Monday, February 23, 2015

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

One of the things many of us EV drivers are guilty of, is plugging in whenever we have the opportunity to. We may not even need the extra range, but if there is an available 240V EVSE, or even a simple 120V outlet, and we're going to be at that location for a while, it's just too tempting not to plug in and grab some electrons while we're there.

Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I wonder how many i3 owners know their car records everywhere you've plugged in and stores the exact location? I've known this for a while now because a few months ago one of the readers here sent me an email pointing it out because it almost got him in trouble but I'll get back to that later in the post.

I'm bringing this up now because I had to bring my car in for service for BMW to inspect something. I'm beta testing new i3 software which will be released to the public in a few months so if I see anything out of the ordinary they want to check it out. So I dropped the car off at JMK BMW and a nice Ionic Silver i3 REx was waiting for me to use as a loaner. I had used this loaner before a few months ago when I had the new software installed on my car and love that JMK offers i3 loaners. It's a practice that all BMW dealerships that really want to sell i3s should employ, in my opinion.
My previous charging locations were still recorded, months after I used this loaner car. All I had to do is choose this entry and the car would direct me to my restaurant in Montclair, NJ. I could have also visited the homes of some of my fellow local i3 owners.

So as I headed out of the dealership I started the navigation system, and instead of entering the destination, I scrolled down to "Last Charging Stations" just to see if the addresses I charged at a few months back were still saved there. They were. My restaurant in Montclair and my home address were saved as destinations in the loaner's nav system. Then, as I scrolled down the list I saw addresses of all my friends who live locally and drive i3s. Their names weren't listed, but the navigation system stored the exact location of their homes - which I know because we are friends. Evidently they too had used this loaner i3 while their car was in for service. Since they charged the car at home, their addresses were recorded as "Last Charging Stations" and stored in the nav system. I erased all the entries that were addresses of the people I know, but I wonder how many of them realized they were leaving a record of where they live and charge for anyone who had the car after them to see.

I suppose it's not a problem if it's your personal car, but if you do use an i3 loaner from your dealer, and you don't want a record of where you plugged in logged in the car's navigation system, I'd suggest you delete the entries that were made while you had the vehicle before you turn the car back in. I know this isn't all that different from how navigation systems work on other cars. Many store the previous destinations that were entered in the system. However this seems a little more intrusive to me because your home address is being stored without you entering it into the system like you would have to do with a navigation system. Simply by plugging the car in you create a saved entry and the exact location is stored. I just want the readers here to know this, so they can decide if they want to delete their charging locations whenever they feel the need. I'm sure many i3 owners don't even realize this is happening.

Now getting back to the original person who pointed this out to me. About six months ago I got an email from one of the readers here. He wanted to tell me a funny story of what happened to him with his i3. One day his wife was using the car for the first time by herself and was getting to know the iDrive system. She came across the Last Charging Stations category. Scrolling down the list she saw an entry which was a street in a town that wasn't too from where they live. Unfortunately for him, it was on a street and in the town were an old girlfriend used to live. When he came home that night his wife asked him about it, and he had to explain why he was there and that it was a public charging station which he needed to stop off at for a little while so he could make it home one night. He explained and they laughed about it, and it wasn't some serious inquisition to begin with, but it was a little reminder about how this feature could get someone in trouble if they went somewhere they shouldn't have.

This may or may not be a concern for you personally, but I want to at least point this out so i3 owners are aware of it. It's very easy to delete an entry; you just hover over the saved destination, press the options button and then delete. Unless you're doing something you shouldn't be doing I don't see any reason to delete entries in your personal car, in fact storing them for future use is a great feature, and is the reason why the car does it in the first place. However, when using an i3 loaner from the dealership, I'd prefer that my home address isn't permanently stored in the nav system and I'll be deleting the entries I created when I return the cars I have on loan from now on.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

What the Frunk?

