Hi! My name is Steve and I was born electric on August 15, 2012.
You highly intelligent, super savvy readers may be questioning my sanity. Or, at the very least, fact-checking. And those dubious thoughts are spot on. The above picture is me putting gas into a new kind of EV: a BMW i3. And those understanding of the i3 know that, in 2012, the i3 only existed as an internal tension at BMW between the maniacal engineers that thought a mass-market car could be made extensively with carbon fiber and the bean counters that believed BMW i was a financial money pit destined to ruin Team Bavaria. Eureka!
Our first three EVs were all-electric Nissan LEAFs. Back in the summer of 2012, we started replacing our gasoline-fueled family hauler fleet. The second LEAF came eight months later, making us an all-EV household. My wife and I defiantly and definitively proclaimed that we would never again visit a gas station. Then in 2014, I traded my beta test 2012 LEAF for a ready-for-market 2014 LEAF. We were seemingly set with two very capable EVs in our garage: a 2013 Nissan LEAF SL and a 2014 Nissan LEAF SL.
Then the electric vehicle market expanded +1 in Washington state. BMW started selling its i3 in the State the latter half of 2014. By Christmas, I had one on an extended test drive. When we turned the i3 back over to the BMW dealership, we were conflicted. The i3, with its onboard gas generator, or Range Extender (REx), was far more capable as a transporting vehicle. However, Nissan’s LEAF, with its CHAdeMo-equipped quick charging, was far more capable as an EV.
Unless you are a bot scouring the Interwebs, you have correctly surmised that we ended up buying an i3. On March 12, 2015, we traded in my wife’s 2013 LEAF for a BMW i3 REx. The i3 is unlike any vehicle on the road: carbon fiber, suicide rear doors, and series-hybrid purity. The features and headlines that make the i3 such an emotionally appealing vehicle are all present in our Bimmer. Yes, there are plenty of bits to get excited about with the car. However, the deciding factor in selling a LEAF for the i3 was the REx option.
For the past three years, we have traveled far, but not wide, in a LEAF. We have shown that all-electric travel is quite possible the 1,500 miles between Kamloops, British Columbia and the U.S.-Mexico border. But EV travel (sans Tesla EVs) is only practically doable in a narrow 200 mile east-west corridor along the entirety of the West Coast.
My wife and I have a long history of road trips…long before we had EVs, long before we had kids. Now that we have EVs and kids, we have naturally invoked our parental obligations of perpetuating traditions with our Littles. And, we’ve all but exhausted the territory that we can travel to by LEAF. From here on out, the i3 will be taking over as the primary road trip car. With that in mind, I wanted to prepare a day trip for the i3 that would serve as a suitable first, of many, REx adventures.
One of the great tests for EVs lies in day-tripping to the Olympic Peninsula from the Seattle area. I’ve done this trip twice with my children. The first attempt, ended in failure. The second a success, as we made it to Hurricane Ridge, a spectacular mountain region south of Port Angeles. What makes EV day travels to the Olympic Peninsula challenging is that the last ferry on the Kingston-Edmonds route departs at 11:00pm. In addition, there is not DC quick charging support, and only a limited number of Level 2 charging stations in the region. Basically, the furthest west a current generation LEAF can go in a day, from where we live in Lake Stevens, is Port Angeles.
The i3 REx faired much better. This is our report…
We pulled out of the garage at about 7:00am, and made the ferry crossing and drive to Port Angeles by mid-morning. And after charging at a Sun Country-branded Clipper Creek High-Amp Level 2 (HAL2) charging station for a bit over an hour, we topped off the gas tank and continued west: Destination Cape Flattery 70+ miles away.
We made it to Neah Bay after about two hours of driving; WA-112 is not an interstate. The typical travel speed was about 45mph, and we had to watch out for the occasional herd of elk! A herd of a few dozen elk crossed the road we were driving on!
The Makah Tribe, in the Neah Bay region, have started supporting electric vehicle tourism with several recent EVSE installations. The first, a HAL2 and dual Tesla High-Power Wall Chargers (HPWCs) are located in the town of Neah Bay. The second, another HAL2 and dual HPWCs are located at the Hobuck Beach Resort.
Both locations are glorious, in scenery and in EVSE support. In between these two gems, is a marvel in its own right: Cape Flattery. The Cape Flattery experience is second to none. It provides quintessential Pacific Northwest ocean views and kid-friendly hiking abound.
So, after trekking around Cape Flattery in the early afternoon, we let the kids play on the mile-wide Hobuck Beach, which has sand more reminiscent of a Hawaiian coastline than the typical pebbled Northwest affair.
Hobuck Beach: End of the road
By late afternoon, we were heading back east, towards Port Angeles, the Kingston-Edmonds ferry, and eventually home. Pulling into the garage at just past midnight, we were all exhausted, with both kids soundly asleep in the back of the i3. What was different about this trip: We covered 340 miles in a day (using less than 5 gallons of gasoline), and the kids were dead-tired because we had so much adventure outside of traveling in the car.
Tuckered out after a day of fun.
Road trips will forever be different for us, now that we have an i3 with REx. Whereas before, with a LEAF, every moment of the trip was in service of charging. The motto, “if it ain’t movin’, it better be chargin’, ” was not coined by somebody driving a hybrid, or Tesla for that matter.
With the i3, we will be able to drive all-electric, all the time. Or, if we wish, we can utilize the REx to take us where no Coram has gone before. Now, that sounds like an EVenture!