ElectraGirl

Living with electric cars – my perspective

Saturday 7th May 2016

 

i3 What? How did this happen?

3rd May 2016 – This date means that I have had my BMW i3 for two years. Time flies and it doesn’t feel like two years already, the car still looks like new and it still smells like new.

How has it held up? Consumer Reports recently downgraded the 2014 Model Year BMW i3 due to a high number of reports of problems. Here’s my punch list of events, statistics and even upgrades.

Reliability – Going straight to the question of reliability, the one that’s seen the i3 downgraded by Consumer Reports. We have had no Electric Car problems with the i3 at all, the only problems we have had are BMW ‘car’ related issues. Those would be the gerbils running around their wheel which creates a squeaky steering wheel in the cold weather, the Adaptive Cruise Control that only works when it feels like it and the self parking that may just scrape your wheels!

So, I guess it’s fair to say that it’s not been the most reliable car we’ve had – less so even than the experimental ActiveE and MINI E that came before it but, to be fair, those didn’t have two of the three features that have caused problems.

Would I downgrade the car for these issues? Maybe, but I wouldn’t tell you not to buy one.

Apple has been in talks with BMW over its carbon-fibre reinforced plastics.

Even in stock trim, I think it looks good

So what about everything else…

Changes to the i3 – We wanted to make the car ours so, the first thing we did was to add the stickers from the ActiveE – the ‘Circuit’ graphics. More recently, we put on lowering springs and wheel spacers to give the car a more aggressive stance. These have all made such a huge difference to the car and definitely make the car look so much better.

Tyres – We are still on the original tyres. We have the tyre version that comes with the wub wub noise – it hasn’t gone away. It’s just always there – a constant reminder. It does kind of spoil what would otherwise be a really quiet Electric Car.

Wheels – Loving the 20” wheels and tyres. They give the best ride and handling. I wouldn’t trade them for anything else, except maybe some fatter tyres – maybe!

Miles Driven – We are at 13,400 miles in 24 months. We are way under on our 12,000 mile a year lease. But, when we leased the car we didn’t know our daily driving was going to reduce quite so much. But we have plenty of spare miles should we need them. We also anticipated road-tripping on the promised DC Fast charge network – that never arrived see below…

DC Fast Charge – That would be the grand total of, wait for it… “One” and it worked! Now we can say that we have tried it and it was successful in charging the car. We are still waiting for more DC Fast Chargers to show up on the East Coast so we can take some road trips that take us beyond NJ! In fact it would be nice just to get to the other end of NJ!

On charge at the DCFC at Quakerbridge Mall

On charge at the DCFC at Quakerbridge Mall

Efficiency – miles/kWh – My i3 seems to have settled at 5.1 miles/kWh over the last year of driving. I’m rather impressed with that number. The highest I have had is 5.8 miles/kWh which held all through the summer last year and slowly started to drop once into the colder winter months. But it has never dropped below 5.1 miles/kWh – that’s about 200Wh/mile. That number makes this the most efficient car we’ve owned, we put that down to the skinny wheels, the heat-pump system and of course, the way I drive!

Clean – The i3 has had more washes than I can continue to count. I really do not like driving a dirty car. There are, however, too many nooks and crannies to dry after washing the car. It seems to store water in all sorts of places, only for the water to come flying out when I next drive – most frustrating. The interior is holding up well. I have the Mega interior and it still looks like new.

Photos – It is a very well photographed car – well, it does look rather good if I say so myself. I have no idea how many people have taken a photo of the car over the last two years.

Service – My i3 is due for its first service or so it keeps telling me, well it is showing in red now so I think it is cross with me for not booking it in yet! I am going to book it in but I am slightly reluctant to do so as the car is working just fine and dealer trips don’t rank highly on my fun things to-do list.

Living – Living with the i3 is easy, access to the rear is sufficient to allow for some ‘oversized’ loads and access to the rear seats is certainly better than a two-door car though, it’s not quite as easy as a true four-door. That said, the doors are an interesting talking point and fun to have.