The front storage compartment (Frunk) of my i3 after driving a few weeks on the salt-covered winter roads of New Jersey - yuck!
First, let me begin by saying I was one of the people who really didn't mind the fact that the i3's front storage compartment (affectionately called the "frunk" by many since Tesla initially coined the term for the area under the hood of the Model S) wasn't waterproof. I never envisioned keeping anything up there that I would need to access frequently and since my Electronaut Edition i3 came with a nice storage bag that would keep whatever I put in there nice and dry, it was really a non-issue as far as I was concerned.

It looked a little better when I first got the car. Of course everything looks better new, but being exposed to all the elements means you really can't store anything up there that isn't waterproof & durable
It was so inconsequential to me at the time I didn't even list it as a minor annoyance when I did my initial likes & dislikes posts back in June. Well after living with the car for nine months now, I have some different perspectives and I think I'll soon go back and do an update on what I like and don't like about the i3. One of the things I'll add to the dislike list is the fact that the frunk area is easily penetrated by moisture, dirt, leaves and anything else that would find its way under the hood of a traditional ICE car.
Leaves can make their way into the frunk also, as found out by BMW i3 Facebook group member, Michal Cierniak

So why didn't BMW make this area waterproof? I have never gotten an official answer but my guess is because it would add weight and cost. Plus, since it is such a small compartment, they figured the vast majority of people would only use it for things like extension cords, a tool kit and the occasional use EVSE, all of which are OK to get wet once in a while. They probably also figured most people would get a bag to put those items in, and they even sell one such as the one that I have. Because I have an Electronaut Edition i3, mine was free and embroidered "Electronaut Edition." It keeps the items in the bag clean and dry, but the bag itself gets very dirty and isn't really pleasant to handle when it's covered in dust and now road salt. 

Which one would you prefer to handle?

The i3 has a lot of mechanical components up in the frunk area; they are just hidden by the removable screens on both sides of the frunk. Once you remove these snap on screens, you can see that area looks basically like a traditional ICE engine compartment, minus the engine of course. The storage compartment only occupies a small section of that area as opposed to the Model S. Since the Model S is so much larger than the i3, Tesla was able to utilize a huge portion of the area under the hood for storage, creating a large front trunk which they called the frunk and still have enough room to fit whatever mechanical parts they located up there. The i3 didn't have much space to spare since the front area of the car is so small, so the storage compartment seems like more of an afterthought than something that was a well planned design feature.
After removing the plastic frunk, and the snap-on shields on both sides of it, what you see looks very similar to a conventional gasoline or diesel powered car (minus the engine!) Photo credit: Tim Hood
If waterproofing the entire area up there just wasn't cost effective, or if it was going to add too much weight, then I do understand the reasoning, but what they should have done was provide a nice frunk cover that could snap on and provide - at the very least - a water-resistant seal. Perhaps some ingenious entrepreneur will manufacture and sell such a cover...

* If you want to use my car as the mold you know where to find me, and I'll be your first customer ;)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

i3 Owner Explains Her 312 Mile All Electric Day

Kris charging up at an NRG Fast Charge station
One of the many things that Tesla Motors understands as well as anybody is how a robust Fast Charge network will liberate their customers from being on an "Electric Leash." Ubiquitous DC fast charging stations are, in my opinion, just as important as longer range electric vehicles. In fact, they may even be more important.

BMW apparently shares that opinion and has recently announced that they are getting into the DC fast charge game with a partnership that includes Volkswagen and ChargePoint, and will be installing fast chargers at 50 mile intervals on the East and West coasts to create "Express Charging Corridors." However it won't end with there. BMW is going to continue to invest in DC fast charge infrastructure here in the US, as they realize that they need to participate in creating the foundation for BMW i to succeed.

As with most things EV-related, California is ahead of most of the US when it comes to DC fast charge infrastructure. While the SAE Combo (CCS) fast charge units are only beginning to be installed, there are some already in the ground there, and they are allowing people to take their i3s further in a shorter period of time than they could if they were relying on 240v Level 2 public charging.

