Sunday, August 17, 2014

BMW i3 REx real world use

Today I got to experience the REx in the wild.  What I mean by that is I actually needed it.  I experienced the REx twice before but those were not when I needed it.  One was driving around town and letting the battery drain low enough for the REx to fire up because I wanted to see how it would perform.  The other time was a maintenance mode that the i3 runs during long periods of inactivity.

This time was different.  This would be about a 100 mile trip with 90% of it being highway and the car would be full of family and stuff.  Some might say 100 miles....maybe I could make it on electric alone, well nope.  With extra bodies it weighs the car down and the biggest draw is I would have to use the climate control so everyone was comfortable and I don't mean just a little ;) .

Off we go, I put the car in Eco Pro+ but of course right away I was asked to roll the windows up and turn the AC on so back to Eco Pro since in "+" mode there is no climate control.  On the highway I kept my speed to 65mph to extend the range as much as I could.  Things were looking good...I was driving well enough to do about 90 miles guessometer.  I was pretty pleased with myself and began to think of i3 REx EV masterfulness where I might actually reach 100 miles in EV mode.  Then one glitch, with about 30 miles left I pulled over to make another stop so the family could pick up some food.  I turned the car off for about 10 minutes.  Once everyone was back in the car I turned it on and range dropped to 20, I lost 10 miles just like that...I'll explain what happened there in just a moment.  With this event I really wished for that State of Charge (SOC) readout that for some reason BMW decided to remove from the US version.  Our ActiveEs had it and it was much easier to determine actual range.  This guessometer in the i3 is truly guessing.  BMW bring back the SOC, this is the ultimate driving machine not the ultimate guessing machine. those lost mentioned a few sentences earlier I parked, turned the car off for 10 mins then back on and noticed the guessometer showed 10 miles less.  I was not running the AC, doors were closed and it was not hot, so what gives.  Well it seems the navigation is tied to the guessometer.  During that 10 mins of parking I programmed in my final destination, the nav calculated hills and speed along the highway and adjusted.  Confirming this...umm feature....this morning I was on my way to Tom's i3 gathering and my range showed 92 miles...I punched in Tom's address, chose start navigation and right before my eyes the range dropped to 77.  Ok, now I stop navigation and we are back to 92 range.  Not really liking this, though I get what BMW is doing, with that said please let us disable this.  I looked and could not find a way to turn that off..bummer.  So here is a thought, if the nav says a shorter range but I turn it off and I have more range...will the REx stay off longer or will the guessometer adjust near the be determined.

Nice of Serenity to warn me but I have a REx

I did take a look to see what would pop up and there we have Tom's
Back to the story.  As we drove along the miles ticked away, down to 4 left and 82 miles of electric the REx kicked in.  There was a slight vibration, I felt it because I was waiting for it, my family noticed nothing.  We were burning fuel, it just felt odd, I noticed no reduction in power and the AC ran fine.  I did notice the battery bar start to drop below 5% or at least best I could tell.  When that happened the little 2 cylinder revved up, now we all could hear it even on the highway.  It was not bad but it was there.  That little motor revved until the blue bar moved a bit right to reach the upside down grey triangle then it quieted down.  Each time that blue bar lowered it revved back up, it was working to maintain a level of between 5% and 7%.

Again the REx was not loud, when revved up you could feel it though not bad and keep in mind an EV has no vibration so everything feels enhanced, it was odd to hear a little put put going on from an EV.  Of course that sound is much better than the sound of my family complaining we are stranded.

Once off the highway the REx relaxed a bit and at stop signs or red lights turned off.  We did about 16 miles with the REx and my overall miles/kWh for the trip was 4.6.  Not bad for highway and AC running.

The red flag on the upper left means we won't make it on electricity alone
I probably could have made it with the pure electric i3 - it has slightly better range being lighter but it would have been white knuckle driving wondering if we would make it, I've done that before and it is no fun. Added I'd slow down and get off the highway and turn off the AC making the trip longer and less comfortable which my family would not be happy with.  There are no convenient public EVSEs along the route and that adds to the stress.  When winter arrives there would be absolutely no way I could have made it without the REx, the REx did its job, it added mobile convenience as well as peace of mind.

