Friday, November 14, 2014

BMW i3 Tires: Get Ready For Winter!

The aggressive tread and the specialized rubber compound of Bridgestone Blizzaks should help me get through all the bad weather this winter brings
I live in Northern New Jersey and we can get some pretty bad weather in the winter. The temperatures in January and February are routinely in the 20s (Fahrenheit) and can even dip down below zero from time to time. At those temperatures, you really should have dedicated winter tires for proper traction, even if the roads aren't always snow covered. In fact, most tire experts recommend that you buy dedicated winter tires instead using all-season tires if the average temperatures where you live are below 45 degrees in the winter.
The Rial X10-I that fit the i3 come in the bright silver pictured here, and also painted black.

That's not a plot to get you to spend more money on tires that you really don't need as I've seen some people contend. Winter tires are specifically made for use in cold weather and will definitely outperform all-season tires in cold conditions. The rubber compounds used in winter tires are completely different than what is used in summer or all season tires. Winter tires are designed so that they become stiffer on the inside of the tire, and more flexible on the outside to provide better grip at lower temperatures. They also have stronger bead construction to resist the multiple mounting and dismounting because winter tires are often mounted and dismounted every year, unlike regular tires that quite often stay mounted on the wheel their entire life.  Non winter tires become stiff and lose traction, which increases the chance of the vehicle losing control and skidding.
I'm liking the new look!
Snow chains are also available for the i3
In my case I absolutely needed to get winter tires because I ordered my i3 with the 20" Sport wheels. The tires that come with these wheels are summer tires which mean they are not recommend for cold weather use. The three 19" wheel options for the i3 all come with all-season tires and if you don't live in a really cold area, you can live with all-season tires year round. To complicate things even more, there are no winter tire options for the 20" Sport wheels of the i3. Since there are no other cars that have such tall, skinny wheels as the i3, Bridgestone only made winter tires for the 19" wheel options. Therefore, anyone who has the optional 20" Sport wheels and needs to get winter tires, needs to buy a set of 19" wheels as well. BMW sells a package that uses the base model i3 wheels (#427) and the Bridgestone Blizzak 19" winter tires. However, I opted to buy aftermarket wheels made by Rial, and the Blizzak tires from the Tire Rack. I like the look of the Rial wheels, and I also like that they are different from the stock wheels, giving my car a more custom look. I was actually a little surprised when I found out the Tire Rack was going to offer aftermarket wheels for the i3. Since the i3's wheel sizes are so different from anything used on any other car available today, I didn't think aftermarket wheels would be available so soon. 
The Rial wheels bow out in the center. Not good for preventing curb rash or aerodynamics.

I'm sure I'll take a range hit from this modification, but how much I'm not quite sure. The aggressive tread and softer rubber will increase rolling resistance so that alone will make a difference. The weight will also be a factor. The Rial wheels with the Blizzak tires weigh 39.2 lbs, while my 20" Sport wheels with the Ecopia EP500s weigh only 36.2 lbs. Three lbs per wheel might not seem like too much, but it actually will make a difference in the car's electric range. Finally, these wheels aren't nearly as aerodynamic as the stock wheels so I'm sure my drag coefficient just went up. BMW spent a lot of energy designing wheels that are good looking, lightweight and are aerodynamic. These Rial wheels appear not to have taken any of that into consideration when they were designed. The large openings between the spokes are begging for increased wind resistance, and to make matters worse, they aren't even flush with the rims, the center of the wheels actually bows outward and will clearly increase drag. I'm really not worried about this though because safety in the winter, and being able to negotiate the snow covered roads of Northern New Jersey are my primary concerns. Plus, I have the range extender so if my efficiency is reduced by 6 or 7 miles per charge, I'll still be able to get to wherever I need to go without worrying about running out of juice. Bring it on!


I'm happy to report the i3's hatch will indeed fit a set of wheels/tires if you need to transport them to your dealer or tire shop to install them.
My old MINI-E did pretty well in the snow. The front wheel drive and winter tires worked really well, better than my ActiveE in fact. I'm anxious to see how the i3 does, but I'm optimistic it will do well. The thin tires will help, as they will cut through the snow instead of riding on top of it. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Lexus Video Attacks the i3. Uses Photoshop to Hide the Truth?


