Six Months with the 2015 Smart Electric Drive

Saturday 25th July 2015

This week we will have had our 2015 Smart Electric Drive for six months, so what do I think of it six months down the road?

The Smart Electric Drive has certainly turned into one fun little car to drive, it is very much on the nippy side and is more than capable of holding its own in traffic, it’s relatively quick off the mark and can easily keep up with all the traffic. Just because it is small does not mean it is slow. Although, I do, from time to time, get people (usually SUV drivers) trying to intimidate me. Well, they picked the wrong person for that, there’s no intimidating me!!

2015 Smart Electric Drive - Flat battery

2015 Smart Electric Drive – Flat battery

The range on the Smart Electric Drive is around 80 miles per charge, although I can get more than that, if I have been driving. My son is the predominant driver and only drives the car a few miles a day and because the return journey is all up hill, the guess-o-meter is always being pessimistic. Of course we have managed 110 miles in the car, and can probably get that on a regular basis if I had 110 miles worth of driving to do each day! Which, thank goodness I do not.

One of the best and most obvious things about the Smart Electric Drive is the size of this car – for so many reasons – it is so easy to park – have you seen one parked in a parking space? It looks tiny! I know, I shouldn’t say that, but it does – and only I am allowed to say that as I have one! There is even enough room for another Smart Electric Drive in the same parking space. Now, there are not many Electric Cars that you can say that about. It’s a shame about those huge SUVs that sometimes park next to us though – you know the ones that always park just over the lines – just rude!

The Smart Electric Drive makes people look, I’m not sure what any of them are thinking though! Probably – ‘That is one small car’. I still get the big pick up trucks looking at the car and guess that they are probably still thinking the same as me – ‘That could fit in the back of the pick up truck’.

The Smart Electric Drive is easy to wash and dry, although I still cannot reach the middle of the roof! Seeing as I am unlikely to grow any taller, it is a given that this will always be an issue for me. I find that as the car takes so little time to wash, that I find myself unsure of whether I did all the sides, so I have to do a quick run round the car to double check! I’ve found that the front wheels do seem to attract road dirt quite a lot and I am not impressed by this at all, just more cleaning needed!

When out driving during heavy rain or in slushy snow, you can see the spray that the car produces as there is no back end – the rear wheels are the rear of the car. Ah – now this is when people hang back more and do not get as close to me, as the spray basically aims itself directly at the car behind – oops!!

Where most cars have a lot of space up front to house the mechanical parts, the Smart Electric Drive has everything up close, you can hear the electronics for the automatic wipers and the AC as they click on and off quite clearly. Despite all these little noises the car is still so quiet, which of course is why you can hear all the other noises so much.

Not even fully loaded

Not even fully loaded

With all that said about how small the Smart Electric Drive is, it has much more space inside it than you would ever imagine; we easily manage our weekly shop without any problems. Do you need 10 bags of salt for your water softener? Well if you do, no problem, it all fits in the boot – and it even remains on all four wheels – I had visions of the car pointing up to the sky!

A little rant – The Eco meter on the Smart Electric Drive, while amusing as I always want to get it to 100%, (which isn’t proving too difficult these days), is also a little on the frustrating side. When I leave the house with a fully charged battery and head off down the hill, there is no regen and I know and understand that I will not have any regen with a totally full battery. Nor, will I make any space in the battery as I am going downhill. But, my complaint is that I shouldn’t be penalised on the Eco meter for having a full battery. As I travel down the hill gently applying the brakes all the way down to the junction. the eco-ness percentage increases slightly, but as I get to the junction and apply the brakes more firmly to stop myself spilling out into the junction the eco-ness percentage decreases to below what I left the garage with. Now, it seems unfair to take percentages away from me when I have a full battery and cannot use any regen, it’s basically saying you are pressing the brakes too hard. Smart – I would like to see this fixed please. The Eco meter does seem to be a bit on the random side at the best of times. It should know when I have a full battery and when I am travelling downhill and need to use the brakes to stop myself exceeding the speed limit and crashing into another vehicle. I shouldn’t at any time be penalised for gently applying the brakes on a downhill and then pressing them more firmly as I approach the junction to stop the car. I also wish it could see those times when a random driver suddenly decides to pull out in front of me or the traffic lights change prompting an immediate stop. It’s not like I’m driving recklessly and fiercely applying the brakes – I’m always driving gently and giving myself plenty of stopping time. It is those random other things that cause sudden braking. I think the car should have sensors or a camera on the front so it can see that it wasn’t my fault and stop taking away my eco percentages. Ugh!! But, thank you for letting me rant about that as I do feel better now!

As we are at six months with the Smart Electric Drive, I thought I would ask my son what his thoughts on the car were and here they are.

The shift from the Mitsubishi i-MiEV to the 2015 Smart Electric Dive was bittersweet in the way that I had become so accustomed to the quirks of the i-MiEV and I was upset to see it go. However, getting to have a new driving experience in a different, better looking car was exciting. It was fairly obvious from the beginning that the Smart Electric Drive had a better, firmer build quality than that of the i-MiEV. I almost felt as if I could pull apart the i-MiEV with my bare hands as a lot of pieces didn’t look like they even fit together. I still enjoyed the i-MiEV, but I appreciate the sturdier quality of the Smart Electric Drive. The most surprising part of my experience with the Smart Electric Drive was that I could actually fit inside it despite being six feet tall. It is even smaller than the i-MiEV but somehow manages to have enough room inside for two people to sit relatively comfortably. It’s perfect for me because I only rarely drive with other people, and I’ve never needed more than a little space in the back to occasionally put a suitcase. The music system would be nice if it actually connected to iPhones but it’s not the end of the world, really. Driving it is nice, I suppose that’s the most important part, and also what I’m supposed to be writing about. It feels faster, and more nimble than the i-MiEV making sharper turns with much greater ease as there is almost no length to the car at all. Its size lends itself to how well it can maneuver along the road, and it can fit just about anywhere. It’s very uncommon to have any issues with other road users, because I’m usually too small to ever be in their way, although people will and have often tried to squeeze past me on a larger than average road because they think their SUV is the only thing on the road. Parking is a breeze, I can pretty much swing into a space and be done with it without any problems. I do get harassed a lot more on the road though, as a lot of big car drivers think they’re way too cool for manners, as driving at the speed limit is often frowned upon by New Jersey drivers. My only larger issue with the Smart Electric Drive is that is has a much weaker regen system than that of the i-MiEV. I find myself using the brakes (with the weirdest brake pedal design I’ve ever seen) to stop myself a lot more, especially when it’s on a full charge. Over time I’ve gotten used to everything the Smart Electric Drive does, and I think I’ve finally finished figuring out what all the controls do on the steering column. They were really avoiding the use of actual words to convey what those symbols mean. I would probably rate the Smart Electric Drive slightly higher than the i-MiEV, it drives much nicer, but its control markings could use some work. Overall, I’m quite happy to be driving it, it does the job, and it does the job well.