I took a whole half gallon and paid with cash
Do I wish the i3 had more battery range....of course...but it doesn't so the REx is a viable option.  It works and with that I will be driving my EV more which is a good thing, as well as letting my family take it out on runs.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

After 1,000 miles, fun, usefulness and an i8

I'm just past the 1,000 mile mark in my i3 and I'm really enjoying the car, it has not been all EV bliss though as I have had some software glitches along the way, like a rolling reboot.  With that said I have no regrets and I'm confident these software issues will be taken care of soon, either way I'll blog about them.  Having an EV has opened up a whole world of cars to me and not just EVs....a recent ride in a BMW i8 the other day was icing on the cake, read on for more of that.

Onto the fun....I went to another Cars and Croissants and once again my i3 drew a crowd.  This car is truly a magnet, people chase me on the highway, if I'm at a light they either talk to me from their car or they leave the safety of their sidewalk for a chat.  It is family is like 'not again'....I really don't mind.

A little Cars and Croissants
At Cars and Croissants with other NJEAA members
Tesla Roadster, BMW i3, Honda Fit EV and two LEAFs

Hard to tell but we are pretty close in color

The i3 is a magnet
People really love the i3

As I mentioned the i3 attracts attention anywhere it goes.....if I park somewhere it does not take long before people are around it looking and taking pictures.

Number 6 in less than 1 hour...actually a slow day
The i3 is not just all looks and is useful too, it hauls stuff.  The seats fold flat.  That EV jeep fit in with room to spare.

Not bad...not bad at all
I chose the BMW i3 REx (range extender with the 2 cylinder generator) because I did not want to worry about getting stranded with my family or cutting our trip short, or worse, not using climate control.  Yes, I've been told to get a Tesla, fine, then give me the extra $40k to get one.  I've also been told my REx is a hybrid, well whatever.  EVs with range extenders under $50k with a range of 40 to 100 miles spur adoption, so how can this be wrong?  I'll probably only use the REx 10% of the time, if that, and it will be probably during winter.  I still have a 2nd and 3rd car, the 2nd for long trips and carrying more stuff, the 3rd for fun but really is never driven.  Our EV gets the majority of the use because we enjoy it the most as a family.  When DC fast chargers are more common place then our i3 may take much longer and frequent trips.

With that said, the i3 has done pretty well maintaining its range of 80 to 90 even with AC blasting and hot days along the highway.  My ActiveE would not have fared as well.   On the day we go and check out the BMW i8 we encountered some serious heat but the range held fast and when all was said and done I was over 90 miles all electric, eco pro, AC running high, and most of it was highway.  My i3 was loaded with family...not bad.  Granted I stuck to 65mph or less but still good.  The AC worked well up front, the back not so much and that is because there are no rear oversight.

Range holding has impressed - yes that is the CEL light (engine warning) you may have heard of - software glitch
Now...what I'm sure you've been waiting for.....the BMW i8.  I've seen them up close before but never have sat in one, this time I did more than that, I got a ride and with my family.

In a word 'wow'.  The car is amazing inside and out.  The ride, and this one was a pre-production, is not punishing and yes it is fast.  In EV mode it is not as quick as my i3 but is louder, you can hear the electric motor very well.  It drives the front wheels and has more weight to lug around plus the power is it is somewhat quick in EV mode.  Once the 3 cylinder engine is engaged it is an entirely different story, things come alive.  The car moves and it is not quiet, it roars.  BMW enhanced the exhaust note, it does not sound like a 3 cylinder and that is not a bad thing.  However they did it-they nailed sounds it is not pure but once you hear it you will like it.  EV mode for about 20 miles and combined mode 0-60 in low 4s with AWD - I'm sure that is conservative....want.

You have to see one in person....amazing inside and out

Love those doors and they open from inside with the push of a button

Interior is typical BMW....good

Not sure I could smile any bigger

Check the video below for the sound the 3 cylinder in the i8 makes

I recorded the sound the i8 makes

Almost forgot, while I was in the i8 my i3 was getting a DC quick charge 84% in just over 20 minutes....we really need more of these around.  Unfortunately this one is not for public use.