Well I guess you can't blame them for trying. Desperate times call for desperate measures, they say. Lexus is at it again with their anti-EV advertising and this time they made a direct attack on the BMW i3. Still it's a little surprising that they seem so obsessed with pointing out why you don't want to buy an EV, instead of telling you why you would want to buy one of their hybrids. It seem to me that it's kind of like when a politician has nothing good to say about themselves, so they run their entire campaign on spreading FUD about their opponent. Let me recap what has led up to this latest attack.

Back in May Lexus put out some questionable information and videos on their consumer website that was highly criticized for having incorrect content regarding electric vehicles. In fact the information was so outdated and incorrect that it brought about a response from Plug In America:

Hey, Toyota, the 1990s called. They want their outdated anti-EV attack ad back. Plug-in electric vehicles charge while you're sleeping at home, far more convenient than making a trip to a gas station and coming away smelling like carcinogens. Driving on electricity costs about one fifth what it costs to drive the average gas car and about a third what it costs to drive the most efficient hybrid. An electric drive has smooth, instant acceleration which can't be matched by any gasoline engine. If you don't believe me, just ask anyone driving a Toyota RAV4 EV.  (disclosure: I am currently a board member of Plug In America)
Lexus got the message and a company spokesman pulled the incorrect information from their website and issued an apology. However about four months later they ran an ad that showed a lonely EV charging station, alone in a dark parking lot with the 8 steps to driving electric:
 
1) Closely monitor charge status
2) Turn off A/C and radio to conserve power
3) Download app to locate charging stations
4) Get lost searching for charger
5) Experience surge in range anxiety
6) Finally find charger
7) Plug in and wait four hours
8) Repeat

OK, so after it was clear this was a full-on mudslinging campaign, and certainly an indication Lexus was worried about the pressure they were getting from their electric competition. So now they put out this five minute long video, aimed at showing how miserable it would be to take a BMW i3 on a long drive. I'm not arguing the fact that the i3 isn't the perfect road trip vehicle, and using the BEV version would make a 300+ mile trip an adventure of sorts, especially today without the availability of DC quick charge stations. However it's kind of silly to think someone would head off into the desert on a 302 mile trip with an 81 mile EV without thinking about it first. That would be like taking a smart car on a fishing trip up a dirt-road mountain, knowing you have to cross a few streams and rocky passes along the way. Horses for courses, they say. In any event, yes we know the BEV i3 would take a long time to make this 302 mile trip, but how about if the i3 they used had the optional range extender?
It's very hard to see in this screen shot, but the outline of the top of the gas filler door is right behind the guy on the right, about waist high. If you watch the video and pause it at the 4.23 mark, you can see it better.

 *Hat tip to Inside EVs reader Martin B. He was the first one to notice the outline of the gas filler door in the video.

While it still wouldn't be the perfect vehicle for this type of trip, the i3 REx  could have done it much faster than the BEV i3. Yes, they would have had to stop five times to fill up the tiny gas tank, but since it's so small, it only takes about two minutes total (I've timed it!) for a gas station pit stop. So figure about 10 to 20 minutes added to the trip as compared to the Lexus hybrid. However as depicted in the video they took a BEV i3 by mistake, not knowing they'd have to stop to plug it in right? Maybe not. If you watch the video very closely, at the 4.23 mark for a brief moment you can see the top edge of the gas filler door just as one of the actors moves. So Lexus actually used an i3 REx for at least this scene and perhaps the entire video. Could they have used multiple i3's or did they photoshop out the gas filler door for most of the video, but missed it on this one brief scene. To me, that makes it so much more egregious. If the car they were driving in the video actually could have done that road trip without any issue, and Lexus lied about its capabilities, photoshopped out the evidence and presented it as incapable of making the trip in a reasonable time frame then they should be taken to task.
In this picture you can also see the corner of the gas filler door. It is difficult to see here in this low-res picture but when enlarged the corner of the filler door is clear to see.
While Lexus has indeed been spreading electric vehicle FUD for a while now, this is definitely a step up in intensity. Perhaps they took a look at October's sales data and realized for the first time since its launch six months ago, the BMW i3 outsold the CT-200h in the US. How could such a crippled, limited-range car that costs $10,000 more than their hybrid outsell it? Could Toyota actually have been wrong about EV's? Do people actually want them? Whatever the case it's clear Toyota is very concerned and has resorted to scare tactics in an attempt to steer people from buying EV's and lead them to their hybrids. Good luck with that Toyota.

