigger than expected on the outside and roomier than expected on the inside. Fine for four adults not going around the world. When 1m90 (6’3”) though, it does get a little tight on the backseat. The ceiling is a tad on the low side for your average basketball-player. Also, the bootspace is, as widely written about, not ideal to cater for your basketball-team. It still is a small car, one needs to remember…

Finally, my take on the much debated exterior. It isn’t exactly pretty, but I like it a lot for all its quirkiness, what can I say ? The size is spot-on for me, with a length of 3999 mm (157.5”), the proportions render a sturdy image, the details look great in real life. Except the rear. It remains just too weird. But hey, nobody is perfect !

Lost

Love lost ? That is overstating it for dramatic purposes, but downsides there are. It feels like most of it is caused by form prevailing over function or, maybe, judgmental errors. For instance, the front windows seem to have difficulty coping with heavy gales. The top can leak air in this case. Also, the frameless windows cause a little turbulence around its rubbers on the B-pillar. The frameless windows could be a weight-saving measure and I am not against letting design rule over function, but I do question the decision to omit the window-frames.

Next issue: the charger. This is a big one. It is inexcusable BMW didn’t fit a three-phase AC charger. I really don’t get it, it is simply stupid. It could be that three-phase electrics aren’t common outside our little corner of the world, but north-western European customers could have benefited greatly having their AC charging times cut to one third. Let’s hope DC charging catches on…

On a 50 kW DC fast charger the i3 charges a little over 2.5 % every minute up to a charging level of around 90% before slowing down. State of charge 11 to 91% in half an hour.
Also high on my could-be-better list is the remote control. It is such a small part of the car, but you’ll handle it multiple times every day. It is a sort of plastic/metallic fob with buttons one can’t discern by touch, so it is not easy to press the right buttons unless looking while doing.

On top of this there are some niggles. The modulation of the heater could be better. And there are the caps (blind plugs ?) for the charge ports. Why ? And why the little hook for these to hang them from the flap ? It is all but useless. And why the rubber cord holding the two caps to the car (which I removed) ? And why is the flap covering the charge-port so big that I fear that somebody will break it off while walking past the car one day ? And why is there not a kind of courtesy handle for unlatching the security latch of the bonnet, like on our good old 3 series ? Oh well…


Born to live electric

What range do I get ? Perhaps the single most important question for battery drivers. This depends heavily on the driving style and top speed of course. My combined total is now around 17 kWh/100 km (62 mi) doing mixed driving and including road testing from me and my family members. I have observed a consumption of around 17-18 kWh/100 km (62 mi) when driving a hundred (62 mi/h), around 18-19 when driving one-ten (68), around 21-22 doing one-twenty (75) and around 24 doing 130 km/h (80). In not too cold weather (approx. 8 degrees centigrade (46 F)), and without too much wind and no torrential downpours.

My preferred mode of operation is using EcoPro with the climate control excluded and set to 19˚C (66 F), without A/C, the fans on the lowest setting and seat heating for driver and passenger activated as needed. This gives us a nice balance between comfort and consumption, for I don’t like the EcoPro implementation for the climate control. It is a very good thing one can exclude the climate control from EcoPro.

In real use, I haven’t used my REx all last week, doing 1000 km (621 mi) on electricity, I am pleased to say. For instance, we did a full-electric roundtrip to Germany yesterday of 290 km (180 mi) with a stop to and fro at a DC fast-charger and charging in Germany during our shopping expedition without a problem. One has to be careful to feather the throttle, even in EcoPro modus, and one has to keep Vmax at around 110 (68) for best results. I admit I couldn’t keep myself in check all the time, driving is supposed to be fun at times, right, so I used a little more than I could have used, but there was no problem reaching our designated charging stations. Driving like a granny is no prerequisite for driving off your kitchen socket….

Range: Extended

Of course, I cannot get away here without telling you something about our i3’s party trick: the never ending range. At least until we’ve managed to drain all earths resources. The REx has been much disputed, highly coveted and widely renounced. For me, it’s just perfect. It does its job nicely but not so nice as to forgo on charging the car at all. The exterior noise is reminiscent of the good old loveable Italian egg, the original Fiat 500. Although not air-cooled, it sounds eerily similar. Inside, the noise is never a real issue. It is never exactly loud, however you’ll hear it when it needs to work hard to keep your seats heated and your speed on the other side of 100 km/h (62 mi/h).

