Plug 'er in
I've been idly looking around for a new car so when we found ourselves with an hour to spare, passing by a dealership in Cheltenham earlier in the Summer, we stopped by and took a look at what they had to offer.
We've been eyeing the electric BMW i3 since we chatted about it at the Regent Street Motor Show late last year and when I was given the chance to borrow one for 24 hours, I was interested to give it a try. My current car is a petrol hybrid and I was keen to see how I'd get on with a fully electric vehicle, so I collected it the other day and brought it home to play with.
First impressions were quite good and though I don't think it's the prettiest of vehicles on the road, it was reasonably comfortable and had most, if not all, of the creature comforts of my current car. There's an interesting door arrangement though, with no central pillar. The rear door opens "the other way" creating a huge opening when both doors are open.
Before we set off, the saleswoman wanted to explain about the regenerative braking. It certainly takes a bit of getting used to and I could only liken it to riding a fixed wheel bike - there's no such thing to gently lifting the foot off the accelerator to slow down. As soon as the pedal is released it stops short! I needed a bit of practice in the car park before coming home then and as I set off, I wondered at what point the rear brake lights come on because actually, it's possible to drive without touching the brake pedal much at all.
It had been charging on the dedicated power supply at the dealer when I picked it up, so was showing 120 miles or so on the range display. There was a cubby under the bonnet with the charging cables in and before I left I checked that I was going to be able to plug it into our ordinary 3-pin household socket when I arrived home. I wasn't planning to go far but didn't like to think I might get stuck! Though there is another model with a "range extender" 2-cylinder petrol engine for reassurance, I felt that if I were to consider one of these cars, the purely electric version should suit us for the mostly short, local journeys anyway. The journey home was fun - the acceleration is impressive, even driving up the very steep hill where my car struggles a bit. I soon got used to the braking and rather enjoyed driving along dual carriageways and the smaller, country lanes too.
By the time I was home, I had just under a hundred miles left and as you can imagine, that display was pretty preoccupying. The notional "miles" on the display are not necessarily accurate miles distance because the range depends so much on how the car is driven, whether the lights are on or not, the heating/air con and the terrain. So those hundred miles swiftly changed to eighty-odd a short time later when my Hero had a go and drove it over to the other side of the village to feed our friends' fish.
Thankfully the car fitted comfortably into the garage overnight and the charging point was perfectly placed to plug into the ordinary 3-pin socket on the wall nearby. The following morning, it was fully charged with 123 miles on the display, ready to be returned to the dealership.
The conclusion? It's a fun car to drive and yes, I think I could manage with the simple plug-in model without the range extender even if I'm sure it would take me a while to stop constantly worrying about the range left on the battery. We'd need to have a dedicated fast power supply fitted in the garage to facilitate charging, but that's fairly easily done I understand. But do I really want to spend that sort of money (£33k - ouch!) on a car which lacks some of the comfortable little extras that I'm used to currently? The answer is probably not. But if I found myself with an unexpected windfall in the next few months, there's a bit of fun to be had there.
(another conclusion is how difficult it is to take photographs of a car without getting in the reflection)