Fully Loaded - Literally

Fully Loaded – Literally

On the road – On the road manners remain impeccable. The ride is firm (firmer now) and for day to day maneuvers, visibility is good, the rear-view camera is effective at guiding you into tight spots and the perimeter sensors do their job well in full quadraphonic sound. I find the seatbelt could use a re-think – the buckle is always just out of reach and, after two years I’m still just starting to get the hang of the forward/backwards switch on the steering column.

Happy – I’m still enjoying driving the i3 and we have another year left on the lease and that feels about right for me. I’ll be ready for something else by then, what will the i3 look like in 2017? Having initially not wanted the i3, I’d be a fool to make predictions today!

What Next?

I’m interested in seeing if BMW will come out with a 200 mile range EV, not just the 114 mile one they currently have as their next offering. After all I have had 118 miles on my i3! Lets’s watch and see what happens. Tesla have their 200 mile range lower cost EV announced with an awful lot of reservations placed, so it will be interesting to see what the other manufacturers do now.

Saturday 2nd April 2016

Tesla-Model-3-3-938x535

 

Well the decision has been made! It was definitely the right decision and in fact it was the only decision that made sense.

There has been so much publicity around the launch of the Tesla Model 3 this past week, in fact it has been somewhat crazy. People trying to speculate what the car would look like, what its range would be, how much it would cost, whether Supercharger access would be included, and… The list goes on.

We’ve spent all week going back and forth on the decision as to whether to put down a deposit or not. Shall we, shan’t we, shall we, shan’t we, oh who knows?

Well, the 31st March arrived and my sidekick decided to go to the local Tesla Store in Short Hills Mall to see what was happening and how many people were there queuing up.

The store opened at 10am and he got there at 8:35am and by that time there was already 50 plus people in the queue. A friend of ours Sal, had arrived before 7am and he was number 8 in the queue. Apparently, you had to be in line before Casey and Soji who arrived at 2:30am if you wanted to be first in line.

By the time I arrived at 10:05am there were over 200 people queuing. This is all very interesting as no one has any idea what this car is even going to look like. They are all happy to put down at $1,000 deposit for a car they haven’t seen and a car that they are unlikely to get until late 2017 at the earliest. In the queue were some familiar faces from our EV circle.

Canvassing the crowd

Canvassing the crowd

My sidekick had been chatting to people in the queue and what turned out to be the most interesting fact was that 90% were totally new to Electric Cars. The Model 3 was to be their first Electric Car – This is all very exciting! Tesla are definitely doing something right, with all these people happy to put a deposit down on something unseen.

The queue was moving but there was still a lot of people so, after an hour we decided to leave. Neither of us were interested in waiting in the queue and figured we’d just wait until the online reservations opened later in the day. After all, as current Tesla owners, that did push us up the queue a little bit anyway.

However, as the day wore on, we both decided that we might head back to Short Hills Mall as word was the queue had disappeared.

We arrived at the Tesla Store a little before 3pm and there was no one there, it was eerily quiet compared to the morning. We just walked straight into the store, like you would on any other day! We were greeted by Dan, who we already knew, and he was very happy that we were there to put down a reservation. All he had to do was take down our details and take our credit card details and after checking all was correct, that was it.

We had made the decision and we now have a reservation in place for a Tesla Model 3! I hope we made the right decision – Oh, who am I kidding, of course we did!

We watched the Tesla Model 3 unveiling on Friday evening, there was no way I could stay up until 11:30pm on Thursday to watch it. It was really good to hear Elon Musk not just talking about EV’s but also talking about the amount of pollution coming out of the back of all the petrol cars that are on the road today. Hopefully, this will help to make people question why they would want to drive one when they could have a nice quiet Electric Car instead. It’s that on the ground pollution that is really bad for all of us – it’s increasing Asthma and lung related problems – it’s silently killing us and our planet Earth.

It was also nice to hear him acknowledge the Roadster owners contribution to getting the company started; we do feel a little left out sometimes. After all, we are the ones that believed in Tesla Motors all those years ago.