Five Things You Might Not Know About the 2015 Smart Electric Drive

Saturday 7th February 2015

We have had our new 2015 Smart Electric Drive for a week now and have already found a few things that, even one of the dealers swore wasn’t available!

2015 Smart Wraps Header

Here are Five Six things you may not know about the Smart ED.

1. Pre-conditioning is built in

Our first Electric Car that get too hot!

Our first Electric Car that gets too hot!

I so like the fact that I can pre-condition my EV’s without idling. In the Smart Electric Drive it doesn’t take long to warm up the car as it’s well insulated and small, so it’s toasty warm in just a few minutes. We’ve actually found that the car gets so warm that we are driving around with the heater set on the lowest level. To pre-condition, you can set the departure time on the dash display or…

2. It has a Mobile Web App (that works on the desktop too)

… on the App! I can also see my state of charge, miles to empty, approximately how long it will take to charge, whether the climate control is on or off. There is also an eco display that lets me know how I have been driving – good to see how the child has been driving! Plus, a route planner that factors in topological data to make sure I know how far I can go with my current range.

3. The front passenger seat folds flat

The front passenger seat can be folded down flat therefore increasing your boot space for your extra luggage or purchases. Not much good if you have a passenger though! If you do have a passenger then I am sure they would be more than happy to hold those extra purchases for you. We were able to get one week of shopping in the boot – just. It was touch and go with the toilet rolls though!

A 14x14 pop-up tent frame loaded into the Smart

A 10’x10′ pop-up tent frame loaded into the Smart

 

Oh, and 3a, you can sit on that open hatch, if you’d like to.

4. It has adjustable regenerative braking

 

The three-spoke steering wheel with recuperation paddles is a rare option

The three-spoke steering wheel with recuperation paddles is a rare option

It can be ordered with a three-spoke steering wheel and “Recuperation Paddles” so you can adjust the regenerative breaking from zero (coasting) to stage 2, 60% regenerative power. Although it would be nice to have the full regen as standard, the cars without the paddles default to stage 1, 30% regenerative power. I am missing the strong regen I have become accustomed to. It does have some regen on the accelerator and also some on the brake, but I have been so spoilt with the MINI E and the Active and now the i3. We tried to find a car with this option but alas, there were none.

5. It has interchangeable body panels

Smart Body Panels in Yellow

Fancy a Yellow Smart today?

The skin of the car is made of polycarbonate panels that can be removed within minutes and exchanged for different coloured panels at your smart centre or even at home. Ooh does that mean I can have, flowers, hearts – maybe?

Hello-Kitty-Smart-Car

Perhaps a wrap?

 

 

Last but not least:

6. It’s tougher than you might think

Small cars aren’t safe, that’s why I drive an SUV.” “I wouldn’t let my children drive one.” “The Smart wouldn’t work for me as I need to drive on the highway.” – Just a few of the ill-informed comments that I’ve heard. Mercedes, who make the Smart, wouldn’t be silly enough to make a car that was dangerous would they? Would they go on to sell it in 46 countries? Would it continue to sell in good numbers for over 17 years? I don’t think so.

Since its birth in 1998, the Smart introduced the very visible Tridion Safety Cell that surrounds the occupants. It’s very much like the roll cage you might find in a racing car. Most of the bodywork simply hangs off the safety cell. It’s this egg like cell that protects the occupants and why it gets as high as a five-star rating for drivers side impact by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – that’s higher than most cars and why it was featured in the New York Museum of Modern Art in 2002.

The ‘Pole Test’ is a nasty simulation of a very typical real-word accident. It records what happens when you lose control and slide into a narrow object such as a tree or a pole. Approximately one quarter of all serious-to-fatal injuries in Europe happen in side impact collisions and many of these injuries occur when one car runs into the side of another or into a fixed narrow object such as a tree or pole.

Here’s how the Smart Electric Drive handles the Pole Test, I’ve fast-forwarded to the slow-motion part of the video to see how the pole impacts the driver, as we pick up the action, we’re sliding sideways into a pole…

It’s not nice. The first thought might be “get a bigger, safer car” right? Well, in the test above, I’d say the driver would be pretty shaken, but let’s see what happens in a “nice big, safe” 2014 Chevy Silverado 1500 / GMC Sierra 1500 (Crew Cab)…

Like the Smart, the drivers head hits the airbag but in the SUV, the pole just keeps coming in until it hits the driver directly.

How about a “giant, super-safe” Ford Expedition?

…The pole came right into the passenger compartment.

2015 Honda CR-V does a little better before the roof folds up and it drops the insides on the driver…

2015 BMW X3 is a bit better but still, the pole penetrates the passenger compartment more than it does in the Smart…

Same with the 2015 BMW X5…

Even though the Smart suffers in the crash test, it does fair better than the other cars. What we see is that, contrary to popular belief, it holds up as well or better than any “big, safe” SUV. Add to that the biggest difference; the Smart is lighter, more nimble and stops faster so, you’re less likely to be involved in an accident in the first place, and that’s how I like to end a story.

Thanks to CrashNet1.com for compiling those. You can see more pole tests at their YouTube Channel. Plus the same story with frontal impacts… that Tridion Safety Cell is tough.

My Final Acceptance of the BMW i3 and What an Efficient Electric Car It Is.