Our REx kicked in automatically with around 6 km (4 mi) of range remaining. When cruising along, even with this minute battery reserve, the engine adjusts its output to match the car’s requirements nicely. Until you start to floor the throttle at the lights. Every flat-out acceleration will cost you around one km of range, so the engine starts revving up time after time, a couple of seconds after taking off. It keeps up the revs until the range start to creep back up.

The same thing happens on the motorway. Taking it easy, doing a 100 km/h (62) with mod cons, the engine keeps its revs in check. When picking up the pace, going 120 km/h (75) in EcoPro with heater in Comfort mode set at reasonable temperature, using 21-22kW to heat and propel the i3 with two passengers, the engine starts to work. Depending on the wind and terrain, which is nice and flat here for it was designed especially to suit E-vehicles when creating the Dutch ‘polders’ from the seventeenth century onwards, the engine keeps it up nicely though. Even with a fully drained battery so it seems. I tested this on the motorway in the torrential rains and high winds we had here last Friday night. But that is about it. Going 130 km/h (80), using 24-25kW will see you eating into your reserve, albeit slowly. My preliminary conclusion is that our little REx pumps out something close to 22 kW of electric power, enough to keep up a pace of around 120 km/h (75 mi/h).

That said, the little bee under the floor didn’t mind buzzing for an over hour at a stretch with 100-110 km/h (62-68) on the clock with windforce 9 plus gales against and not much left in the battery (11 km (7 mi) of range to be exact). This on a day on which we drove 320 km (200 mi), of which only 100 km (62 mi) electric. It did consume 8 litres in 100 km (29 MPG US) doing this exercise though. But I also scored 4.25 l/100 km (55 MPG US) driving around 80 km (50 mi) at a stretch going the other direction and 6 l/100 km (39 MPG US) on a 160 km  (100 mi) round trip the next day. The variation in the data is still quite large, and our experience not extensive after a total of 370 km (230 mi) of buzzing, but my estimate would be it is going to do a little over 6 l/100km (39 MPG US) for us.

Verdict

The aforementioned shortcomings, niggles and design choices still bother me a little because the car is, in essence, so good. I’ll get used to them. I’ve done over sixteen hundred kilometers (1000 mi) at the time of writing this. It has been a joy, it will continue to be a joy I guess. I expect some other niggles or problems popping up because of the innovative nature of the i3 and the inexperience of BMW with many of its parts and materials, but I really like what they have done with their 3 billion euros. It is absolutely not merely a city car, feeling like riding a lame duck on the motorway, it is a proper little beemer. BMW scored, for me, a 7 out of 10 when we first saw the car at the introduction, but it ramped up to an outstanding 9 out of 10 for the M√ľnchener.

Friday, February 21, 2014

BMW i3 Production Delays Reported

Virtually every facet of the i3's manufacturing process is different and BMW is evidently struggling to manage setbacks
According to Jay Cole over at insideevs.com i3 production is currently 50% lower than expected at this point in time. Cole's source is Manager Magazine Online, a German Publication, which states the high rejection rate of the carbon fiber parts made for the car. The article goes on to say that BMW's recent announcement that the company will be investing another 100 million euros to increase the production of carbon fiber is tied to this issue.

Manager also says BMW is only churning out 70 i3's per day which is about half of what they were hoping to be making by now. BMW began i3 production in October so they are four months in and now have over 11,000 i3's on backorder. Plus, US sales are only just beginning so it would appear that even if BMW gets the current problems solved in short order (and that's a big "if"), it will still probably take them nearly a year to catch up with demand since the orders will continue to pile up. It has long been speculated that BMW will have the capacity to make between 30,000 and 40,000 i3's per year once they are running at full production.

It seems we now have some answers to two things which were puzzling US customers recently. A couple months ago BMW announced that US i3's will not have a moonroof available. This comes long after it was announced that the i3's with Giga World and Tera World interiors get the moonroof included with the packages. To make matters worse, most of the i3's here in the US are pre-production European spec cars and they all have sunroofs. So everyone that had the opportunity to test drive an i3 got teased with seeing the moonroof that they were later told they won't be able to have. Then, a few weeks ago BMW announced the first three months of i3 US production would be limited to a "Launch Edition" version. The Launch Edition is fully loaded with every option available on the car and the most expensive Tera World interior. The only thing the customer can choose is the color (and only the metallic colors are available) and if they want the optional 20" sport wheels.

Many people speculated that is was simply a money grab and BMW knew the car would be in high demand so they could get away with making anyone that wanted one of the first i3's in the US buy one that was loaded. Now, with the recent news about production difficulty, I think it's obvious the reasons the moonroof isn't available at launch, and custom ordering isn't available for another three months, is solely because BMW is struggling to refine the manufacturing process and eliminate the problems they are currently having.