Then came the unveiling of the Tesla Model 3… Oh my goodness after all this, will I like it? Oh, I do hope so… And… yes, I definitely like it. Phew!! Although to be honest it was rather unlikely that I wouldn’t like it. I mean Tesla really do not make horrid looking cars, do they now? The Model 3 does look like a smaller version of the Model S and X combined. The only thing I am currently not sure about is the glass roof, I’m not keen on sunroofs to begin with so really not sure on that design. But, you can get the Model S without a sunroof so there may be options for the Model 3 too. I like the 200+ mile range – that is going to be great and, combined with the Supercharger network – the world will be my oyster! I’m pleased to hear about the increase in Superchargers instead of any limitations on use and, I hope this will get the likes of ChargePoint, NRG and others to get a move on and get their DC charging networks rolled out.

I am looking forward to seeing what the colour options will be, although I am already pretty sure I know what I will go for and also, what the interior options will be, oh and of course the wheels – very important.

It’s very hard to remain balanced and fair when talking about different manufacturers electric offerings when Tesla announces a car that will be affordable, have the range we’ve always called for, will drive like an electric car (regen on the accelerator) and include the DC fast charging network we know we need. If Tesla can deliver on this promise and, as of today, that means delivering over 290,000 cars, what can the other manufacturers possibly do to compete?

Happy Reservaton Holders

Happy Reservaton Holders

Saturday 25th March 2016

Next-Tesla-938x535

 

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions – Again!

What am I trying to decide on this time? Well, that would be whether or not to put down a deposit on the Tesla Model 3.

I am rather undecided at the moment. The reason for my indecision is that I am not convinced, at the moment, that I would really like one. I always thought that I would definitely be putting down the deposit and would definitely be getting one, but recently I have started to have my doubts. I can’t quite put my finger on the reason, but I think it might be down to the fact that I always like to have something that is a little different to what other people have. I’m hearing more and more that there will be a lot of people putting down deposits and, if the numbers are to be believed, there are going to be an awful lot of people driving a Tesla Model 3 – which is a good thing – but, I’m really not sure I want the same car as everyone else.

I have gone to great lengths to change my BMW i3 so it looks different. I started with putting the stickers on the car and then added the lowering springs and then the wheel spacers. I just like something that looks that bit different, which is why I ended up with the i3 that I have.

If I did decide to put down a deposit for the Tesla Model 3 I would likely opt for all those options which reflect my preferences and style, and which do seem to be quite different to what others would choose, so then maybe my Model 3 would look different to all the others.

Tesla-Model-S-teaser from Autospies

Possible sneak pic from Auto Spies

Right now, we do not even know what the Model 3 will look like, I am thinking a smaller version of the Model S though we east coast people won’t get to find out until the very early hours of April 1st. Am I happy to put a deposit down on a car I haven’t even seen yet? Well, quite likely yes, actually. I can’t possibly imagine that Tesla will make a horrid looking car! I am hoping it will be nicely finished and the fact that it is priced lower than the Model S will not mean that Tesla skimps on the finishing touches, they had better not anyway!

There is the fact that, as a current Tesla owner, we get to jump up the queue. Not totally sure at this stage what that will mean to delivery times but, as we usually go for the top spec cars it’s likely those will be delivered first if previous models are any indication but, of course, California will get the first cars off the line anyway. It was nice being the first in NJ with an i3, but of course now, they are quite literally everywhere!! Which is what lead me to make changes to my car.

Maybe I’ll put the deposit down and then just wait and see like so many others, I’ll spec it to my liking and then wait and see a bit more. After all, that is what I did with the i3 and I never ever had any intention of ever getting an i3 – ever!!

If I do decide to put a deposit down, do I go and join the queue at the local Tesla Store, which could be short or long – I mean who knows what it will be like? If all the stories are to be believed it could be really busy, I am thinking anywhere between 25 and 75 people. But it could be fun to be surrounded by other Electric Vehicle enthusiasts. Or do I wait until April 1st and put down a deposit online? Oh no – more decisions!!!

Or, maybe I will just go for the Ford Focus Electric as that has butterflies on the side!!

Transport Evolved 2016 Ford Focus EV NYIAS 1

2016 Ford Focus Electric with Butterflies

2014-BMW-i3-Suspension-lower-and-widened

 

Saturday 5th March 2016

After the success of putting the lowering springs on our i3, we started thinking about wheel spacers, then the bad weather arrived and we put that thought to one side for a couple of months. But now the weather is mostly getting better, we started to think about them again.