Saturday 11th July 2015

It has finally happened – and this only happened this past Friday – that I do in fact rather like the BMW i3. Yes, yes, I know, I have had the car for over a year, but some things just take time! I think I am only just getting to fully appreciate what I have with this car and finally accepting it. It isn’t the MINI E – most unfortunately, and isn’t the ActiveE either – not so unfortunately. It is the i3 – it is itself and it is different and unique. I realised that for over a year I have been telling myself that I liked the car, when I really wasn’t so sure, and knew it was just okay, and going along with what I had. However, if BMW offered me the MINI E back again, I would still take it – even in its experimental state, it’s still the best EV for me. But I think I have realised that it isn’t likely to happen so it appears that I have finally come to appreciate and accept the i3.

Now I have decided that it is staying, for a little while at least, then I am looking at the efficiency of this Electric Car. It should be super efficient, after all it is made of carbon fibre reinforced plastic making it nice and lightweight. Then there is the fact that they didn’t add a lot of things to the car (according to the visit we had at BMW HQ way back before the cars were even released!) – all to keep the weight down apparently. I remember being most unimpressed that day as all I was hearing was, ‘Well we didn’t put that in and we took that out and we didn’t do this, etc., etc.” I was originally imagining a car that would have not much left in it at all – just the bare necessities – a steering wheel and a couple of seats!

Anyway, during this past week, and I am not sure why, but I have been particularly interested in my i3’s efficiency and I have to say that it is one very efficient Electric Car.

2015 BMW i3 at 5.7kWh

I am currently at a steady average of 5.7miles/kWh and regularly see 98 – 105 miles of estimated range each day. The i3 seems to glide through the air with little resistance and it probably gets such good miles/kWh because I keep it so clean! I am finding I can drive my first 3 miles on a morning using only 0.3% of battery and usually increasing my range by 2 or 3 miles. The journey is one of a mixture of flat and hilly roads.

In the i3 there are potentially three driving modes – Comfort, Eco Pro and Eco Pro Plus. I always drive in ‘Comfort Mode’ and find there is very little difference, if any at all, in range guesstimates between the three driving modes. We actually tested this theory with the ActiveE and found that it’s all down to how you drive the car, drive gently in ‘Comfort mode’ and you will see the same results in mileage range as you would in ‘Eco Pro’. In my experience ‘Eco Pro’ and ‘Eco Pro Plus’ just dumb down the car for you – softer accelerator, no AC and speed limited to 55mph. I can do all this myself and can moderate the accelerator rather well, if I do say so myself! I have heard some one call the Eco Pro settings the cars nanny! If I drive gently in ‘Comfort mode’ with no AC then there is no need for all the Eco Pros. It’s just all about how you control the car, and for me, I prefer to make those decisions myself, rather than have the car do so. Although even in Eco Pro you can still floor the i3 off the line, you just have to press the accelerator a bit harder.

2015 BMW i3 One Year Anniversary

2015 BMW i3 One Year Anniversary Gathering

I often return from a journey in my i3 with more miles than I set of with – this is usually the case when my sidekick has driven it the day before!

On our recent trip of 158 miles round trip to Philadelphia we were at 99% efficiency as reported on the BMW i-Remote App – that’s pretty impressive for a route that was hilly and had road speeds that varied from 25 – 55mph, oh and it rained on the return journey. Also, our last few miles home is a climb of 360 feet, up a few very steep hills.

In conclusion – my BMW i3 is very efficient and I like that!

Boot Space in the BMW i3

Saturday 4th July 2015

How much space does my BMW i3 really have?

2015 BMW i3 Loaded up Padded

Ready to be loaded – padded!

Now, this isn’t necessarily something that I particularly want to find out. I mean, I don’t mind helping out my children but, stuffing my i3 full of drawer units and vacuum cleaners and boxes of stuff to transport 72 miles to her apartment in Pennsylvania – Hmm, not so sure. I obviously did not want my car to get damaged, scratched or anything else so there would be many precautions taken. I am thinking a duvet might work – yes, of course, that’ll protect the car.

The BMW i3 looks rather small from the outside but it is quite surprising just how much space there is inside. It’s almost Tardis like – but not quite. As we all know the Tardis is huge inside and while the i3 definitely has more space than the outside suggests it isn’t quite on the scale of the Tardis.

2015 BMW i3 Loaded up Side

Fully loaded

With the seats folded down, the duvet in place and a towel across the rear bumper, I allowed my sidekick and child to carefully – read very carefully here – place a wooden drawer unit from my daughters bedroom inside the car. Once inside the car I brought the duvet up around the sides of the unit and squished it down the sides so, if the drawers should move around – and with my sidekick driving, who knows! – at least the car would be protected. The vacuum cleaner squeezed in too but the box did have to be left behind and the contents tucked behind the front seat. The box of items to go too also fitted, although not the actual box. I had to put all the items into bags which were then arranged around the drawers. Oh and don’t forget the yoga mat that squished in too! I am rather surprised at what you can fit in the back of the i3, although with all that stuff it was full and there was no more going in.

Plenty of space and two spots to park

Plenty of space and two spots to park

Before the journey I had wondered if the additional weight would affect the range of the i3. It appeared that, well, not so much, it does use a little bit extra but it’s negligible in the grand scheme of things. For our 72 mile journey to our destination we used 56% battery. The contents in the boot remained where they were put originally for the whole journey – so my sidekick was obviously driving nice and gently. There was the odd squeak every now and again and I did have to wonder if a chipmunk had hitched a ride. After we dropped off all the items, the i3 gave a sigh of relief before we drove 16 miles to BMW of Mount Laurel to charge up for our return journey. We rang BMW the day before to ask about being able to charge and to make sure that the charger would be available. They were really helpful and said yes we can charge even though they wouldn’t be open and told us where to find the charging station.

2015 BMW i3 Loaded up Proper signage

When we arrived at BMW of Mt. Laurel, we found the car park packed with new BMW’s however, one of the two charging parking spaces was open and available – the other occupied by an i3, though not charging. They were properly marked out as being for parking whilst charging only, so top marks but for the i3 hogging the other spot.

While the car was charging we sat back and got on with some work and writing blogettes! (I am adding that word to my personal dictionary that I am creating, adding to words like wibble.) We charged to 75% which took about 1 hour 55 minutes and used 10.8 kWh.