Kris & I at a recent i3 meet
Which brings me to the story below that I found interesting.  My friend Kris Kluzak, a former ActiveE Electronaut, offered to write a guest post for this blog detailing a day when she drove her i3 312 miles using public charging infrastructure.  It shows that even a medium-range EV, like the i3, can easily cover hundreds of miles in a day if the appropriate infrastructure is in place.

Here's how it went down, in Kris's words:

A 312 mile, all electric day in a BMW i3 REx:

On November 11th, 2014 I was scheduled for a research study for my car in Sherman Oaks, California. From my house in East San Diego County, it is about 160-mile trip one-way.

On any given day this “normal” trip would take approximately 3-4+ hours in any vehicle with an engine (ICE) as the main power source. Those of us living in Southern California know the different routes to take to avoid traffic blunders, and are often looking for the carpool lane when it’s an option.

In order to arrive on time for my 2pm appointment, my husband and I had to build in a few charge/food stops; this set us to leave right after 8am. First, we stopped 39 miles away at the Carlsbad Premium Outlets to charge and grab coffee at Starbucks. *We charged for 30 minutes knowing we had enough range to reach our next stop in Santa Ana. 
Like me, Kris's previous electric car was a BMW ActiveE
We next stopped at Crevier BMW, 58 miles from Carlsbad. Just days prior they had installed four DCQC (SAE Combo) stations and we were on a mission to check them out. Normally we would not choose this route through Los Angeles, but since it was a Federal holiday we took advantage of the “lighter” traffic. We charged for an hour while our SOC (state of charge) reached 99%. While we didn’t plan to stay that long, we enjoyed talking to the "iGenius" in the new "iBuilding".  There was also a Starbucks and restroom on site for us to use.  We left there with our next intended stop in Sherman Oaks, not knowing for sure where we would charge, but would look once we got up there.  I was fully prepared to have my range extender kick in if needed, but I really was trying to do this trip without it.

We found that the local KIA dealership claimed to have an ABB charger, which is the same unit that NRG eVgo uses (yes, CHAdeMO and SAE Combo). We called to see if - 1) the charger exists, which it does, and 2) to see if we could charge, which we were told yes, to come on by.  It was a few miles from the Sherman Oaks location, so off we went.  The charger was blocked, but they immediately moved a car and allowed us to charge.  Unfortunately, the charger was so new, that it hadn’t been provisioned yet, and did not work.  At this point I had 22 miles of range, and 27 miles to the next, known Freedom Station in Hermosa Beach.  So we set off, knowing my range extender would probably kick in.

With some luck, and HEAVY Los Angeles traffic on the 405, we managed to get to Hermosa Beach with 6 miles to spare, and no REx usage.  I drove **83.3 miles on that one charge from Crevier. Once at Hermosa Beach, we managed to find the charger, a nearby bar offering Taco Tuesday, and managed to do all of this while just getting a 30 minute charge. Next stop, the Westminster Shopping Mall ***27 miles away.  We arrived at the mall with no range issues, and were able to charge again for just 30 minutes.  FroYo and a potty stop…and away to Carlsbad for the last stop.

We arrived in Carlsbad, once again hit the Starbucks and charged for only 20 minutes, enough charge to get home.  We were there about 30 minutes, but the charger faulted and stopped early.  We arrived home at just before 10pm.  312 total miles driven, all electric, no REx used, and all charges were free.  We spent a few dollars at Starbucks and for the dinner, but overall, did the whole trip for less than $50, all-inclusive.

Some key points to this trip:

I did not use any climate control until the last leg, there was no need for heating or cooling, but I had to run the defrosters a few times for the last 30 miles.

I ran the entire trip in Eco Pro driving mode.

I preconditioned the car that morning prior to leaving, hoping to warm the batteries before the trip for maximum range.

I purposely did not use the carpool lane. While this might have been necessary in another situation where time was an issue, I preferred to stay in the traffic in order to get maximum range. 

The total time spent portal to portal was 14 hours. I was at the research facility for almost 3 hours, and then we spent almost another 45 minutes to an hour at the Kia dealership talking to the manager about the charger, and looking at their Soul EVs.

