So we’re now a month into our first Electric Car ownership experience and, to be brutally honest, with the exception of a few niggles and a bit of a learning curve with some of the features of the car itself, other than the lack of an internal combustion engine, we’ve not really noticed any huge difference to our lives. Well that’s not strictly true - All the differences we’ve noticed between petrol or diesel and electric motoring are entirely positive - Not having to waste time visiting a single filling station anywhere, ever, for anything. The total silence when standing in traffic, although the infernal rattle coming from the other cars around interferes with the cabin's peace. But the biggest change of all is the reduction to almost nothing in running costs and the ridiculous off the mark acceleration that never fails to produce big grins and total confusion on the faces of those who try to keep up. Keeping the batteries topped up is a doddle. The BMW i3 and i8 both come with a smartphone app that allows the user to quickly dial in the time it should start charging. We’ve programmed ours to consider Economy 7 times so we can take advantage of cheaper electricity overnight. The car’s fully charged with a warm or cool interior to suit the driver when he or she steps into it to leave the house. We have a 7kw charger fitted at home that cost £199 to install and takes just 4 hours to fully fill the batteries so it’s also useful for a quick splash on a Saturday if the car’s running short of range before either of us heads out again for the second round of chores and a final trip to the stables to make sure Mrs Driven's Dobbin is still alive and chewing through all of our money. The range on this new 94Ah i3 is proving in reality to be around 130miles…..And in reality we never, ever drive that distance in one hit. Neither do most people. So range anxiety or the fear of it hasn't been anywhere in our collective consciousnesses since the car arrived.
We’re off for a day out in London next week and when everyone else these days is considering the train, we’re taking the car. It’s 107 miles from home on the Rutland / Leicestershire border and with free congestion charge and free parking on any metered bay in Westminster it's a no brainer. This’ll give us the first chance to try charging somewhere other than at home. That’ll be a 30 minute “Rapid Charge” at South Mimms Services on the A1M whilst we have what passes there for “breakfast” and we’ll need another one either at the same or further up the A1 at Baldock services whilst we enjoy a cuppa and a slice of cake. Ecotricity Electric Highway who own the UK’s network of motorway based rapid chargers now charges £6 for a 30 minute charge whereas before June it was free. Their on the surface “odd" charging model was introduced to discourage those with plugin hybrids like the Mitsubishi Outlander and Golf GTE from using their points just to get their maximum 15 or 20 electric miles. We'll see if there plan's worked or if we left in a queue. So the total cost of parking and transport to, from and around London will be 12 quid. The same trip in a petrol or diesel car would cost getting on for £100 including fuel, congestion charge and parking. Two train tickets to and from, plus a couple of travel cards, fuel to and from the station plus parking would be well over the £100 mark. Plus we’re not contributing to the London smog even indirectly. If I’m not here talking to you next week, clearly something went horribly wrong. But electric car ownership so far has been bordering on a joyous and certainly an entirely positive experience. More range would be nice, but it is coming. There’s a new Tesla on the way next year with 350 miles range. There’s also a new Vauxhall that should arrive around the same time with about 235 miles between charges. The technology’s forever advancing. With regards the car itself, well the interior really is a fabulous place to be. Unlike those in the photo below, the leather seats in our i3 are extremely comfortable and heated. They’re also sustainable having been dyed their unique colour in the sun with Olive tree leaves - I’’m really not joking. The whole car’s production is almost completely carbon neutral and it’s put together at a purpose built factory in German using 100% renewable energy sources and recyclable, sustainable products - So the usual crowing from the fossil fuel fanatics that "there’s no point buying an electric car that’s ecologically unsound to build" has no validity with the i3 at all. Not that that either side of that particular argument interested us whatsoever when we chose the car. Anyway, we’ll talk more about how the car’s built and how it’s fuelled in future episodes of Driven.
There’s lots of glass which provides loads of visibility from the i3’s raised driving position. The factory fitted sun protection reflects the sun and a lot of the heat. The interior space really is huge and far less cramped than anything of similar exterior proportions I’ve driven recently. There’s lots of toys to entertain and plenty of information on energy consumption and economy. The only negatives I’ve noticed so far are a faint knock that appears from the front end when the sets off from cold at speeds under 30mph. It sounds to me like a loose drop link or misplaced antirollbar bush. We’ll get the car booked into BMW for investigation and I’ll let you know what it turns out to be. Something rather more frustrating is the headlamp level. Ours has Adaptive LEDs which are brighter than a nuclear blast, but the top of the beam ends suddenly and seems rather low. There’s still plenty of light, but it seems to be focused too close to the front of the car. Go over a bump or begin to climb a hill and its hard to see far enough ahead before the Adaptives correct the level. I suspect it was missed during the pre delivery inspection and needs a bit of adjustment. Again something for the tinkerers at BMW to sort. The only other issue is again light related - The headlights as I mentioned are Adaptive LEDs - Bizarrely BMW opted to fit the main beams with halogen bulbs and unusually they’re separate from the headlight units sitting instead in the indicator pods below - The effect is the white LED light washes out the yellow glow from the mains when they’re on at night. £30 spent wisely on Amazon should solve the problem.