Plotting the route home, the car reported that we simply would’t make it – 69 miles to home but only 52 miles available range. It wasn’t until we got down to just 19 miles from home before the journey distance matched the miles remaining but, at 158 miles total distance travelled for the day, we arrived home with 9% to spare – it’s a good job that we understand what the percentage remaining means and don’t rely on the guesstimates.

What Charging Options Would You Pick?

Saturday 20th June 2015

Most Electric Vehicle owners charge their Electric Vehicle at home, but what happens when you need to charge your vehicle while you are out and about?

Are there enough chargers to go around? Are they correctly marked out to stop non Electric Vehicles from parking in the space?

Currently, the answer would be no. There are a number of charging stations out there but it is on the low side. We definitely need more and I’m sure they are coming but it is slow going.

Free Public Charging - simple, cheap but no road marking

Free parking but no road markings to let drivers know it’s there

It doesn’t matter what the reason is for your charging need: it could be that you need a small charge to get you home, to your next destination or to the next charging station. What we need to make sure of is when you arrive at a charging station that you are able to use it. We are so happy that so many people are now driving electric — but we do need to make sure that everyone understands charging needs and that they do not take up a space that an Electric Vehicle needs for charging.

Here are some of the things I think we need to see at charging locations to make sure that Electric Vehicle owners get to charge when they need to.

The charging stations and their location, including signage, should be marked out that they are for Electric Vehicles Only and preferably for Electric Vehicle Charging Only. This stops an Electric Vehicle parking there that doesn’t need to charge but it’s a parking space so hey, why not park there? The sign needs to be big enough to read easily and stand out from a normal parking sign – we need to think colour here and, most people seem to have gone with green. Painting on the parking space ground seems to be a good way to alert people. I think that monitoring of the spaces is important too, so that if someone chooses to park there and they are not an EV or, not charging, that they get a ticket.

One of the things that I do believe that will help with the location of charging spaces is, that when companies are looking at putting in Electric Vehicle charging that they need to choose spaces that are not close to the building entrance or in a prime location. If it costs a bit more to run the cables further then I’m okay with you charging me a little bit more (as long as it’s a reasonable little bit more), for the electricity to offset that cost. I would much rather have 20 Electric Vehicle charging spots that were at the back of the car park, than only 1 or 2 close by the entrance. I am more than happy to walk the extra distance and it would also mean that other car drivers weren’t thinking I was getting preferential treatment – owning an Electric Vehicle is enough!

Workplace charging for Tesla Model S and regular J1772

Nice to have open free charging but again, no road markings to let others know this is for EVs only

Some Electric Vehicles allow you to unplug them when they are finished charging, which is quite useful. This would then allow people to unplug your car when charging is finished and plug their car in. All it would take is a polite note left on your car to say that the car can be unplugged when finished charging. Although, if Electric Vehicle parking is at a premium then it would only be fair to return to your car when it had finished charging and move it to another non-charging space.

One of the problems that we do see from time to time is people with petrol cars parking in Electric Vehicle spaces. Now, I am going to presume that this is because they are uneducated about Electric Vehicles and their need to charge. It is likely that they do not know about Electric Vehicles and saw a parking space and any parking space will do. They probably didn’t even notice any signs – if there even were any – which is why we need to educate these people about Electric Vehicles and charging.

Workplace charging - EV spots marked out but for parking only - this car finished charging

Nice road markings but that plug in C-MAX isn’t charging anymore

Nothing is perfect, different solutions cost different amounts of money per unit. Each of these solutions costs very roughly $16,000 in equipment and charges roughly 16 cars per day:

  1. Thirty 120V charging connectors with the familiar J1772 connector – open and unrestricted. Or:
  2. Eight Level 2, 240V managed charging spots that are available for 4 hours maximum priced at $2/hour. Or:
  3. Two  DC Fast Charging units, that are only available for 30 minutes maximum and cost $5 to use.

Or – there might be all three options. Now that would be ideal as there would be an option for everyone but, which of these compromises would you be most happy with if you could only pick one?

  1. Free Level 2 charging with parking but, the spot might be occupied long after the car has finished charging so, you might be stuck waiting
  2. Free charging with parking with plentiful Level 1, 120V units so there’s a better chance you’ll find an empty spot but they’re not fast
  3. Paid Level 2 charging that goes up in price as the time progresses to deter charging hogs so, you’ll have to move your car once you’ve got enough charge to avoid paying too much
  4. Paid DC Fast charging that’s only open for 30 minutes and charges a lot if you overstay

(Note: Each includes big spikes that come out of the ground if you park but don’t start charging within 10 minutes!! (Says my trusty sidekick!) *** actually, this isn’t totally silly – you could have those ramps that only let you enter the spot then retract down when or after you charge.)

What If There Wasn’t a Handbook For Electric Car Charging?

Saturday 13th June 2015

We have grown up with Electric Vehicles from their early days. We’ve grown up in a tight knit community of enthusiasts that have helped shape the cars we drive and the way that we use them. But, has any one written down the part about how we use them and put that in every new owners hands?

Edison Garage Charging Station

Edison Garage Charging Station

When we first started driving Electric Vehicles almost 6 years ago, there wasn’t that many on the road. The Electric Vehicle owners were all really nice to each other and very excited to have someone to talk with about their Electric Car. Everything was all very exciting and new. There wasn’t much, if any, public charging so most people charged at home and everyone was happy. With the lack of charging infrastructure back then, people stayed within range of their house, relying on 120v charging if they got caught short. While the infrastructure for charging away from home, is increasing, slowly but surely, it hasn’t met the demand – yet. We are now seeing people turning up to a charging location only to find them fully occupied by other Electric Vehicles charging. While this is a good thing as it means that there are more EV’s on the road, it does put EV drivers in a dilemma. The choice is that you can wait for a spot to open up, but as charging an EV can take a few hours, it could be a long wait. Or you could find another charging station or maybe you might chance the drive home and hope for the best.

We spend a lot of time promoting Electric Vehicles, taking them to events and sharing all the fun things about them with non EV people. However, we forget that there is also a need to educate new EV people about their Electric Vehicle. This may sound slightly obnoxious but it isn’t really. We have to remember that, when an EV rolls out of the dealership our work might only be half complete and the one area that seems to stick out the most is that of charging equality.

