My first date with an Electric Vehicle.

The big day has finally arrived for my first date with and Electric Vehicle. I am not sure if it is a good or bad thing that my first date with an EV is an award winning luxury model. Fosdick’s BMW provided me with a BMW i3 REx, the range extending version in the BMW i3 series. The REx has the same 22kWh battery as the BMW i3 (2016) EV but with a 647cc combustion engine providing 38hp fueled from a 12liter fuel tank, the same engine as in the BMW 650GT maxi-scooter. The usable battery capacity in the BMW i3 is 18.8kWh. But enough of the technical jargon lets focus on what really matters! The driving experience and making the mind shift to an EV.

One experiences the starkest difference between a “normal” combustion car and an EV the moment you start the engine. When you start the EV there is no sound at all, it is the weirdest experience, you feel uncertain if anything will happen should you step on the accelerator. A golf car makes more noise once you get going, however to all the petrol heads that jokingly refer to a BMW i3 as a glorified golf car I can certainly attest that it is not. If one must compare the driving experience at that level, it will be a Scalextric car. The BMW eDrive system provides powerful torque and the responsiveness is immediate from a standing start. Although with this type of driving you see your battery deplete very quickly. The driving experience is made even more direct thanks to the “one pedal feeling” that comes from a single pedal acting as both accelerator and brake. The low center of gravity provided by the heavy battery pack along the floor pan allows for superior handling.

One of the sales pitches that caught my ear was that there is no service required apart from tires and break changes, obviously with the caveat that the combustion engine in the REx needs servicing. If you consider that with the regenerative braking system much less breaking is required in traffic, resulting in longer lasting braking system.

The sales team was very knowledgeable and provided lots of detail on the car, but I would advise anyone that plans to purchase an EV to do their own homework also and ask relevant questions. For instance, does the package you purchase include fast charging, or is it optional? The BMW WallBox is also optional, BMW provides an assessment of your residents electrical system, which I will highly advise, but the WallBox comes with a high price tag. When I plugged the LV1 charger in my garage plug it tripped the electricity, after which I had to relay power from a plug point with higher amperage inside the house.

With the great tech included in the vehicle, the sales process is not just a “take the key and leave” affair. Connecting the vehicle to the BMW ConnectedDrive system unlocks a whole range of benefits and features. You can send reminders to buy milk or flowers from your laptop to your car or even active the horn, for what purpose I honestly don’t know. Back at my PC after showing the vehicle to some colleagues I was informed by the ConnectedDrive system that the passenger door was still unlocked. Comforts managed through the APP include Preconditioning, acclimatizing the vehicle for your preset departure time.

Through incorporating some gamification elements the APP measures your driving efficiency and compares it to the broader BMW i3 community, which leads to one’s natural competitive spirit kicking in, thereby successfully altering your bad driving habits. I actually ended up altering my route to suit the battery and become more efficient (I will explore battery management and increasing range in a separate post this week).

There are small technical things to take note of and get used to when driving the BMW i3 REx, like only being able to engage the range-extending mode once the battery’s state of charge (SOC) reaches 75%. A surprising thing is that you are not able to install a vehicle tracking system. However with all the connectedness I believe finding the car would be very much like “Find My iPhone”. Opening the fuel tank also requires a certain sequence due to the fire danger associated with the lithium batteries.

I can conclude that my first impressions of the BMW i3 and EV’s are lasting impressions, of the good kind. I already dread the day when I have to go back to a “normal” car. At least I can look forward to a couple of more days with the BMW i3.

 

Wynand Goosen

Wynand Goosen

Contributor

Wynand studied his MBA in San Francisco where he was exposed to the fields of Service Science, Gamification, and Renewables, which he combined to create wattEV2buy and the award winning web app Ekoguru. Wynand is an energy storage expert and has modeled, designed and presented various solutions utilizing lithium-ion and other electrochemical technologies. In his spare time, Wynand is the author of a children’s book series and started a new project called “Career 180”.

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