Charging added 3 hours, which by using the DC quick charging options, made this a very reasonable trip.  If we had stopped in an ICE for breakfast and dinner, and potty stops, the total stoppage time would have been less, but not significantly, maybe an hour less, overall.
Kris and her "Storm Trooper" Capparis White i3. She's wearing a limited edition i3 Super Bowl jersey that BMW made for this year's game to go along with the i3 commercial that aired during the first quarter. 
My Personal Records:

312 all electric miles in one day (previously 187 in my Active E, which did not have L3 charging)

83.3 all electric miles in one charge (previously 80 miles, in the summer, while hypermiling and drafting behind a truck for 20+ miles)

Cheapest day EVER to drive 312 miles, food and energy included.

*These outlets have two NRG eVgo charging options: level 2 and level 3. The level 2 option has one universal J1772 plug, and the level 3 option has a CHAdeMO (for Nissan Leaf’s, Kia Soul’s, and other Asian brand EVs) as well as a SAE combo (CCS) (for BMW’s, VW eGolf, etc.). This Freedom Station powered by NRG eVgo is part of free fast charging offered by BMW. 

**This car will definitely do better on range with slower speeds, ie: bumper-to-bumper traffic, and city stop-and-go vs full, freeway speeds.

***The mileage between Hermosa Beach and Carlsbad is 87.1 miles.  While we could have easily avoided a stop and used the REx, I would have been forced to charge longer at Hermosa to get a bigger charge, thus not saving any time AND using gasoline.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Did The DC Quick-Charging 'Standards War' Just Quietly End For Electric Cars?

A BMW i3 and a Volkswagen e-Golf charge on DC fast chargers side by side at BMW Headquarters in Woodcliff Lake NJ.
I wrote this article for Green Car Reports, where it was published a few days ago. The proliferation of a robust DC fast charge network is vital to electric vehicle adoption, and I wanted to give this story as wide an audience as possible, which is way I let GCR publish it first. Now that they had it for a while, I'd like to share it with the readers here.
I was invited up to BMW NA headquarters by BMW product manager Jose Guerrero to try out the new DC fast chargers installed there. There are three of them, along with four Level 2 EVSEs, all of which are open to the public 24/7.
A couple weeks ago at the DC Auto Show, BMW, Volkswagen, and ChargePoint jointly announced they would install about 100 DC fast chargers for electric cars. Their goal is to create “Express Charging Corridors,” on both the East and West coasts, by the end of this year. The most intriguing news, however, was that the hardware will--in most cases--offer fast charging for electric cars using two different standards: CCS (used by BMW and VW) and CHAdeMO, used by Japanese and Korean automakers.

The three DC fast chargers at BMW NA HQ are CCS only. The reason being is these are not directly included in the Express Charging Corridors, but secondary locations which are more likely to support local driving, not long distance traveling.
I say “most cases” because not every single location will have a dual-standard fast charger that provides CHAdeMO, although most will. Today, CHAdeMO stations are far more widely installed in certain areas--totaling several hundred in the U.S.--than CCS stations, of which only a few dozen exist today. The "Express Charging Corridor" project will determine whether a desired location is close to an existing CHAdeMO station. If so, that location will provide only CCS cables.

I suspect this may only happen in a few locations, largely on the West Coast, since the East Coast has very few operational CHAdeMO stations to date. The East Coast corridor will connect Boston to Washington, D.C., while the West Coast corridor will extend from Portland to San Diego. Both corridors will have DC fast chargers installed at intervals of less than 50 miles, making it possible--if tedious--to do long-distance trips in electric cars with ranges of 75 to 90 miles, including the BMW i3 and the Volkswagen e-Golf.

Then, less than a week after the DC Auto Show, Kansas City Power & Light announced that it had partnered with Nissan and ChargePoint to install 1,000 electric-vehicle charging stations throughout the greater Kansas City region.