The old days

The old days!

Remember back when you had a petrol car, how annoying it was when you had to wait to refuel behind a line of other drivers? Well, magnify that by having much slower refueling, by having to refuel more often and by taking away all but a few filling stations and you get the picture! So, we need to educate EV owners on the correct way to behave surrounding charging and we also need to educate non EV owners about the same.

The first thing we need to address is something that I hear about all the time; Electric Vehicle drivers being inconsiderate of others, particularly when it comes to charging, which is such a shame. Now, even though this is only a very small minority, and I mean really, really small, it does touch upon and affect the whole EV community. The examples I see revolve around the debate about who should charge, who get’s priority.

Who gets priority? Answer: Everyone with a plug gets equal priority!

It doesn’t matter if you have a LEAF, a Tesla or a plug in Prius, if you plug in, you save us all from petrol pollution. If that means that an i3 owner has to wait behind a Plug in Prius, that’s okay, they got there first and they won’t be there for long.

How much charge do you get? Answer: Only enough for your needs!

If you’re a Plug in Prius with a tiny battery, don’t hog the charger for the whole day, and that goes for the i3 owner or the Tesla driver – if we only take what we need, we’ll cut petrol usage and make sure the precious charging equipment is free for the next person.

But what if you have a plug in hybrid, surely you have less need than others? Answer: No.

Every car that gets home on electrons instead of petrol is just as valuable as any other.

What if I need a charge to get home and there’s a plug in hybrid using the charger?

Well, that’s good news because that hybrid is going to cut pollution on the way home tonight and, as it only has a small ‘tank’, it won’t be long. It’s at times like this that we need more charging units to be available – That would be the problem, not who’s charging.

All of this boils down to one key rule:

Never block valuable charging equipment if you don’t need it.

It really is as simple as that — Feel free to pick up a free charge in your Electric Car anytime you can, even if you don’t need it but, be ready to move the instant someone else appears, even if that’s just a plug in Prius with a flat battery! Much better for all of us that we all get home on electricity instead of petrol.

Our next big challenge is to convey that message to our new EV friends.

Take a Summer Road Trip and Get to Know your Other Electric Car Better

Saturday 6th June 2015

Day two and it was the turn of the BMW i3 to see how many miles you can drive on one fully charged battery. Part One, if you’ve not read it, covered the Smart Electric Drive.

The BMW i3 has a bigger battery by 25.8% (4.5kWh) but then also weighs 25.8% (541lb) more at 2,635lb compared to the Smart at 2,094lb… yes, both 25.8%. Let’s see what happened.

The idea for this adventure was the same as the Smart Electric Drive, to drive on regular roads that varied between 25mph and 50mph and see just how many miles we could drive before the battery went flat. We didn’t use the AC but had the windows open about an inch, we didn’t go on the motorways and we did keep to the speed limit on all the roads. We drove in Comfort mode, as we always do. The temperature was around 32℃/90℉. Just as with my previous report on the Smart, we didn’t drive to maximise range as though we were trying to set a record but, didn’t rush either. We certainly didn’t get in anyones way!

Pit stop at Spruce Run State Park

Pit stop at Spruce Run State Park

We took the same ish (I say ish as we had made a couple of minor errors with the Smart route!) route as we had done with the Smart Electric Drive, figuring it would be a good comparison.

We passed the house that we would like to live it again so that must be fate, right? It must be the house that is meant for us!!

We decided that as it was even warmer this day than with the Smart drive that a cool refreshing drink was definitely needed. We stopped at the local convenience store again in Sergeantsville. Then onto the covered bridge for photos with the i3. Once again I jumped out of the car while my sidekick did a loop around so I could take some photos of the i3 emerging from the bridge – old meets super new once again.

21% battery left at 100 miles

100 miles – 21% left

2014 BMW i3 Navigation display showing range very close to home

Encroaching range limit

We seemed to be using the same percentage amount of power with both cars per mile. Both cars had covered about 1.1mpp (see part one for definition of mpp)

At 100 miles, we snapped the state of charge at 21% – That would be 1.2mpp if it was true.

On the last long hill we lost 2.5% of battery power, which was interesting as it was a very, very steep hill. Had we not climbed such a steep hill would we have been able to drive more miles?

The State of Charge on both the BMW i3 and the Smart Electric Drive proved very useful in determining how much further we could drive. At the limit, in the last few percent, neither reflected the actual miles very well. Both finally gave up guessing at the very end.

With the battery getting ever more lower, we felt we were really beginning to push its limits. We were at 1.5% state of charge with 0 miles left showing for the predicted range. The map kept showing Comfort and EcoPro+ in a circle around our current location. We think that meant that that was how far we could go with our current range, but it was weird as they kept swooping around the screen then disappearing then returning. We kept driving until we were down to 0.5% and the power was severely limited as you can see on the photo.

Battery flat - power limited

All done – power limited

118 miles on the counter

118 miles

There was definitely no more foot to the floor power available, just enough to move the car around. Just as we hit 0.0% we decided to pull into the drive and with 118 miles driven we think the BMW i3 can go a lot further than it’s EPA rating of 81 miles.

Smart and BMW Road Trip Range

Once again, the careful driver sets a distance record far higher than the EPA combined.

Now it’s time for a charge…

Take a Summer Road Trip and Get to know your Electric Car Better

Saturday 30th May 2015

Two days and Two Electric Cars – How many miles can you drive with your Electric Car on a fully charged battery?

It was a Bank Holiday Monday, what to do? – Well we could always go for an adventure in our fully charged Smart Electric Drive and see how far you really can drive. So that is what we did.

The idea for this adventure was to drive on regular roads that varied between 25mph and 50mph and see just how many miles we could drive on a fully charged battery. According to the EPA that should be 68 miles. We didn’t use the AC but had the windows open about an inch, we didn’t go on the motorways and we did keep to the speed limit on all the roads. The temperature on this day was around 30℃/86℉. We didn’t drive to maximise range as though we were trying to set a record but, didn’t rush either. We certainly didn’t get in anyones way!