I've had the opportunity to talk with many BMW program managers over the past few years. One of the things that has always stood out to me was how on one hand they were really excited about the i3 because of how special and different everything about it is, while on the other hand they would always acknowledge how big a challenge it was going to be. Everything about the i3 is different. BMW has never made a car that required special manufacturing processes for virtually every stage of assembly. Besides the electric powertrain, most of the materials used in the car are even different. While the biggest challenge is likely working with carbon fiber on such a large scale, they are also using more aluminum on a car than they ever have and are using interior materials that they have never worked with before. Then there is the outer thermoplastic body panels which BMW has never used before which has even led to the painting process presenting challenges.

So personally I'm really not surprised by all this. The i3 is a revolutionary new car for BMW, and nobody else is making anything quite like it. Yes, there are some that will look at it and say "It's just another 80 mile electric car, big deal", or "It's nothing more than a Nissan LEAF that costs $50,000". I respect everyone's opinions, and for some people it doesn't represent any more value than a $30,000 Nissan LEAF and that's fine. However when I see the i3 I see the future of the automotive industry and I applaud BMW for taking the enormous risk of building such a radically different car, something that nobody else is attempting to build. Yes, I wish it had more range and I think BMW would have been better served if it could really deliver 100 miles of consistent real world range for most drivers, and it's clear it will not. But that's the biggest knock I can offer and it's far from a deal breaker for me. BMW will get past these initial manufacturing snafu's. The top concern at this point should be quality, which I'm sure it is. The production numbers will increase and by the end of the year I'm sure they will have everything running as smoothly as planned. The question is will the customers wait many months for their i3 to be made? I suppose the people that don't put as much weight on how special it is may not, but those that appreciate how unique the car really is will. After all, there is nothing else out there they can get that is quite like the i3.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

BMW i3 Carves up Monticello Raceway




A few months ago I posted a story from InsideEvs written by my good friend (and neighbor!) Chris Neff. It was his take on a day in October which he spent filming a series of videos for BMW of him driving around Monticello Raceway as a passenger in a BMW i3 driven by professional race car driver Erin Crocker. We have been waiting patiently for the release of the videos and the first in the series was finally made available. Take a look above!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Autocar Gives the i3 Rave Reviews



BMW i3 - is this the world's most desirable affordable electric car?

That's the question Autocar asks. Take a look at the video and you'll see what they think.

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. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

BMW i3 Sochi Olympic Commercials Revealed



BMW has released a series of commercials that will be used for commercials during the Sochi Winter Olympics which just opened yesterday. There are spots for many of the new BMW products but the BMW i3 spots will be the first commercials ever aired in the US for the car so I've posted them here.

The commercials are titled "Shhh", "Reasons", "Cop" and "Zero Gallons". I really like Shhh & Cop. I think Reasons is OK and am not a big fan of  Zero Gallons. Shhh (seen above) is great. A father comes home and when his son wonders why he didn't hear him pull up the dad says "Electric car...sneaky" and goes off to bed. This gives the kid the great idea of sneaking out quietly with the car for a rendezvous with his girlfriend; something that many teenage kids do. I remember pushing my dads 1976 Oldsmobile Starfire out of the driveway late at night so he wouldn't hear me "borrowing" it. I would then shut it off before I reached the driveway when I was coming home so I could silently coast back in without waking him. I could have really used a quiet EV for these stealth, late night adventures back then. However in the commercial the i3's smartphone app does the kid in, waking his dad to alert him of the cars charging status! Very clever spot.

The video below, Reasons, takes a swing at the idea that people only want to drive electric cars to reduce their carbon footprint, to help clean the air, to live a sustainable lifestyle, etc or in other words to save the world. But people buy cars for many reasons, and how well the car drives is one of the most important reasons of all. With the i3, you don't have to sacrifice driving pleasure to get all the other positives that driving electric brings, and this spot tries to drive that home.



"Cop" is easy to understand. The i3 is fast and fun to drive. You won't find yourself wanting to crawl along at 5 miles per hour under the speed limit in the slow lane if you have one. You'll more likely find yourself stomping the accelerator whenever you can. This will likely lead to unwanted attention by the men in blue.