The % was clicking away nearly every 30 seconds

Big plug produces big energy
Driving an EV has proven to be, over the past 5 years, a wonderful experience.  There is no turning back.

Friday, June 27, 2014

I've been REx'd and it is good - mostly

BMW i3 – Second impressions...

I say second impressions because it is not my first stint in the i3, my first was on a race track for 10hrs straight in a couple of pre production units and I was thoroughly impressed.  Now that I have my own I’m even more impressed with this EV as a daily driver.

Tom has already posted his ‘likes/dislikes’ with his new BMW i3 REx so now it is my I;ve been asked to ;)

Big Like:  There is no getting around that the BMW i3 looks different, it does, but the beauty is in the details, and those details are everywhere.  You just have to look.  Pictures do the i3 no justice.  It is not sleek but it does not need to be…it is functionally attractive.  The right proportions.

With that said the i3 is a magnet.  My ActiveE never drew this much attention.  I’m followed on the highway, thumbs up from passing drivers.  People walk right up to the car to check it out and talk with me.  They want to hear about it, they want to see inside.  They think it is beautiful.  Interesting that so many heard of the i3 and they really like the looks. 
The Solar Orange is perfect for the i3...look how the sun dances.  At Cars and Croissants

Wherever I go the i3 is a magnet

At one point coming back from work and in my parking garage I noticed there was a huge line of cars just stopped….you guessed it….a couple cars in front were looking at the i3.  It is that polarizing and I love that.  I’m also in love with the color, Solar Orange, it changes in the sun, just beautiful.

Mini not so like: all the attention, I can’t catch a break ;)

Here is my new EV ride

Swapping my ActiveE for my new i3

One huge like is how much it holds..filling up

Only from the side I like: those tires are just odd, no getting around that, they are retro, might be even thinner than tires from the 1890s.  They ride fine, handle well but I'm worried about those potholes, can they hold up?  I have the 19s and glad I do.  Oh, and wow they make noise, odd noises especially under hard acceleration.  Just so different and I'm not sure I will ever get used to them

Big Like: the i3 rides amazingly well, not harsh.  My ActiveE was tiring, not the i3.  It is smooth on the highway and around town.  I’m really glad I went with the standard 19s, roads in NJ are anti-car and I’ve driven an i3 with 20s and you really can feel everything, the 19s look just as good and smooth it out.  On the highway you don’t realize how fast you are going, it just rolls along, very impressive.

Dislike: the car is squirmy on the highway, it is not the sensitive steering...though that enhances it...those skinny tires are rails so whatever it catches along the road it sticks to.  The i3 is also very susceptible to side winds…even cars pulling up along side on the highway push the i3 around with their wind.  Not sure if those are the tires or the higher profile of the car but you really feel it.  The ActiveE was very well planted, of course it was much heavier and less tall

Like: This car is really nimble on its feet.  It scoots right up hills and wow is it fast.  Same horsepower as the ActiveE but 1,000 pounds less equals woooohooooo!!. 

Dislike: Because it is much lighter it can't hold the momentum like the ActiveE did.  Meaning rolling down a hill is not as effective as the ActiveE was.  It actually slows down, the ActiveE would pick up speed while regenning which was cool
Getting a boost at Park Ave BMW - they have never seen a REx

While at Park Ave they were having a 'Ride and drive' event, first they thought my car was theirs then they took pictures of me after finding out I was an Electronaut...only the 2nd they met and that is not right

Big Like: I like them, cool looking too.  Makes getting my daughter in and out really easy. 
Dislike: not as intuitive as a regular 4 door, can be confusing as to what door opens first and closes last.

Big like: people this little EV moves.  No it is not a rocket off the line like a Tesla Model S but once past 10 or 15 it launches.  If you are at 40 and punch it it hauls.  The ActiveE lost breath around 50 but the i3 keeps going, you can feel it build speed and it is so refined in the way it does it.  It really catches people by surprise.
Dislike: it needs to launch more aggressively off the line. 