Smart Electric Drive App - Fully charged

Smart Electric Drive App – Fully charged

With 100% battery state of charge and 76 miles of predicted range (already 8 more than the EPA estimate) on the app and 90 on the cars display, we pulled out of the drive and onto the road with no sign of range anxiety anywhere in sight.

We had no time constraints and nowhere that we had to be so it was nice to be able to just enjoy life for a change and see where the Smart Electric Drive could take us.

With a general route planned out we sat back to enjoy the drive and the lovely spring scenery, heading to areas that we didn’t even know existed and an added bonus was that we saw the house that we would like to live in. After driving for half an hour or so it appeared that we were travelling about 1 mile for every 1% of battery used which already suggested that 100% of charged battery would give us 100 miles of range. Let’s see if that is still true when we are down to 1% of battery left.

The Smart was covering 1 mile per percentage or 1mpp.

As the day was rather warm we decided that a cool refreshing drink would be lovely. We looked for somewhere local to where we were and found a place in Sergeantsville, that had a 5 star rating on Yelp so, we thought we’d check it out. It turned out to be the Sergeantsville General Store that sold one of almost everything.

Sergeantsville General Store

Sergeantsville General Store

Polka Bill Fleming

Polka Bill

It was a nice place with friendly people and that is where we met ‘Polka Bill Fleming’ – a seventy-something year old local radio DJ. He seemed to hang out there and lived just down the road. He was very interested in the Smart Electric Drive and had many questions for us. He told us a bit about the area and about the only covered bridge remaining in New Jersey, that just happened to be a couple of miles down the road. That then would be our next destination, it was unplanned but we had no worries as we still had over 40% battery and more than enough miles to get us back home, so off we set. The bridge is rather a short bridge, so after driving through it, I jumped out of the car while my sidekick did a loop around so I could take some photos of the Smart Electric Drive emerging from the bridge – old meets super new. The bridge sounded a little bit rickety so I was glad we were in a lightweight vehicle.

2015 Smart Electric Drive under the last remaining Covered Bridge in New Jersey

2015 Smart Electric Drive under the last remaining Covered Bridge in New Jersey

We drove on a little further to loop around, crossed a bridge in Stockton and realised that we’d actually crossed over the state line into Pennsylvania! Oops!

After another photo opportunity we put the return route into the navigation and set off with enough range plus a little to spare – hopefully! Only joking we had plenty!

The Smart Electric Drive was performing really well, the percentage charge was pretty much matching the miles driven.

At exactly 100 miles, we snapped the State-of-Charge gauge.

We live at the top of a mountain ridge and on the last long hill to our house we wondered if we would lose a lot of miles but, it turned out to be not too much and, as we approached our road we still had a few percent of battery left. We decided to continue on a bit further and see just how close we could get it to empty. We had already passed the 100 miles driven point so now it was exciting to see just how many more miles we could get out of the battery, while staying close to home – you know just in case, seeing as this was the first time trying this. As we drove along the percentage started to drop until we were at 1%. We decided to push it just a bit further and with 0% showing on the state of charge and with 110 miles driven we pulled into the driveway figuring we had probably pushed it to the limit. But, on checking the app once back in the house, it reckoned we could have driven another 2 miles! This suggests that there is a little bit more when you reach zero, which is good to know but I wouldn’t want to push it too far. As a little test, even at zero, flooring the accelerator in the Smart still delivered 100% power, so even with nothing left in the pack, the Smart was still zippy! Once back in the garage and plugged in you could almost hear the Smart Electric Drive slurping up all the electrons it could.

2015 Smart Electric Drive crossing over into Pennsylvania

2015 Smart Electric Drive crossing over into Pennsylvania

More that 10% left on the SoC after 100 Miles

11% left after 100 Miles

We have to say we are very impressed with the Smart Electric Drive and its 110 miles of range. We now need to test to see how many miles we can get on the motorway and how many miles with the AC on and how many miles when it’s cooler out, etc, etc, etc.

I think this is a worthwhile exercise for owners so that they understand their cars limits and how far they really can go on one charge and also, don’t believe the EPA rating of 68 miles in the case of the Smart Electric Drive.

This drive also taught us how far the car can go if you’re careful so, when we’re on the motorway and it’s 30 miles to home but the guess-o-meter is saying that there’s only 20 miles range left, we know that, if we pull off onto back roads and drive carefully, that we’ve got more than 1 mile per 1% (1.1mpp).

One thing that we planned for this trip out was to take a route that wasn’t just directly away from home. Instead we drove north, then east, then south to ensure that, at any time, we were only 30-40 miles from home. That ensured that we could push the limits without as much risk compared to just driving out until we hit 50% – big hills on the way home and/or a poor state-of-charge gauge could catch us out.

In summary, the Smart Electric Drive covered 110 miles from it’s 17.5kWh battery pack.

Smart Road Trip Range

The following day, with the same weather, we thought, what will the 2014 BMW i3, with its bigger battery, do in the same circumstances? Check out part 2 next week to find out just how different it can be…

2015 Smart Electric Drive - Flat battery

2015 Smart Electric Drive – Flat battery

Predicted Range and EPA Ratings – How the two do NOT go together

Saturday 23rd May 2015

Having driven Electric Cars for nearly 6 years now, I have never really thought about or cared that much about the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) ratings or my predicted range – until just recently. The EPA is the US government body responsible for testing new cars and reporting on their real-world driving range.

Our first Electric Car the Tesla Roadster with its 240 miles of range meant that ‘range anxiety’ was never an issue and I never even considered its EPA rating. I mean, why would you? The MINI E and the ActivE – were both experimental Electric Cars and the range was something that was to be accepted – there was nothing I could do about it so again, the EPA rating wasn’t relevant. Did we occasionally worry about our range? Well, yes we did but never enough to lose any sleep over. The range on these cars was what it was and that was it.

Numbers that don't add up - click to see full image

Numbers that don’t add up – click to see full image

The Mitsubishi i-MiEV was purchased/leased for the children to use and the Ford Focus Electric for commuting a fixed distance so the range didn’t really come into it either. The i-MiEV needed to get to school and the Focus Electric only needed to be able to do a 72 mile round trip where there was 120V charging at the work place so its range was just fine.