2014 BMW i3 Suspension lower and widened Transport Evolved _2037

15mm Wheel Spacers and 43mm bolts

Wheel spacers are disks placed between the wheel and the hub to push the wheel out a little. They can look a bit silly when too big but when done just right, they give the car a broader stance filling the wheel arch looking good and improving handling. Getting the right thickness led me to asking a couple of questions about sizes of spacers to some owners that had already fitted them. Within a couple of hours of the response the spacers and bolts were ordered and we sat back and waited for them to be delivered.

We chose to go with 15mm spaces on all four wheels and we got 43mm bolts for the wheels to compensate for the extra reach.

We didn’t have long to wait, they were ordered on Wednesday 24th February and they were here in two days, on Friday 26th, so we knew what we would be doing on the coming Sunday.

Sunday arrived and my sidekick said that this was going to be an easy job to do, did that mean he expected me to do it?!! I’m not sure about that, won’t my hands get dirty?! Anyway, apparently I wasn’t expected to do it – phew!! I was just being told it was an easy job.

2014 BMW i3 Suspension lower and widened Transport Evolved _2048

43mm bolts

Installed

Spacer on hub

With

With

2014 BMW i3 Suspension lower and widened Transport Evolved _2047

Without

So – with the spacers and bolts unpacked, it was time to head outside. First task was to jack the car up on one side and remove the wheels. Oh no! My lovely lowering springs are all grubby from the winter weather – should I clean them?  Apparently not as when I turned around the spacers were on and being aligned with the bolt holes and the wheels were already being put back on. Then the new longer bolts were put in and tightened a little; the car was lowered and the bolts tightened up so the wheels don’t fall off – because that might be a problem! And – Viola! That’s one side done. Now repeat on the other side. I didn’t get to clean the springs on the other side ether. It did indeed turn out to be a simple job! Maybe I could have done it – maybe, hmm maybe not! Turns out that when asked to release the jack on the back whilst my sidekick lowered the front, I couldn’t even get the jack to lower slowly – Oops!

Wow – the car does look different, it’s not a huge difference just a subtle difference but a really good difference.

Next up was the test drive. Oh my goodness, what a difference. You can feel that the car is sat more firmly on the road, it feels more squatted, like there really is a wheel on all four corners. Because, you know, it really didn’t feel like that before. With the lowering springs and now the wheel spacers on it has made a real difference to the i3. A really good difference – I like it – A lot.

My sidekick will now write his little piece as I had to get out of the car for this. I got stuck in the car for one turn but not again – no way.

2014 BMW i3 Suspension lower and widened Transport Evolved _6488

Results recorded on my iPhone

So, it’s not just vanity that drove us to add the wheel spacers but, they do look good! The extra 30mm of track has again lowered the center of gravity. To test it, I pulled out my test kit and headed to open flat tarmac.

The results speak well of the i3’s tires and suspension setup, the result was a healthy 0.91G of lateral acceleration, on a warmer day, Edmunds managed 0.78G by comparison.

Safety first

What dos that mean? Well, they say that the best way to survive an accident is to avoid getting into one in the first place. The extra lateral grip means that our i3 can now corner faster than almost any 70’s super car and comes close to a modern day Porsche 911 – only 0.04G short and, on super-efficient wheels and tires.

Thanks to Shaun Wooten, Marcus Pugh and the i3 community for their recommendations and help on selecting the perfect solution.

Saturday 13th February 2016

2015-Smart-Electric-Drive-in-the-snow-938x535

Snowy Smart

It has been a year, nearly 9,000 miles, and we are still having fun – Our Smart Electric Drive has been with us for one whole year. I have to say that it is one fun little car. Whatever you ask of the Smart Electric Drive it will do and, it will do it to the very best of its abilities. It is a little on the bouncy side, which seems more noticeable now after installing the lowering springs on the BMW i3. But it is compact and so easy to manoeuvre and park anywhere; which is why it is great to take to the supermarket and, the best part is that it fits a weeks’ worth of shopping in the back with ease. It is still by far the easiest car to wash and dry, mainly due to its size but it doesn’t have all the nooks and crannies that the i3 has.

Summertime Smart

We have had 110 miles of range available in the Smart Electric Drive through summer, but now the weather is chilly and we need to use the heater so we are looking at between 60 and 70 miles of range. This, of course, is always dependent on who is driving the car!