Like: it handles, initially it does not inspire confidence but give it time and you will see the i3 holds the road.  Those skinny tires are deceptive.  The turning radius is amazing, the steering is a bit heavy and sensitive but after awhile it feels more natural and gives the impression of more heft than the car really has.
Dislike: it leans but only if you push it

Sorta like: too weak and seems to have a mind of its own.  A bit unpredictable, the ActiveE was good regen stuff, bring it back.

Advantage of a 5am train

Huge Like: The i3 was designed around us and this is what sold me, that interior is gorgeous.  People love it.  Tons of room for a small and not so wide car.  The seats are comfortable and lots of room up front and enough in back especially for my Daughter with her child seat.  It even has cargo space.  I chose the Giga, it is a mix of different light colored materials and I love it.
Dislike: no sunroof…seriously guys?

dislike: need more, 4 are not enough, since there are no vents in the rear center console there should be a 3rd in the front gets warm in the back not to mention the front, that windshield is a convection oven.
The vents on the side are just not very good and the adjustment is really limited...the i3 really needs a 3rd vent in the center so rear passengers don't cook

Like: it is really efficient, I’m getting around 90miles per chage with a much smaller pack than the ActiveE had. 90 is pretty good considering I have extra weight with the REx and I’m driving highway speeds often, I was much more careful in the ActiveE but with the i3 I can have a little more fun it seems

Dislike, not nearly as efficient on the highway as the ActiveE was, that’s because it is a bit of a box.  How about a bigger battery BMW?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I have the REx but 150 miles on batt would be great.  I may still have gotten the REx for the emotional back up but I will always want more batt range.

Thumbs up like: I really am liking this EV.  It is comfortable all around, fun to drive and wow does it attract attention – all attributes I really like.  It is extremely refined and that is saying a lot since EVs are refined right off the rack when compared to ICE.  This i3 compared to the ActiveE is a Rolls, I don’t think I’m getting ahead of myself here.  After 600 miles I'm good

Ok so now what...we have the perfect EV?  Not so much....Still needs a few improvements….bigger battery and not so susceptible to side winds and yes, those tires.  Too skinny, I know they are for efficiency but we buy cars on looks, good thing the i3 is an exceptional EV because those tires would ruin the show.

Windshield guys how could you miss this.  The dash material is very cool but it reflects off of the inside of the windshield in a bad way.  Not sure anything can be done about this.  I never noticed it while on the track because it was a cloudy day and never got to chance to test drive the i3 in the real world because we were never give the chance....sure there were those special Electroncaut meetings but it was on a weekday and I could not get out of work and the ride and drive events were not convenient either for me.

The launch experience....I have to say something about this.  BMW, really?  You are lucky your i3 is such an accomplished EV because if I based this on Electronaut to i3 satisfaction, excluding car experience, I would not have an i3….simple.  This is an easy fix…you still have the opportunity to make it right BMW. Communication is all that is needed.  We all know these cars are extremely advanced and things will happen, as long as there is communication from you we are good.

The launch made many of us do this

Preconditioning seems to be a bit of a mystery, I tried pre-conditioning while plugged into my Chargepoint at home. The EVSE was turning on and off while the i3 went through its phase. The ActiveE never did that. I finally just unplugged it.  It might be that the i3 takes what it needs then disengages from the EVSE then re-engages when it needs more.  The clatter it makes is not comforting.

No tinted windows...that would be nice especially since your competitors do it on all guys just don't.  I am getting used to not having a sunroof because I don't look up, but guys, where is the SOC (State of Charge) and battery temp reading?  That's like yanking the tach and oil pressure gauge out of an M3 or no percentage indicator on your phone....come on now.

Engine warning light....won't even go there

Lots of Ghost In The Shell going on.....some of this should not have been missed, we drove an ActiveE for 2 years or more, plus, a MiniE.  The same issues that these cars had you said you fixed are happening...not good.