That in itself is fantastic news. But if you drill down into the press release, you will find that only 15 of the stations will be DC fast charge stations--a little disappointing. However, these 15 stations “will charge any model of electric vehicle on the market,” meaning they too will support both CHAdeMO and CCS. So BMW and Volkswagen’s project will provide CHAdeMO charging, and Nissan’s endeavor will include CCS support.

These Efacec units will be installed along the new "Express Charging Corridors" by ChargePoint and support both CHAdeMO and CCS
What just happened here?

Did the automakers all quietly agree to support both standards, so every electric-car driver can benefit? I interviewed BMW’s Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Manager, Robert Healey, on the morning of the DC Auto Show. He told me BMW has no problem with supporting dual-standard stations, because the main goal is to advance the proliferation of charging infrastructure for plug-in cars as rapidly as possible.
CHAdeMO and CCS connector side by side comparison.
He went on to say that in these early stages of adoption, “a rising tide raises all boats”--and this kind of cooperation among competitors is in everyone’s best interest. While he couldn’t elaborate or speculate on the future, Healey said he would be open to similar partnerships with other automakers, should the opportunity arise.

So it's looking more and more as though the DC fast-charge standards war that everyone was predicting may be over, really before the first shot was even fired. I hope so, because if this trend continues, everybody indeed wins. Especially electric-car drivers--not only today's, but the many more to come.

Monday, February 2, 2015

BMW Traffic Spikes 583% on Following Super Bowl Ad

Note: This article first appeared on BMWBLOG

Mercedes-Benz and BMW saw the most significant spikes in traffic on after their ads ran during Super Bowl XLIX.

By the end of the game, the Mercedes-Benz AMG GT had the biggest cumulative spike in traffic, with a 2189% jump over previous Sunday averages on The BMW i3 captured the second most buzz on; its cumulative traffic climbed 583%.

“Even though these two advertised vehicles are likely to be sold in small volume to niche audiences, the BMW and Mercedes brands will enjoy the overall buzz they have generated, especially as both continue their efforts to grow their overall reach into new car shopper segments,” said Sr. Analyst Jessica Caldwell. “Both brands will be quite happy that the millions of dollars they invested had the desired effect.”

Vehicles With Largest Cumulative Traffic Increases on During Super Bowl:

RC 350 

Cumulative Lifts in Site Traffic to Super Bowl Advertisers’ Pages*


*Lifts determined by comparing unique mobile and desktop traffic on’s make and model pages against average Sunday traffic levels. also tracked the immediate traffic lifts enjoyed by Super Bowl advertisers as and after their commercials ran:
  • Chevrolet sponsored the pre-game show and showed four Colorado ads; site traffic to Colorado pages increased 25% during the pregame and 1104% during the first quarter of the game
  • During the third quarter of the game, Dodge Challenger ads lifted its traffic on Edmunds 232%
  • Fiat 500x increased 3981% in the moments following its second quarter ads; interest remained high in the third quarter, delivering a 986% lift for the vehicle
  • Jeep Renegade was advertised in the third quarter of the game and traffic to its pages immediately increased 1031%; during fourth quarter the increase was 5720%
  • Kia Sorento traffic increased 213% immediately following its third quarter ad
  • Lexus NX’s second quarter ad generated an increase of 341%. The brand did even better immediately after its RC 350 ad ran in the third quarter, increasing vehicle’s page traffic on Edmunds 5702%. The RC continued to enjoy success in the fourth quarter with a 690% lift in traffic to its pages on
  • MINI sponsored an early part of the pre-game show and showed five ads; site traffic to MINI Cooper increased 48% during that period
  • Nissan brand consideration increased 90% immediately following its second quarter ad
  • In the moments following its halftime ad, Toyota Camry site traffic increased 364% analysts noted especially strong activity at halftime for vehicles that advertised earlier during the Super Bowl:
  • Fiat 500x increased 14,627%
  • BMW i3 increased 1,807%
  • BMW i8 increased 501%
  • Chevrolet Colorado increased 421%
  • MINI Cooper increased 258%

Well, I guess this answers the question I posed in my previous post about whether the ad would be a hit or miss.