As I mentioned in last week’s radio show, we’d planned this week to take the Driven Long Term Test electric BMW i3 on its first long distance trip - Well we went and I’m back and typing the words you're reading now, so unless I’m telling fibs and I'm tapping away on the mobile on a remote country lane somewhere in Hertfordshire, it’s fair to assume things went relatively smoothly - In fact they went better than that.
It’s 107 miles from our UK home in Rutland to Central London. The car has a range of between 110 and 160 miles depending how diligently you’re prepared to drive. 130 is about the average we’ve achieved so far and that includes benefiting from electricity put back into the batteries by regenerative braking from stop-start traffic during a daily commute.
This was the first long motorway run so there wouldn’t be much of that and I didn’t want to chance being short of miles once we hit the capital. I also wanted the satisfaction of knowing I hadn’t caused a single polar bear to so much as sneeze so didn’t want to run the little petrol generator in the boot that's designed to charge the batteries when there's no way of connecting to the grid.
It’s England in September so naturally the first leg of the journey down the A1 to the Services at the M25 junction took almost two whole hours. Where it wasn’t congested, naturally (for me at least) I felt compelled to use the i3’s ridiculous linear power delivery to keep up with the plutocrats in their S Classes and 7 Series’s.
Thanks to the holdups and my heavy right foot, we plugged into the Electric Highway Ecotricity rapid charger at South Mimms with about 30 miles to spare - Charging anywhere other than at home was a first for us as well, and Ecotricity's iPhone app made it completely painless….well, painless apart from the drizzle that was running down my neck whilst I got it working - Select car type, choose charge type, plug in attached cable, Start charging and that was that. The pump texted me a message to say it was all done just as I was finishing my bagel and eggs and we were on our way again.
That 30 minute rapid charge gave us a range of 97 miles and then it was Southish again, before joining the A41 and chasing a few other supposedly more powerful cars off the lights scattered along Finchley Road.
Thanks to the free ParkRite App we found the last row of Westminster metred bays before our destination in Kensington. This meant just a 5 minute walk from car to door and we could park completely free of charge for 4 hours as opposed to paying nearly £15.
We did the same in Covent Garden later as all Westminster bays are free for electric cars (Some even have Source London car chargers installed) - before heading back the way we’d come, arriving back at the same pump for our second and final charge of the day with 50 miles left in the tank.
That last half hour charge took us all the way home. Even Mrs Driven was impressed at how easy everything was and the cost - Free parking, just £12 in electricity and free congestion charge.
Despite my new found confidence, I may still need to take a rather large brave pill for either of the next two challenges - The drive to Spain and another to Berlin planned before Christmas.