My name is Fred and I was born electric on July 30, 2014.
Today I have just a little over 1,000 miles on my i3 REx—over 1,000 happy miles I should add. I live in Huntington Beach, California and use my i3 regularly for running local errands, for meetings of 80 to 120 miles across the Los Angeles basin, and for pure pleasure. Indeed, it is now the only car I own. I sold my Lexus LS460L and my Lexus SC430 for the i3, and while both are great cars, the i3 meets my needs so well that I have no regrets about giving up either of them.
I never intended to own an electric vehicle and paid little attention to them believing that they were in general impractical. I was raised on the internal combustion engine and had no intention of doing anything other than sticking with what I knew and what worked for me. Adding to my mind set were two facts: first, America is awash in fossil fuels with the potential of freeing us from the importation of foreign oil; second, cars that once swigged gasoline are now increasingly fuel efficient. So, why change?
Then one sunny Sunday morning my son, who traded in his Hummer for a big Infiniti SUV, came knocking on my door, roused me from bed, and said, “come with me,” informing me that we needed to be somewhere in a hurry. Before I could find out where we had to be, we were racing down Pacific Coast Highway to what I discovered was the BMW dealer in Newport Beach. My son wouldn’t tell me where we were going or why we were rushing to be somewhere, keeping this news from me until we arrived. As we pulled into Sterling BMW, my son informed me that I was going to do a test drive—a drive so I learned that he took the day prior.
I had trouble believing that this was what all the fuss was about. My son has owned big vehicles for many years. He is a diver, and carts around lots of dive equipment. Also, we used his vehicles for towing our boats. Why in the world was he interested in this little car? Besides never giving a moment’s thought to an electric vehicle, I never considered a small car. Except for the BMW 320i that I owned in the 1980s and my little Lexus sports car which I used on weekends, my driving experience consisted mostly of large cars–heavy metal objects that surrounded me with lots of steel and horse power. I assumed that I would be safer in an accident in a large car than in a small one. Once behind the wheel of the i3, my fear disappeared. It is not true that in all things, small is beautiful, but in the case of the i3, it truly is.
The test drive was badly organized and although my son had signed us up for a specific time, we sat around for what seemed to be forever until we got our test car. Wanting my breakfast, I almost left. Further, when I tried to engage officials in charge of the test drive with questions about the vehicle, they seemed to know as little as I did. We were not off to a good start.
Once behind the wheel, everything changed. I immediately liked the clean lines and the airiness of the cabin. I especially liked the elevation of the seats with a firmness that secured my poor body against the discomforts of my arthritis. I abhor soft seats into which you sink, seats that require lowering yourself into position and then hoisting yourself out. I also liked the easy adjustment of the seats. While the seats in my Lexus vehicles are powered electrically, moving me like a belly dancer into every conceivable position, I never got the setting I wanted. By comparison, once into the i3, I knew I found a home.
The clincher was the drive itself. As we pressed the button to start the “ignition”, I listened for the rev of the motor only to hear quiet, blessed quiet. I thought to myself, this is too good to be true. My son took the wheel first. He likes to drive fast and once onto the road way, we took off with a punch that left everyone on the road in our rear view mirror. As a senior citizen I drive more cautiously, but when it was my turn at the wheel, I couldn’t help but accelerate to the max. What a ride! I also liked the steering—firm, nimble and responsive. The slightest turn moved the car decisively, making me realize that it needed two steady hands on the wheel. A quick U-turn in the middle of Pacific Coast Highway—something not recommended by good sense or the police—was a delight. I also liked the tight, firm ride—nothing spongy about it. The regenerative braking, I confess, made me nervous. Would I need a learning curve to master it? Well, as it turned out, I didn’t need much of a learning curve. Once I obtained my car, I felt comfortable and in control of the braking by the time I got the vehicle home.
This test drive made me know that the i3 offered a superior way of driving from anything I had known before. By the end of the drive, I announced to my son that I would put down my deposit early in the week and surrender my Lexus vehicles to CarMax. My son said he would also do the same and give up his Infiniti SUV. The decision to downsize and to go electric was a big one for our family, but after driving the i3, it left us little choice. The joy of driving the i3, the interior space and comfort, the responsive steering, the firm ride and the regenerative braking sold us on our first electric vehicle. In every respect the i3 felt, looked and drove like a BMW. We both decided on the REx, knowing that it would meet 90% of our driving needs—and indeed it has.
The drive’s the thing and that’s what sold us. Since I had zero knowledge and experience with electric vehicles, just to make sure that I hadn’t confused lust with love, rushing into something I would later regret, I arranged a test drive with a Volt later the same day. The Volt had good acceleration but nothing like the punch of the i3. Also, the seats were a tad too much like all the GM seats I had known before as was the ride itself—a tinge on the soft side. Further, the interior seemed old and not very inspiring. Driving the Volt reaffirmed my decision to purchase the i3.