While I like the message Zero Gallons was attempting to convey, I think it misses the mark. "This is our most efficient vehicle yet. With zero miles per gallon...more specifically, zero gallons."  Most of the i3's sold in the US are going to have the range extender option, so they won't really use "Zero Gallons" in the first place. But even if BMW wanted to get the "all electric" message out there, they could have done it better in my opinion. Perhaps show the car whizzing by a deserted gas station with tumbleweeds rolling past the pumps and the driver with a clever smirk on his face. Hopefully this one will get the least airplay because the other three offer much more powerful messages. 



The video below features the BMW i8, but it's really a commercial for the whole BMW i brand. The video uses the words of science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke and uses an array of futuristic cityscape visuals and then introduces the i8. It's inspiring, and reminds us that we aren't even capable of knowing what to expect in the future, and the i8 is just a taste of what kind of cars we are going to be driving very soon. 


Friday, February 7, 2014

US i3 Orders Limited to Special "Launch Edition" Package For First Three Months

You want one of the first i3's in the US? You'll be getting the full leather Tera World interior as seen above and every option available besides the 20" wheels then. Welcome to the "Launch Edition i3"

Just yesterday, BMW i dealers received a bulletin that informed them they can officially begin to process customer orders and place them in the pipeline. Many customers have already left deposits at their local BMW dealerships even though it wasn't an official order yet, with the hope of being one of the first people to take delivery of this revolutionary vehicle. However they didn't have an official order place in the system, that was just to have a place in line reserved for them and to make sure they got one of the few allotted cars their dealer would get for 2014. So now that these reservations can be turned into official orders, everyone must be really happy, right?

Not so fast. In a move that will most certainly anger many of the enthusiastic people waiting patiently for their i3, BMW informed the dealers that the initial first three months of US i3 production will be restricted to a special "Launch Edition" i3. The Launch Edition i3 has the top of the line interior Tera World and every option available on the car besides the 20" Sport Wheels which you can add if you would like. (Options include: Metallic paint, Parking Package, Technology and Drivers Assist Package, DC Quick Charge Option, Heated Seats and the Harman Kardon Premium sound system). The only choice the customer gets is whether or not they want the range extender, the exterior paint color and if they want the 20" Sport wheels. So unless the people waiting in like with deposits are willing to take a fully loaded Launch Edition i3, they will have to wait an additional three months for production of the custom ordered i3's to begin. The Launch Edition i3 production will run from March to May so custom ordered i3 production will not begin until June.

As expected this isn't sitting well with a lot of folks who have had deposits and reservations for many months now. I've had over a dozen people reach out to me today to confirm whether or not this was true after being notified by their dealer. Some thought the dealer was just trying to jack up the price of their car by making them get options they didn't want and were seeking clarification from me. I wish I could tell them it wasn't the truth, but this is how it's being done. The unfortunate thing is many people have expiring leases and planned to make due for a few weeks until their i3 came in but now the gap is more like 3 or 4 months and they don't know what to do. Should they bite the bullet and get an additional ~$4,000 of options they didn't necessarily want or wait till July for the i3 spec'd the way they ordered?

Here is the cost breakdown of the Launch Edition i3:

Base:141A(BEV): $41,350.00
Color:B81: $550.00
Tera world:ZTW: $2700.00
Parking Package:ZPK: $1000.00
Tech+Driving Assist:ZTD: $2500.00
Heated Front Seats:494: $350.00
DC Fast Charging:4U7: $700.00
Harman/Kardon:674: $800.00
Destination: $925.00

Total: $50,875.

If you want the range extender just add $3,850, so a Launch Edition i3 REx will set you back $54,725.


The only exception to this is ordering process is for the current ActiveE drivers like me. As a "thank you" for participating the the ActiveE trial lease program, BMW is allowing us to order our cars "a la carte" in addition to giving us the heated seats and DC quick charge options for free. BMW is also creating some unique features that only our cars will have like interior, exterior and door sill badging, embroidered front trunk liner and BMW i floor mats. Plus we get priority ordering and the first batch of i3's that come to the US will include our cars and we should begin receiving them the end of April. BMW is calling our cars the "Electronaut Edition i3" and these only be purchased by current ActiveE drivers. The ironic thing is, I ordered my i3 REx with the Tera World interior and every option available including the 20" sport wheels. So even though I had the freedom to build my car the way I wanted to that the other early i3 buyers won't have, I'm still getting the car loaded just like the Launch Edition anyway.

I'm sure this will elicit some interesting comments below.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

BMW i3 Born Electric Guest Blogger: Meet Toni 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. We'll now be traveling to Belgium to visit with Toni and his new Capparis White i3:  


My name is Toni and I was Born Electric on Monday, 27th January, 2014.