Okay here comes my rant – The eco-meter on the Smart Electric Drive still bugs me. It bugs me because, the first part of the journey when I leave home in a morning, and I have a full charge, is all downhill, so I do not use any power. As I am going downhill to the junction at the bottom, my only course of action is to use the brakes – I don’t even use the accelerator, I just cruise down the hill under the cars own momentum, gently applying the brakes. I then get penalised for that and have the eco-ness taken away from me and the gauge drops. As far as I am concerned that is really unfair, the car should know that I haven’t used any power and that, if I didn’t apply the brakes – which I am doing so nice and gently all the way down the hill so as not to have press them really hard just before the stop sign or – I would end up plopping out into the junction! I really don’t expect to lose percents just because I have 100% State of Charge and I have to stop at the stop sign and use the brakes. This is my biggest annoyance with this car so you get an idea of how I feel about it otherwise.

Interior space is generous for two

Interior space is generous for two

While over in the UK recently I saw a lot of Smarts – unfortunately they were mostly of the petrol variety. They are definitely very popular over there and I think that is down to the size and the ease of using them in the town centres, especially for parking, where spaces are on the smaller side.

The Smart Electric Drive definitely lends itself to town centre driving, in fact it is absolutely perfect for that. You can easily fit two Smart Electric Drives in the space that one ‘regular’ car would fit into.

Back in New Jersey and the deep snow, the Smart has excelled at getting about. After clearing 24″ of snow from the driveway, it leapt into the snow covered road and roared off without a hint of wheel-spin, well, not too much anyway. Being so short, and truly having a wheel at each corner inspires a lot of confidence.

I like the Smart Electric Drive, its range is more than enough for the around town driving that we do. I’m not sure that I would take it on a long drive – Hmm, maybe I would. But, I think it works best for commuting and around town. It would benefit from having more regenerative braking and that being more on the accelerator. It could use DC fast charging as an option – not sure it is a necessity though. It could do with a little firmer suspension too!

Fully loaded

Fully loaded

Sunday 31st January 2016

Happy New Year everyone!

I haven’t forgotten about you all but work has been very busy, which is a good thing, but has left with me little time to write, which is not such a good thing!

I also have been enjoying my newly lowered BMW i3. It has been so much fun to drive! It has been nearly two months since we had the suspension lowered and I’m still so impressed with the difference. I’d highly recommend installing the lowering springs to all. I’m definitely thinking about installing wheel spacers next.

So besides driving my i3 and working, I popped over to the UK to see family. It seems everytime we go over there someone is always moving house which means we always end up being very busy. I did, however, get to ride on the Electric Buses in York again. They have been increasing the number of Electric Buses that they have in operation and it does make a huge difference. Even my niece could tell the difference, how it didn’t lurch around as there are no gear changes. It is, at the end of the day still a bus but at least it’s a smooth bus. I’ve been reading more articles in the UK about more Electric Buses on the way in different areas. It’s all good news. It’s all helping to clean up the air. It is just a shame that there are still too many stinky, cronky, diesel buses out there. It’s time to persuade all the bus companies to go Electric.

What else has happened? Well, as the temperature has started to drop my i3’s steering wheel or something around that area is making scraping and squeaking noises. We had the issue last winter and it was supposed to have been lubricated and after that there was no sound at all. But as soon as the temperature dropped, it is back again. It’s most frustrating as everytime you turn the steering wheel a certain amount it’s there. It’s taking away my fun times as it sounds like there is a gerbil running around its squeaky wheel. I am waiting to hear if there is another fix for that. My range has gone down a bit with the colder weather and the need to use the heater. Yes, even I need to use the heater when it’s -9℃!! BUT, if the sun is shining on the car I turn off the heater as the solar heat is more than sufficient with just a little seat heat thrown in. I’m still getting 5.3miles/kWh average on my i3, which I think is pretty good, especially considering that the temperature is dropping.

The i3 has definitely become my car of choice since the suspension was lowered. Who’d have ever thought that making such a small change would make such a big difference?

