Long-term report: Becoming an EV super-fan in a BMW i3
I’ve tried very hard indeed to not become one of those evangelical electric car owners that we all try to avoid – but it’s slowly creeping in. You know the type I mean: the ones that constantly tell anyone who’ll listen just ‘how good electric cars are’, how they’re ‘easy to live with’ and that ‘they’re the future’.
They annoy me as much as they probably annoy you, but after nearly two months with the BMW i3 I’ve sort of become that person by default. The thing is, with a unique-looking car like the BMW, more people than usual ask you what it’s like to live with.
I’ve had neighbours wait for me by the car in the morning to ask what it’s like and a group of shoppers at the local supermarket hang around and want to know how the charging works as I plug it into the fast charger there.
I can’t help but tell them just how much I love it. In fact, I’m genuinely surprised at how well it has fitted into my life. With a range of around 200 miles – which flexes up and down by around 20 miles depending on how and where I’m driving it – I’ve managed to get away with just two fast charges in that time.
By plugging it in at work every day, in a normal three-pin plug socket, I’ve managed to keep the i3 topped up enough for my daily usage. I haven’t got access to charging at home so am relying purely on this trickle-charging at work (it takes 15 hours for a full charge this way) and it’s working. It effectively means the 1,000 miles I’ve covered so far have cost me personally the grand sum of £14 for two fast charges. OK, so that’s not very realistic, as most owners will be paying for their electricity at home, but if you’ve got a free charging point at work then it could equate to very cheap motoring indeed.
It’s not just the frugal running that I’ve enjoyed either, as the i3 has some other interesting and likeable traits too. Firstly, it has the turning circle of a London taxi, making parking an absolute breeze. It can spin in the road with little need for a three-point turn and, in tight car parks, that’s a joy. If there’s one thing all city cars should have by default, it’s a tiny turning circle, and the i3 certainly boasts that.
I love the sound it makes too. Much has been said about electric cars making no noise – but at slow speeds, the BMW emits a Tube train-like whirring on deceleration. I’ve probably described that poorly as it’s a bit more futuristic than that: a cross between something from the movie Tron and a Star Wars spacecraft. Either way, it’s pretty cool.
As much as I love the looks, though, I’m struggling with the design of the doors. The rear ones become the B pillars for the front doors to attach to, so they can’t be opened independently, which means you have to jump out of the front to let someone in the back. That’s annoying, but far more frustrating is getting something out of the back when you’ve parked in a tight space. You’re forced to open the front and rear doors together which, when pinned in by a car or wall next to you, means there’s just a tiny opening through which to extract the item.
Removing even relatively small things has resulted in much cursing.
If you’ve got plenty of space next to you to open both the doors the entry space is huge, but in our modern car parks that’s very rare and more often than not I get frustrated with them.
And while I’m on the subject of gripes, the BMW has an annoying habit of ‘bonging’. For some reason, car manufacturers have developed this irritating feature that makes their cars play strange welcome noises. In the BMW, it begins when you turn it on, goes on for several seconds, then stops. I have no idea why – presumably it’s simply telling me I’ve sat down safely. There is absolutely no need for a car to make any noise whatsoever when you get in.
But despite these minor moans, the BMW i3 is proving to be a perfect companion for my lifestyle. Unfortunately, my request to extend the three-month loan was denied so I’ll make sure I get as many miles under my belt in the next four weeks as possible.