The first time I realized that there was an alternative to fossil fuels for propelling a car was in early 2011, when I came across an electronic brochure about the Opel Ampera, the European sibling of the Volt. The more I read about it, the more I was convinced that my next car had to be an electric one.
The reason why I didn't go for the Ampera back then was stupidly financial : 50.000€ for a car was way above what I was willing/able to pay. 
Of course, there were other more affordable electric cars out there. But maybe I was not ready for the leap of faith into electro-mobility yet. Range anxiety was clearly an issue I had to deal with while I waited for my savings account to be able to take the hit of a new car.

Three years later, things had clearly evolved. Both on the EV market and in my personal situation. In the latter, I had enough spare funds to afford a reasonable down payment on a premium car. Moreover, the extensive immersion into electric car literature helped me to come to the conclusion that I did not really need a range extender since more than 95% of my daily commuting could easily be covered by a BEV. The question was then : which car was going to be the one. Ampera/Volt? No, though it definitely is a fantastic car, it still has a tail pipe and I did not want to buy an end-of-cycle model. Tesla? No, too big and too expensive, I did not want to take out a mortgage for the sake of buying a car.  Nissan Leaf? Er, no.  
The BMW i3? Well ... I must admit that my first impression was negative. Not because of its design; actually I am fond of its looks since the very first concepts that appeared in 2011.  But rather because it is a BMW! I never liked BMW. I always considered that BMW was making cars to suit arrogant petrolhead jerks (with all due respect, of course!).

And then I test-drove it. And fell in love.

Was I ready to overcome my prejudices and become a BMW driver myself?  Definitely. Biases are wrong, the car drives like a breeze, the technology inside is outstanding and I too can be a jerk sometimes. : )

So, in order to do penance for my past biases, I decided to devote this blog post to crushing some preconceptions that have been floating around the i3 in some reviews.  And I'll do that from the authoritative position of being the happy owner of a "Shamu Edition" (Capparis white & black - think Shamu the whale)


It is a city car:
No, it is not. Though the car handles incredibly well in an urban environment, it has nothing to be ashamed of when cruising at highway speed. It is fast and responsive. Steering is precise and forgiving at 130 km/h (80 mph).  Overtaking on motorways is a feast. It is a BMW after all, is it not?

The i3 is particularly noisy at high speed:
No, it is not. My first extended drive of the i3 has been the trip back home after delivery at my iAgent dealership. 50 km (30 mi) from Waterloo (Brussels area) to the Mons area where I live. Since the battery was almost fully charged, I decided that I could afford the luxury of squandering away precious kWh's on the E19 motorway. In addition to discovering the driving dynamics described above, I was also curious to put to the test the recurrent criticism I read about unpleasant airflow noises.  I can confirm that in-cabin noises are like taste; there is no accounting for them. I, for one, was not inconvenienced by the airflow at all. I even enjoyed it.


The trunk is too small and the suicide doors are a hindrance:
The question is : Compared to what? 
I am a small car guy. Before the i3, my car was a Mini Cooper. Before that, I owned a Mercedes A-Class (2004 model). Before that, a (discontinued) Rover 220sdi. I know what a small car is. And the i3 is no small car at all by my standards. The trunk offers enough space to generously accommodate the weekly shopping for a family of four. There is plenty of space for my Victorian longbow, arrows included, or for my eldest son's guitar, amp included. 

As for the coach doors, once again it all depends on where you come from. Compared to the coupé-style doors of my Mini, the i3's "antagonist" doors, as they are called in French, are a major step forward in terms of ease of access and comfort. Or to put it in my youngest son's words : "Sooo cooool!".


Materials used for interior trims do not feel "premium":
That was a tricky one.
As I said, price was an important parameter for me, as it surely is for most of us. Given that I accepted the idea of disbursing 40.000+ € for a car, the outlook of spending my driving time in a sleazy environment was distressing me. Of course, I did have the opportunity to feel, touch, smell the interior materials a couple of times before I ordered the car. But assessing the quality of a dashboard or of a leather upholstery is like testing a spring mattress at the mattress store.  No matter how long you try to figure it out, the only way to be sure is to turn the lights off and literally sleep on it.
Though I have not slept in my car (yet), now, I know. The interior is largely up to the price paid. Comfy, stylish, extremely well finished down to the most minute detail. I am almost ashamed of having doubted.  By the way, my i3 has the Lodge interior (Giga world). 