Today, we are no longer ‘testing’ Electric Cars anymore and are actually buying or leasing cars, shall we say ‘for real’ now. To compare different models, we’ve started looking at the EPA ratings and have just begun to take a moment to think, what do these ratings mean? Do they mean anything at all? Are they even accurate? I actually just looked them up on http://www.fueleconomy.gov and they are even sillier than I had thought!! They are very misleading.

The EPA rates Electric Cars on how far you can go on a fully charged battery and then lists their findings. Some points of interest below:

How the tests are carried out
The EPA don’t actually drive the car on a road, they just simulated it in a laboratory to assess the range, which we all know is just not the same. Do they take hills and the regen I get on the way down into consideration? They don’t even take into account the time of year and the differences in range due to temperature.

The range is only quoted for the combined cycle
The EPA bases the anticipated range number on its tests then reports the estimated range on the combined performance for city/motorway driving which is 55% city and 45% motorway. They quote the MPGe number separately for city and motorway but not the range. Don’t get me started on MPGe!

The EPA's testing methodology is not up to ElectraGirl standard!

The EPA’s testing methodology is not up to ElectraGirl standard!

If they haven’t been out on the roads to find a real number and they don’t show us the difference between city and highway, how can we make any assessment about how the car will perform for us in the real world?

What happens when you don’t do the EPA’s kind of driving? Well for me, 99.9% of my driving is city driving so I would see a higher predicted range surely than the person that was driving 99% motorway. I know that I don’t take the EPA rating as cast in stone but there are a lot of people out there that do – I have read Facebook!

We do all talk about our ‘miles of range‘ – rather a lot in fact – on our Electric Cars which means that it does have some relevance to us. But it is also an individual thing as we all get different mileage ranges, we all have different Electric Cars and most importantly we all drive differently.

Running flat just doing daily driving is unlikely but not because we base it on the EPA test

Running flat just doing daily driving is unlikely but not because we base it on the EPA test

While we all purchased or leased our Electric Cars knowing what the EPA rated range is, we all know that we can get better than that. However, in the winter when we are all seeing at least a 15 mile loss in range then surely the car companies shouldn’t have the EPA rating on their cars at all. I mean why bother? It doesn’t seem a useful number, only something for people to get hung up on and complain when they get in their car one day and only have 60 miles of predicted range. Now, me, as a knowledgeable Electric Car person (haha) knows that when I see an EPA rating of 81 miles on an Electric Car, that in the cold months I will see less and yet in the warmer months I will see more. So surely the rating should be listed as something more like “65 – 95 miles of range that is temperature dependent”. This should also be state/region/country dependent too. Much more accurate for people to understand. I have heard people complain that they have lost 15 – 20 miles of range in the cold winter months and hadn’t been anticipating this as they thought they would get 81 miles year round. Obviously a good car salesman will discuss this with the new car owner but there are too many that do not. This is not helping the Electric Car movement. For me the EPA rating needs to be removed for Electric Cars as they’ve tried to translate the mpg number from stinky petrol cars and you know what, it just doesn’t translate.

When you start to delve a little bit deeper you start to find even more things that just don’t add up. For instance – Looking at the calculations for the annual cost reveals a surprise too, it estimates that, over 15,000 miles, the Smart, for example, will cost $550 in ‘fuel’ at $0.12/kWh. A quick calculation reveals that equates to 3.2miles/kWh… er, not me who usually sees over 5miles/kWh. If you factor in 20% charging loss, that gets you closer at 4miles/kWh but that too seems oddly low.

The BMW i3 has an EPA rating of 81 miles range and while we saw that dip to 65 miles in the cold winter with the heat on, we are now seeing a range of over 90 miles with the occasional 102 miles of range thrown into the mix. I expect to see more range as the weather continues to get warmer. The i3 is currently averaging 5.4miles/kWh.

2015 Smart ED Interior Instruments

2015 Smart ED Interior Instruments

The Smart ED that has an EPA rating of 68 miles range is very much wrong. In the winter we saw a loss of around 20 miles of range if we used the heater, but now the warmer weather has finally arrived we reckon that we could get 100 miles out of the batteries. We have so far seen 83 miles of predicted range (rather a lot higher than the EPA rating), but after driving plenty of miles the remaining battery percentage and estimated miles are heading more in the region of a 100+ mile range. But the car won’t tell us this, it is being very conservative. Time to push the Smart Electric Drive to the limit… Let me just check where all the charging stations are first – just in case!

It’s time to re-think the EPA sticker – should we even abolish it altogether for electric cars – if it doesn’t make sense, is it doing more harm than good?

One Year with my 2014 BMW i3

Saturday 2nd May 2015

The 3rd May 2015 is a very important date for us. It means that we have had our 2014 BMW i3 for one whole year.

2014 BMW i3 - Electranaut badge front

One Year as an i3 Electronaut

Time surely has flown, from that first day back on the 3rd May 2014 when we picked up our i3 and all I could say was !?! WHAT !?! It did turn out to be quite exciting that day as we were the first in New Jersey to take ownership of a 2014 BMW i3 and joint second in the US with Eddie. That did make it rather special. Although I do have to say, that day is still rather a blur as in the space of 48 hours we had gone from ‘No, we don’t want an i3, we will never have an i3’, to ‘Well, actually it looks rather good, maybe just maybe we should think about getting one’ to ‘Okay, let’s do it, where do we sign?!’

i3 in the Garage

i3 in the Garage

Even though a year has gone by, everytime I open the garage door I think ‘Oh yes, we do have an i3’. This reaction is purely down to the fact that we were never going to have one. I would have to go as far as saying that we were adamant that we were not going to get one. The novelty of having the car still hasn’t worn off, although I think I’d have to say that about all our Electric Cars as they are as exciting to get in and drive today as they were the first day that we picked them up. There is just something so different about Electric Cars that makes them so much more fun to drive.

Amazing space for a car in this class

Amazing space for a car in this class – is this the convertible version? (click for full open-top effect)

It really doesn’t feel like we have had the car for a year already. We have 6,780 miles on the car and we are on a 12,000 mile per year lease. We just don’t do the same mileage that we once did (in the ActiveE days – 50,000 miles in 2 years and 4 months) and most of our driving is within a 30 minute radius of our house. Although we can be found taking leisurely drives on a Sunday afternoon, looking for new places to explore that are of course within our range of 80ish miles. Although I have to say, I am currently loving my range at the moment which is between 90 – 95 miles of estimated range and I’m at a consumption level of 5.2 miles/kWh.