Only after the decision was taken to purchase the i3 did I begin to investigate the world of EVs and their multiple advantages. Entering into an intensive period of study, I became like all converts something of a zealot which I continue to be at the time of this writing. I am in conversation with several solar panel companies to get the best equipment at the best deal. My son and I each put down our deposit on the Launch Edition of the i3 believing that this was the only vehicle that would be available in the states in the near future. The roll out was long and contained all too many disappointments; near the end of our wait, my son decided to throw in the towel and purchased the John Cooper Mini Countryman in place of the i3. At least he is driving a more efficient gasoline powered engine than when he was behind the wheel of his SUV.
All the things I liked about the i3 that led me to buy it I still like—and like even more than when I did my test drive. I’ve come to appreciate the Harmon Kardan sound system which in a cabin that is quiet (except at freeway speeds), enhances my listening pleasure. Speaking of the quiet cabin, it is not always as quiet as I would like. At city-street speeds, its as quiet as a church mouse. But on the freeway, especially as I approach 70mph plus, wind noise is noticeable, sometimes quite noticeable. If BMW can dampen that in the next iteration of the i3, it would make the drive even more enjoyable.
Sometimes it’s the little things that are most distressing. My biggest problem and that of my guests is getting the tongue of the seat belt into the buckle. While I am older and have lost strength in my hands, younger and abler persons also have difficulty. Sometimes it takes quite a bit of hard pushing to buckle up. Do I wish for a battery with greater range, of course, but I’ve learned to live with it. I like the light weight of the vehicle which contributes to the i3’s acceleration, handling and efficiency. If there was one thing I would say to BMW it is, resist all the calls for significant additions if it means making the vehicle heavier.
In light of the limitations of the battery, the REx has been indispensable to my driving needs. The smooth transition from being on the battery to the point when the REx kicks in is quite remarkable. I never feel or hear it nor do my passengers (actually one passenger in the back seat thought he heard a slight hum). I did have a significant loss of speed coming up a long, steep incline at the end of a 211 mile round trip. My companions and I couldn’t help but laugh as we knew this might happen but had not experienced it at any time earlier in the trip when we encountered steep inclines and were still on battery. What this means is that, understanding the limitations of the REx (all cars have their limitations in one respect or another), I need to plan my trips more carefully which I will in the future. The “slow down” neither diminished my ardor for the car nor my appreciation for its overall abilities and quality.
I’ve set the vehicle to charge at midnight when electricity rates are at their lowest. I purchased a ClipperCreek HCS 40 which works like a charm and cost me considerably less than the charger BMW is selling. From the standpoint of technology, this was the easy part. I confess that I find the i3’s software daunting and even after 1,000 miles, I am still only half way through learning the software’s mysteries.
One of the most delightful aspects of owning the i3 is the number of people who wave me down on the street, or give me a thumbs up on the freeway, or stop me at my favorite coffee shop or at the market, or encounter me in other ways asking me questions about the car or just admiring it. Recently an eight year old English boy on vacation in California approached me with his mother gushing facts about the i3. He is a devotee of Top Gear and knew much more than I about the car. I know that some commentators think the i3 is an ugly little beast, but the people who come up to me all seem to be intrigued by its looks. I hope that their inquisitiveness turns into sales.
Several people helped me throughout the roll out of the i3. My dealership went out of its way to find answers to all my inquiries even when they had little experience with the vehicle. Stephan, my Client Adviser (salesman in ordinary English) actually knew something about the i3 and was an anchor keeping me from drifting away. BMW North America, despite the glitches in the roll out, was enormously helpful when I reached out to them. No sooner did I reach out to them than they reciprocated frequently, reaching out to me. I want to thank Jacob Harb of BMW North America who, put in charge of the roll out, became the focus for everyone with a grievance, all too many of which were legitimate but many of which were not of his making. Jacob reached out to me after I contacted BMW, giving me reassurance and easing the process. Good communication is more than fifty percent of addressing problems even when solutions are not readily available. Like the oak in a gale, Jacob may have bent but he did not break and he saw the roll out through to fruition. Finally, without Tom Moloughney who captained the ship during the long process, leading the charge for the i3 against its frequent critics, providing answers to questions no one else seemed to have, defending the vehicle even while the process was discouraging, providing a communication link to BMW and giving us certainty that there would be an i3 in our future, I say without Tom I would have and I think many others would have said, nice try BMW but now I am going back to what I know and can rely on–a gasoline engine.
Thank you Tom!