Hi, my name is Bill and I was born electric on 14 March 2014.
I’ve done 2,000 miles in my i3 so far so I thought it was time to contribute first impressions via Tom’s blog (thanks Tom). As you can see from my photos, this i3 is definitely not a city dweller, although in the south of England you’re never that far from a city to be honest. Driving country lanes so much makes it really tough to keep clean though.
I came to the i3 via a curious route, because I had really been looking for an electric motorbike. Sadly, there are not many to choose from and none from the established mainstream motorcycle producers.
The more I looked into things the more I was convinced I could live with the range limits inherent to EVs; my daily commute (25 mile round trip) is very compatible with the range of most pure electric vehicles. Coupled with the luxury of having other family vehicles available if needed, it made it really easy to make the switch. But when I started looking to replace my ICE car, nothing really excited me, until the i3 that is. The focus on weight reduction resonated with what I look for in motorbikes; the development of new car construction technologies was unusual in the EV market and designing the car to be an EV from the ground up rather than converting an ICE model seemed much more satisfactory. All this indicated to me that BMW have a level of commitment to this EV which is very welcome as a consumer. Although the price point of the i3 comes in for some criticism, next to the competition I think it is amazing considering the development. And, in the UK at least, the price benefits from a plug in grant which is not the case for electric motorbikes.
Car specification and options assessment
This car was bought primarily for my daily commute and circumstances meant that I decided early on to go for the pure electric model. The REX is a great choice if you need the daily range or you are buying one as your only family car, but that wasn’t my situation. As I was buying a BEV I initially specified the following options to help with range on the odd occasion that I might want or need it.
- ZWT Winter pack, includes 494 (heated seats), and ZHV (high voltage battery preparation).
- 4T9 Auxiliary cabin preparation
- 4U7 DC rapid charge preparation
As for the cosmetic options, I will probably keep the car for some time so went for the Suite interior hoping that the leather will wear well. I added turbine 428 wheels and LED headlights, and finally added parking assist when I realized it was the only way to get front parking sensors. The Pro navigation system and real time traffic info was a free of charge upgrade. I chose Arravani Grey as my color option.
Of the options I didn’t chose I’d make the following comments. I’ve had cars with sun roofs before and never used them. I don’t like how cruise control takes away my control of the car so the idea of the driving assistance package did not appeal at all. My commute is virtually traffic free down country lanes so it would not have much use anyway. I don’t need to make much use of my phone when on the move so enhanced bluetooth was an option without much benefit. I was coming from a 20 year old Mazda which had no remote central locking so I’m still enjoying the “thrill” of opening it without using a key making comfort access seem like overkill. I don’t need the car to have the internet (I have a smart phone) and couldn’t justify spending the extra on the premium sound preparation when it cost more than I spent on my home hi-fi speakers. I won’t often take more than 1 passenger so the lack of rear speakers is not a worry. On the specification front I would say that a lot of the details about what these options actually do were only filled in after I placed the order, and having owned it for a couple of months I’m still not sure what the adaptive part of the headlight function refers too!
Having lived with the options I thought scoring them might be of interest to potential buyers:
Winter pack – heated seats hardly affect range at all, even on full chat – a must have for temperate climates 10/10
Auxiliary cabin preparation – not sure how much this helps so difficult to score.
DC rapid charge preparation – time will tell but a potent game changer in functionality terms so I wouldn’t be without it 10/10
Suite – love the mix of leather and wood so 10/10.
LED headlights are an expensive cosmetic option which I think I could have done without. As is common on modern lights they produces a blue halo around the edge of the beam which is off-putting for me and other drivers and I quite regularly get flashed by cars heading in the opposite direction even though I only have had dipped beam active. In the past I’ve had motorbikes which produce a light with a blue halo and I’ve had cars in front of me on a motorway brake hard and pull onto the hard shoulder because they thought I was the police – not ideal! 2/10. If I did it again I would probably drop LED lights in favor of the premium sound preparation.