Strait through the rear space

Straight through the rear space

The car is still rather quirky looking and probably always will be. There isn’t anything else out there that looks the way it does. It definitely attracts a lot of stares, with many people that I drive past doing a ‘180’. I always find it rather amusing that people stop and stare so much at the car. I guess it just looks so different and I think ours stands out that little bit more as we added some stickers to the car. I am even more amazed by the car that zooms up behind me, takes a picture and then backs off to give me some space. The only other car that we have and have had, that creates such interest and is photographed probably more is the Tesla Roadster.

Exposed carbon fiber on the sills still looks cool

Exposed carbon fiber on the sills and blue flash still looks cool

I like that the i3 is different and a little space age, it’s well designed (apart from the drying issues – see below), it’s chocked full of technology and really is just so different. One of my favourite things on the i3 is the regen. I love how powerful it is and I still love the fact that I can pull up to the white line so precisely just by using the accelerator. I really like the hill hold too, although that has taken some getting use to. There really is not much use for the brake pedal unless you are pointing downwards on a hill, then you have to use it, you know, just to stop the car from rolling down the hill! Driving the i3 is quite stress free, if only I could just stop people from pulling out in front of me.

State-Of-Charge (not shown here)

State-Of-Charge (not shown here)

Well, just recently we finally got the State of Charge indicator that we had hoped and presumed would have been on the car from the very beginning. Although I am happy to have it, I am also slightly annoyed. Yes, I know I am very difficult to please! The annoying part is that I can only see one piece of digital information at once, I can choose from either the State of Charge, the temperature, odometer, average miles/kWh, immediate miles/kWh, or the time to display on the instrument screen. The time is displayed on the navigation screen so that can be taken out of the equation but, I am tired of having to toggle through all the other options. I spend too much time toggling, and I don’t want to have to do that. I really think BMW should make the State of Charge appear all the time. It would be better having the State of Charge where the trip counter is, maybe, as I don’t need to see the trip counter anywhere near as much.

20" wheels complete with "wub wub" soundtrack

20″ wheels complete with “wub wub” soundtrack rubber

One option that we picked was the bigger 20″ wheels. I am really glad that we got the 20” wheels, the ride is so much better for me. Although this bizarre tyre noise that they make is really getting to be somewhat annoying. On a perfectly quiet car there is just this continuous wub,wub all the time. I want my Electric Car to be quiet as it is supposed to be. That said, while on our recent trip to the UK, we spent over 3 weeks driving around in a herky, jerky petrol car. We did say, as we were driving along one day, that we would, at that moment, happily exchange the herky jerky petrol car for the annoying 20″ i3 tyre noise. But, that was in that moment and after driving the i3 again for a couple of weeks, I really don’t want to have to put up with the noise any longer. BMW – it does need addressing and the tyres shouldn’t make that noise – it’s not normal and it’s not a feature!

The i3 handles quite well, although I think if you lowered the suspension a few inches then it would probably handle even better – you know, if you could. I also think that would make it look even more awesome than it already does. The sport version of the i3 perhaps? Hmm, now there is a thought!

Iconic Silver

Iconic Silver

I am very, very happy with our choice of the Ionic Silver Metallic exterior and Mega trim interior. I love the pale grey of the interior and the fact that it is made of recycled material makes it all the more special. It fits right in with my sustainability goals. I think the colour combinations work really well together and of course when you throw on the 20’s – well then you have a rather nice looking Electric Car if I do say so myself. Which would be why we ended up with an i3 – I guess!!

Spot the fwd/rev selector -yep

Spot the fwd/rev selector -yep we don’t know why it’s there either

I guess my one niggle with the i3 is still the forward/reverse selector being stuck behind the steering wheel – why oh why and what were you thinking BMW when you let that one slip through? Oh and my second niggle – Please can my key have the option to open the boot instead of the froot? Oh and my third niggle – stop the 20in tyres making the wub, wub sound. If BMW sort these three niggles out then the car would be excellent. As is, it’s close to being excellent but just not quite. Oh, and I almost forgot – a bigger battery please with more like 150 miles of range, although I will accept 120 miles! Or, how about a really good fast charging network like the one Tesla have in place, that would work too. Now, that would be the icing on the cake!

I would like to think about tinting the windows, just a bit to reduce some of the suns heat in the summer. Having seen what some other owners have done, it does look rather good. Although living in NJ I know we have to be careful about how much window tinting there is on the car – only police cars.

2014 BMW i3 - dirt catching rear foam block

Secret place to collect gunk

I may have spent rather a lot of hours over the course of two years and four months washing the BMW ActiveE but in all honesty I am spending the same amount of time washing and cleaning the i3. While with the ActiveE it was all about trying to wash off the white paint, I guess at the end of the day I just can not stand to have a dirty car. The i3 is so easy to wash but… A little note here to BMW – Please when making a car do not put so many nooks and crannies on the car that collect grit like it is about to go out of fashion and then are really difficult to get to, to clean and dry. I have never met a car that takes fifty times longer to dry than it does to wash. Even after opening and closing every available door, boot and flap there is still water dribbling somewhere!! Most bizarre – maybe I will get to the bottom of the dribbles one day.

Still connected

Still connected

To round up my first year with my BMW i3, I would have to say it is growing on me and I am liking it more each day but I would still have to say !?! WHAT !?!

The long journey

The long journey to electrification

Epilogue – When we first started on our Electric Car journey almost six years ago I never imagined that we would be seeing the variety of Electric Cars that we have today in 2015. From my first time out in the most awesome, if a little unfinished, MINI E, I feel we have made huge strides in the Electric Car world. We still have a long way to go and there is more Electric Car sharing to be had with the public but we are well on our way. It’s been a wonderful and fascinating journey that has led us to where we are today. We began as Pioneers with BMW, leading the way in the Electric Car world, then we transitioned to Electronauts where we soared to new heights and new mileage records and then we all came back to earth to become fully fledged Electric Car owners and drivers!

i3 Arrival Happy Days