We recently had a huge snowstorm and we ended up with 24 inches of snow. That meant that no cars were going out anywhere. We had made sure that all the cars were fully charged just in case we lost power, which fortunately we didn’t. The day after the storm we dug out the drive but only a cars width – there was just too much snow to move all of it. As the township didn’t clear our roads properly for a couple of days that meant we couldn’t get out. But, I was okay with that and I am more than happy to keep off the roads when they are slippy and to give the township time to clear the roads properly.

Here is our new addition to our Electric Family, that arrived two days after the snowstorm!!

snow blower

with the

Michael

Saturday 5th December 2015

I am so excited! Christmas has arrived early! Oh my gosh, I didn’t know it would have such a huge effect! It’s amazing, it looks awesome, why did I wait so long? What on earth am I talking about?

Day One

Day One

Well a little background first. As much as I like my BMW i3, there has always been something just not quite right about it. I’ve never really been able to say exactly what it is until this week.

Now, while I am not the biggest of car enthusiasts, I know what I do and do not like. I know that I prefer a firmer ride, I cannot stand soft suspensions, I like a car that looks nice and one that is the correct colour inside and out. I know when I see the correct car that it is the one I should have. Whilst the i3 has been perfectly okay, it has always being missing something for me. Is it that it sits too high maybe? Is it that is looks a bit too SUV like?

Well, yes, it does sit too high for me and does remind me of an SUV, albeit a small SUV but still. I do prefer something that sits lower and is more ‘car’ like.

Anyway, I will get to the point in a minute… A while ago, over on that ‘Facebook thing’, I saw that a couple of i3 owners had put lowering springs on their cars. While I thought they looked good, I didn’t pay a huge amount of attention to them at that time. Then a month or so later, I saw that a couple more had also done theirs which made me start to look a bit closer and I thought the car looked an awfully lot better sitting that bit lower. I happened to mention to my sidekick that they looked quite good.

A few minutes later I had purchased some H&R springs for my BMW i3. You know, like you do!

It took a few weeks for them to arrive and then a bit longer trying to decide whether my sidekick should try to change the springs himself or just take the car somewhere. If we were to take the car somewhere, where would that be?

Whilst we were still in the deciding phase we happened one weekend to be at a Cars and Croissants meet up and nearby were some lowered BMW’s so we sauntered over to their owners to ask them if they had any recommendations. Well, of course they did, they mentioned two places, one quite north of us and the other place just 10 minutes away. After I did some internet research my sidekick rang the place that was closet to us, Redline Speed Worxs in Greenbrook NJ. After a good chat with them, and liking what he heard, the i3 was booked in for Monday 30th November. It was all very exciting and I couldn’t wait to see what the car would look like.

The weekend before the car was due to have it’s springs changed, I did have a couple of doubts… what if it all goes wrong? Do they really know what they are doing? And the biggest of all – What if I don’t like it?

But then, on the other hand, I was rather excited to see what it would be like.

2014 BMW i3 Suspension Lowering On the lift Transport Evolved

My i3 up on the lift – No wheels!

Monday morning arrived and my sidekick took the car in. We were expecting it would take around 4 hours and that I would have to pick him up in an hour or so – so he wasn’t stuck there all morning. Turns out he didn’t want to come home, he was more than happy to stay there. He was enjoying watching what the guys were doing and chatting with them. Turns out we made the right choice about where to go. This place really knows what they are doing, their place is immaculate and they really care about your car.

It ended up taking them about 3 hours to do all four springs. When my sidekick arrived back home I was slightly nervous as to what I would think. But, heading outside to see the car and oh my goodness, what a difference. The car looks so much lower and it definitely looks so much better. Sitting in the car you feel so much lower down. I like it – A LOT!

It is amazing, it’s awesome, it’s brilliant, it’s super duper and all the rest. I never expected it would make such a difference. Driving out in the car, it now has a nice firm suspension, it’s so much better for me, not bouncy like it was before. Yes, I am so amazed at the difference. I can’t get over how much better the car looks – this is how I’d have liked it from the beginning. The car is actually only an inch lower, but it looks and feels like more. It’s great! What a difference an inch can make!

And that is why Christmas arrived early and I was so excited and well, actually, I still am!!

Hmm, now what shall I do next?

2014 BMW i3 Suspension Lowering Work Done Transport Evolved

The finished result