Why You Probably Will Not Own an EV (A Harrowing Day w/ the BMW i3)
First let me tell you, I love my i3. While I wish it got more miles per charge (currently 72 – 82 miles per full charge) there is very little beyond range that I would change. And for 95% of my daily driving that range is not a problem at all. I’ve only bricked my car once, when I had just bought it and there were some issues with the charging settings.
On this particular day last week, nothing seemed unusual about my driving needs. I had to answer for a speeding ticket to a courthouse in the opposite direction of my work, but I didn’t give it too much thought. I started the morning with the car saying it had a 72 mile range. And once at the courthouse I was only 15% down on my battery charge. But as I drove back towards work (after getting the ticket dismissed) I noticed the mileage dropping more quickly than I anticipated.
And that’s one of the first things you learn about the EV’s and their highly intelligent computers. They are calculating your remaining range all the time, dynamically based on how your driving, the ambient temperature and if you’re running the AC or not. So sometimes it seems like 5 miles drops the range by 10 miles. And other times you can watch the range actually go up while your driving. But you have no real way to estimate the remaining range except by the readout on the dash.
So when I noticed the mileage slipping below my comfort zone I made an imaginary date with the rapid charging stations at my nearby Whole Foods Market. I figured I’d head over for an hour lunch at the WFM and pick up an additional 20 miles of range.
The big problem is there were no open EV-charging spaces when I went to WFM. And there were clearly two cars that were not EVs parked in the spaces. When I asked at the customer service desk I was given the "it is voluntary" excuse. So I was SOL with my lunch energy snack and I headed back to work without beefing up my range at all. Now my range read 19 miles. And that would be fine if I were heading straight home after work, but I had a doctor’s appointment in town. I wasn’t sure what the loop to town and back to my house was, but I did know 19 miles was going to be close.
The biggest problem with an EV these days is when the car is dead, it’s really dead. There’s no option for bringing a few gallons of gas to get you home. When you brick your car you’ve got to get it towed to a charging station. And even the rapid charging stations take an hour to give you any significant range. As a rule of thumb, when I leave the house in the morning, I consider my starting range my total range for the day. If I’ve got excessive errands or need to make a longer trip somewhere I’ve got to negotiate to take my fiance’s car.
I left work with 19 miles range and by the time I parked in-town I had 9 miles to go. I’m not sure how far my house is from the dr’s office, but I wasn’t feeling the love. I was a bit worried. And it had begun to rain, so I knew the traffic on the way home, in rush hour, would be the worst.
I could’ve driven to my mom’s house and asked my finance to bring my charger, but I took it on as a test. I have to admit I was a bit white-knuckled pulling back into traffic with the car beeping it’s low milage complaint. "Yeah, I know."
I drove with the finesse of a race car driver, very conscious of every press on the accelerator. And there were several big hills on my way home. I kept the car below 45 mph to try and maximize the range. And I coasted every downhill, glad for the pickup of a few extra watts of power.
When I pulled the car into the garage I had been on 1 mile range for at least 2 miles. I was terrified and happy and I began planning for how I could avoid this situation in the future.
One thing you really become conscious of when you drive an EV is how far 10 miles is. Every destination becomes a fraction of ten miles in my mind. How many ten-mile trips I have to take during the day. The good news is the weather has been nice so I didn’t need the AC. Had I run the AC on the fateful trip home I would not have made it.
So, you may not ever own an EV, and I understand that. My fiance said she was even nervous swapping with me for the day. It’s a big responsibility. You’ve got to think strategically about every acceleration, and if you can stop in for a quick-charge at the grocery store, provide the space is open.
In the future little EVs like mine will get 150 miles and more. Until then, I start every day with a quarter tank of gas and meter out my day from there.
Here are my two previous reviews/lifestyle posts on the BMW i3:
- I’ve Gone Electric: My Comprehensive Review of the BMW i3
- Overview: BMW i3 (First Impressions, First Problems)
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