Park Assistance front sensors are very handy but the rear camera takes some getting used to using and trust. Park assist parallel parking works very well although day to day I don’t have much call for it. 10/10 for how well it works but 5/10 in value terms as it is an expensive option if like me it’s just to add the front parking sensor functionality.
Efficiency, Range and average speed
My daily commute is 25 miles and at the end of two days commuting I typically have 25-30 miles of range left, but I haven’t tried a third day without charging yet. I commute in Eco Pro mode with the speed limit set to 55 mph. When I can get away with it I just use heated seats (climate control only being used for demisting). Bear in mind that morning temperatures for the bulk of my mileage were rarely above 10 C here and most of the time I’ve owned the car the evening temperatures have been similar. My 2 day cycle therefore normally includes one pre-warm while attached to the mains and 3 pre-warms without mains. My longest trip between charges was 84 miles with 4 miles remaining. The trip was made early morning at temperatures between 6 and 10 C, the last 15 miles was warmer, up to 14 C. This was in Eco Pro mode with no climate control apart from some occasional demisting, along mostly country lanes and A roads, rarely breaking the 55 mph limit I have set in Eco Pro. The car tells me my average speed is 29.0 mph, average consumption is 4.2 miles/kWh and I’ve done just over 2000 miles. The car once told me I had 111 miles of range, but I didn’t believe it!
Public charging cable, cargo net, all weather floor mats and additional 13 amp UK charger. These all work well and like others I find the mats slippery in the wet but this doesn’t bother me and I like the way they look. The additional 13 amp UK charger was bought because I wanted to mount the one that came with the car to the wall of my garage but also wanted one to carry around in the car. I’ve swapped the main beam bulbs for a cooler light as I didn’t like the mix of white and yellow beams. I don’t have a level 2 charging station at home yet but have started the ball rolling.
The app needs a bit of work, both in terms of the functionality it offers and whether it reliably updates. I find the algorithm behind delayed charging (which makes it difficult to predict whether the car will take a charge when you’ve plugged it in but told it not to) hugely frustrating and wish BMW had included a simple “charge controlled by smartphone” option in the car’s charge settings. If I want app control over charging I have to fudge it by swapping from charge immediately to charge using off peak time settings. I’ve had the car report interruptions to charging a couple of times and I’ve had it fail to precondition a couple of times but other than that it’s been trouble free. A slight grumble with the climate control is that it tends to noticeable oscillate from warm to cold air but I will get used to that. I’m still confused by the preheating function which appears to leave my car with less that 100 % in the battery when attached to the mains. The attachment of the charging socket protective cap to the charging flap leaves a lot to be desired and I still don’t have a manual for the Pro-Nav system.
This is my first EV and reading stories about charging points being out of service, ICE’d or otherwise not available has left me nervous about committing to a public charge as the only means of completing my journey. By scouting potential destinations I have confirmed the need to do this as the information about public charging points can be hit and miss. I have come across points listed as operational which were no more than concrete standings and other points listed as public which are really intended for the sole use of the company who have installed them. So when I set out for Bristol which is a 120 mile round trip requiring a charge to complete I was quite nervous, despite having visited and found that the listed charging points were mostly available (most common problem I saw there was being ICED, about 25 % of bays). But the trip went without a glitch and I was pleased to see the BMW app updated the availability in real time which is useful for all users. I moved the car off the bay once fully charged so that another EV could use it. When I returned to the car after the gig I’d been to, the EV bay I’d been in was ICED!
In summary I hope you can tell from my photos that I love the car. The only option I regret including is the LED headlights and if I was buying again I would have swapped the LED lights for the premium sound package. That’s not to say that the standard sound is bad, on the contrary it is very pleasing. I could go on as there are so many aspects to this car to but overall so far I’m a happy EV driver and a very happy i3 owner.