There you have it, most of it anyway

Saturday, May 17, 2014

EVolution: MiniE to ActiveE to i3

My introduction to EVs began back in the Summer of 2008 when I was lucky enough to be at an event with the AC Propulsion eBox, I even got a chance to drive it, though not very far or fast it was enough for me to realize EVs were something special.  As a car guy performance is key, after hours of rides in the eBox and a brief stint of driving it myself I wanted one, simple.

I got my chance the following year when the MiniE was offered as a field trial by BMW.  When the time came for me to grab one I did not hesitate.  I remember the day I picked it up at the dealer, there it was, just sitting there waiting to be driven.  It was a good looking package, subtle yellow plug graphics, a badge number and a slight hood bulge to clear the electronics underneath, the interior had attractive yellow highlights throughout.  I could not wait to turn it on and drive it.  I quickly signed the papers, grabbed the key, got in and started to roll away.  I was really careful at first, just eased out onto the street, after about 100 feet I floored it….whoa!!!!!!   200+HP and 160+ foot pounds of torque went to the front wheels and I was hanging on….absolutely an amazing silent rush of power, there was no turning back, EVs would now be in my future.  BMW did this one right, the aggressive regen and one pedal driving took about 30 seconds to adjust to and then it became instinct.  Imagine being in 1st gear all day silently and no vibration, that’s what it’s like.  

As much fun as the MiniE was it had its faults.  The MiniE was truly a conversion, there was no back seat because that was where the 35 kWh battery sat.  Pop the hood and there was a golden box with wires here and there, we were warned not to take it through puddles or car washes….so what, this EV was still a blast to drive.  I loved surprising supposedly quick cars at the light, sure they could take me past 50 but under that I had the distinct advantage of instant power, no need to downshift and silent take off that confused minds.  Nothing felt cooler than stomping the juice pedal at 30mph, breaking the front tires loose and pulling away from the guy behind me in a rush of electrons. 

The MiniE was just raw, meaning it rode firmly, the heater was just adequate and the AC was so-so, not a lot of storage and this was not a car for long trips, even if you could find charging stations, it was a bit tiring to drive long ways.   

Best MiniE moment: I went to the dealer to get my plates and as I got out this guy ran up to me and said "Is that what I think it is, you actually got one?" He was talking on the cell and continued telling me he and his friends have been talking all about this car and never saw one, then he got back on the phone and said "Man you will never guess what I'm standing next to".

Next up was the BMW ActiveE.  This was the 2nd phase of BMWs EV test program and it was a converted 1 series.  It took me just one brief test drive to realize this car was far more civilized than the MiniE, this one would drive on the highways comfortably.    The ActiveE was down on HP (170) but up on torque (184) and it was also up on weight, a whopping 4,000 pounds, but it was rear wheel drive which made it more sporty.  Fortunately the BMW engineers spent more time tweaking this ride and it drove extremely well for its heft, it glided along the roads effortlessly and you could push it hard in turns.  It felt like it was carved from a solid piece of metal as it had frame reinforcements throughout.  This added to the capabilities of the chassis, it took whatever you could give it.

With that said it was not as fast as the MiniE but much more refined and it handled like a BMW.  The EV also stood out, it had circuit graphics all over it which I really liked.  To help clear the battery up front there was an aggressive hood bulge which many 1M drivers asked how I got.  The interior was a light grey leather with blue highlights, very tasteful.  It also had BMWs iDrive system for gadget fun. 
Since the ActiveE was more of a of a drivers EV I took lots of long trips in the ActiveE, having a standard J1772 did not hurt, and its refinement meant I was not fatigued after a long trip.  I often did 80 miles or more and sometimes I did that daily for months….in the MiniE I probably would not have been as excited to do that.  In fact, in the two years I had the ActiveE I did over 30,000 miles, 80% of that in just over a year until my long commute changed, that is a lot of EV driving and it saved me $1,000s in gasoline costs.  The ActiveE actually became the main car for me and my family…my red sports car sat in the garage.  

Those graphics on the car made it a real stand-out, unmistakable that this was a special BMW.  Often I’d be approached or even followed, police too, so they could get a close look at it.  Folks in my town knew me by my car, I showed it wherever I could, it was an amazing experience all around.  Unfortunately the party has to end and the ActiveE will be going back.