The i3 is just an overpriced Zoe: (I've been reading this one a lot in the French-speaking press).
For the non-European reader, let me first explain that the Renault Zoe (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renault_Zoe) is a sort of cute good looking Nissan Leaf, with a French touch.  Don't get me wrong; I think that the Zoe is a nice little car but, c'me on! 

How can a professional journalist put the i3 and the Zoe on the same footing.  How can you compare the past to the future? A car made of steel to the first mass produced car made of aluminum and carbon fibre?
I wish I were an engineer and be able to explain why and how a car with a CFRP body drives so much better than a conventional one. But I am just a linguist and you'll have to bear with my poor description : in the i3, you're just in control!  

The rigidity of the thing makes you feel that there is nothing the car won't take.  You feel light and super secure at the same time.  If you don't believe me, just arrange your own test drive.

Considering the technology, range is unimpressive:
My take on that may sound unconventional.
More range would have been inconsistent with the concept of “great driving experience in a sustainable way”. If my average daily need is 40, why should I store in my car 4, 6 or even 8 times the energy and resources that are necessary?  

In all fairness though, I must confess that I am still struggling with an instinctual range anxiety.
And this is where technology comes to the rescue. The amount of information that comes through the screens is just impressive. The dynamic range assistant, the Eco-route guidance, the graphics, everything has been thought and designed in order to alleviate whatever range fear that I still could have. And it works. On top of that, the resolution quality of the 10.2" screen (professional nav) is remarkable.

I know that there is a bit of controversy as to why BMW did not include a State Of Charge reading in the i3 as in the ActiveE or the Mini E.  Since I never had the chance to drive an EV with a SOC, I guess that my point of view may be considered as neutral on that.

The i3 is an expensive high-tech toy for tree-hugging geeks:
Yes.
It is.
But it is much more than that at the same time.
It's a car.
With all the features, functionalities, looks, behavior, style, technology and feel of a great car.
And yes, it is electric.

So is my i3 living up to all of its promises?
Not quite all of them, for the moment at least.
In Belgium, some of the much anticipated 360° Electric services have not been fully rolled out yet. The Add-On-Mobility (Access or Alternate Mobility program as it is called on other markets) is still largely undefined and the ConnectedDrive services are having a bumpy debut.  Nevertheless, the local BMWi team is working hard on it.

As far as the actual car is concerned though, I can happily report that I haven't found the least flaw yet.
My i3 is the second BMWi to have been registered in Belgium.
And I am very proud to be among the first owners. 

2/5/14 EDIT:
Toni has had a few people ask him about the range since this post went up so he asked me if I could add these words to the post to cover what he has observed so far:

Hi, thank you all for the the nice words!


As for the range, I haven't pushed it to its limits yet. And I doubt I'll ever try to; I'd rather do away with my range anxiety in a non-traumatic way :)

Apart from the maximum range, I think you have to consider the "comfortable" range the car is giving you. By "comfortable" range, I mean the distance you can cover without ever bothering about modes, driving style or even outside temperature and this includes short highway portions. In the case of the i3 (BEV), my experience of the "comfortable" distance is ~62mi (100 km) on one charge.  Remember that, within this range you can drive the way you want. Of course, this "comfortable" range can be jeopardized by a particularly aggressive and non-responsible driving. But, as far as I know, only anti-EV journalists are capable of driving this way.

If your daily commuting includes larger highway portions and/or represents between 62 and 80 mi (100 to 130 km), then I recommend using ECOPRO. Mind you, ECOPRO is not a sub-standard COMFORT mode. The car behaves much like it does in COMFORT mode with only slight differences. Most of them remain unseen by the driver. The only one you do notice is the max speed capping. This speed capping works much like a speed limiter on a conventional car, i.e. you can adjust it in the settings and override it by pressing the right pedal down to "full throttle" when overtaking or in case of emergency. For Europe, ECOPRO default setting is 110km/h (~68 mph).

If you really need to go much farther than 80 mi (130 km) on one charge in a consistent way, you'll probably have to master hypermiling techniques and accept that the ride may become stressing sometimes :)
In this case, I'd recommend going to for the REx version.

If you own an i3 and would like to participate in the Born Electric series here, you can email me at: tom.moloughney@gmail.com

Sunday, February 2, 2014

XCAR Reviews The i3: The Ultimate Driving Machine?



There are dozens of video reviews of the i3 popping up now but this one seems pretty good so I thought it was worth putting up.

Later in the week I'll have another installment of the "I was Born Electric on..." series. This time we'll be traveling to Belgium to get some insight into how a new i3 owner there is feeling about living the electric life.