Best ActiveE moment: driving to a Cars and Croissants, NJ exotic car meet, for the first time with my ActiveE and having 8 to 10 people running behind me before I even got a chance to park and talk to me about the car.

The ActiveE was a great car but there was something even better, worlds ahead, just around the corner, the BMW i3.

Admittedly when I first laid eyes on the i3 I was like…oh no way, how could they make it look like that, it does not scream BMW but econo-hatch.  Well over the weeks of seeing pictures and getting an up close and personal look at the car I began to like it more.  There are a lot of details, you just need to find them.  My last concern were those tires, talk about retro, like 1907 retro, those were some skinny tires, how in the world can this EV even ride on those.   I soon got a chance to find out and on a racetrack.   Yes a racetrack, BMW asked me if I’d be interested in riding around in the i3 on a racetrack with a professional race car driver…..ummmm let me think about that…OK!!

I won’t go into details of that racetrack day, you can read all about it on my blog but I will say I was extremely impressed, as was the pro driver, Erin Crocker.

I can tell you the BMW i3 is indeed worlds ahead of the ActiveE and makes the MiniE feel like a soap box.  It is fast, it has the same power as the ActiveE but is over 1,000 pounds less in weight.   Other than being flung around in the i3 for hours at its limit I also got to drive it.  As soon as I pressed the accelerator I could tell this was a finely tuned EV, it just felt right.  The power is linear, the regen steps in seamlessly, the steering is connected to you and those brakes are incredible.  The i3 rides extremely well and yes, even with those skinny tires, it handles like it’s on rails.  The interior is roomier than you would expect and the carbon fiber details are really cool. 

Best i3 moment: track day….all of it

The i3 is packed with tech, from it’s cool features to the carbon fiber shell to the modern interior to its ability to hold the track.  I was seriously impressed.  Just one thing was missing, no hood bulge.

The EV had evolved into a seriously interesting daily performance driver in less than 5 years.  My Solar Orange BMW i3 REx will hopefully blend into this background very soon. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The BMW i3 can dance

There has been a lot of talk about those skinny tires and if the i3 can even handle a turn at low speed much less at the limit.   Well, think of those tires as wheels on a train.....that's right, the i3 handles like it is on rails.

Back in October of 2013 BMW actually made a video about how well it handles, both the full electric and BEV and REx versions were tested with a professional race car driver, Erin Crocker, behind the wheel.  How do I know.....I was the passenger

BMW released 3 versions or episodes, more are planned but not sure if they will ever be produced....still what is out there gives a decent idea of the i3s capabilities....not to mention I'm still here because it handled so well ;)

Check our the videos below

Saturday, May 3, 2014

First i3 in NJ - almost me

The first BMW i3 was delivered in NJ today to my friends Michael and Pamela Thwaite - they ordered the 100% electric i3.  My i3 has been on NJ soil for awhile but being a REx it seems to be taking longer.

Well, I can wait a bit I had some EVents to attend to and as luck would have it Michael and Pamela were able to bring their i3 as a surprise showing.  Right off of the showroom floor - the folks attending were thrilled.

 Supporting a fund raiser

 A Model S arrives after reading my FB post - Bring an EV and eat for free  ;)

 The first BMW i3 delivered to a customer in NJ arrives

 It gets swamped

Great EV day

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Almost here

The other week my dealer, JMK in Springfield NJ, told me my i3 was built and getting ready to ship.  Well it is here, on NJ soil and now I wait to find out when I can push the power button for the first time.

The progress of my i3 a couple weeks ago

My BMW i3 is the REx version (range extender), solar orange with Giga interior, 19 inch wheels and all the options...

BMW i3 REx Solar Orange and Giga 19" wheels - what mine will look like
(Photo credit -

Yesterday was Rutgers Day and I got to hang out with fellow ActiveErs also looking forward to the BMW i3.  Can't wait to bring an i3 to one of these events...a new head turner for certain.

Rutgers Day EVent...always fun

This could be the last time seeing 3 ActiveEs together

I'll be sad to see my ActiveE go but just as excited to get my new i3 on the road