One last comment. I've owned seven Toyotas in my life, and currently own a 1999 Tacoma which I use to plow my driveway and parking lot, and haul large items for my restaurant. However I'm done with them. I can't support a company that has such an anti electric vehicle stance as they do, going as far as lying about them and continuously reciting the rhetoric that nobody wants them. So I have this question for Toyota: If nobody wants them, why are they outselling your hybrids?


First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
-Mahatma Gandhi

BMW Initiates "Light and Charge" Pilot Program


It seems BMW has been busy developing new ways to charge your i3 or i8 lately. A few months ago I posted information on BMWs new low cost DC Fast charger and I just got word from an i3 owner in California that the first one is already up and will soon be ready for use at Crevier BMW in Santa Ana, California.
A member of the i3 Facebook group posted this picture from Crevier BMW. BMW's new DC fast charge station has just recently been installed there.

The latest news out of Munich is BMW's "Light the Charge" program. BMW has developed LED streetlights that also have built in charging stations. They already have a couple of them in place outside their Munich headquarters, and will soon begin installing them around the city of Munich for a pilot program. The units will be networked and allow the customer to pay with a credit card or by swiping an RFID card from a partner charging network provider. In the US, BMW's charging partner for ChargeNow is ChargePoint.
The European version of BMW's light pole charging station. In Europe, the EV driver carries the cable that plugs into their car as well as the EVSE. Here in the US, the cable is permanently tethered to the EVSE.

The obvious issue with adding charging stations to light poles is available capacity. Will the utilities have to pull new wires to accommodate the added demand or are they already over sized and can handle the additional load? In Europe the standard electrical supply is 230v so there is already more available power than we have here in the US where the basic household supply is 120v. I'd imagine most light poles here are typically 120v, but I'm not 100% certain about that. Pulling new wires and upgrading the lights could prove very costly, more so than even installing stand along charging stations, but I could see how using these on new light pole installations would work.
Charging stations on all these light poles would be great for workplace charging, airports and shopping malls.

Besides street side parking, I could also see how this approach would work well for large parking lots. Instead of having the charging stations all located in one place, which typically is a desirable location close to the buildings, they could be scattered all over the parking area, and each light pole could service the four parking spaces surrounding it.

Whether this idea comes to fruition and becomes a reality beyond the pilot program is unknown at this time, but I like that BMW is really giving thought to how they can improve public charging for their customers. The maturation of the public charging infrastructure is crucial for mass electric vehicle adoption, and I hope BMW continues to explore new ways to help make it ubiquitous.

Friday, November 7, 2014

REx To The Rescue


Those that have followed this blog since before I got my i3 know I toiled a bit over whether to get the range extender option or not. Having lived with pure battery electric vehicles for five years I really didn't like the idea of hauling around an internal combustion engine if I really didn't need to do so, even if it was a very small, efficient one.

Ultimately, the decision was easier than I had hoped. Once it became clear the i3 would have significantly less electric range than the two previous BMW-made electrics that I've been driving (MINI-E and ActiveE) I knew I needed the REx. As much as I love the i3, I'm still disappointed BMW moved backwards with the electric range in every EV they have produced. The MINI-E was good for a reliable 100 miles in moderate temperatures, the ActiveE about 90 miles and the BEV i3 is EPA rated at 81 miles per charge. I drive a lot and 81 miles would just be cutting it too close for me, especially in the winter when the range is negatively effected by the cold weather.

Our Equinox, Tacoma and i3 joined by my old ActiveE before I turned it back in.
So i3 REx it was for me, and fortunately I'm very happy it worked out that way. Without the reassurance of a long range EV like Tesla's offerings, there will indeed be some cases where the limited range of the sub-100 mile EVs require you to alter your plans or make compromises. I accept that because for me the advantages of driving electric far outweigh any small inconveniences that occasionally arise from the limited range or charging times. However the range extender option on the i3 was inciting because I knew I'd be driving on electric for 95% of the time, but still be able to take the car on days that I knew I needed to drive further than the range could accommodate. That has indeed held true because I have a little over 11,000 miles and only about 500 of those miles were with the REx running. However so far the REx was just a convenience, allowing me to take my i3 on days I needed to drive far when I otherwise would have taken one of my gas cars. I hadn't faced a situation where I really needed the extra range, and didn't have any other options, until last weekend.

Plugging the tire
My wife and I have two gas vehicles besides the i3. Meredith drives a Chevy Equinox and I also have a Toyota Tacoma pick up which I use when I need to haul large items like refrigerators for my restaurant, and I also use it to plow my driveway and the parking lot of the shopping plaza that I own and manage. These are our long range cars for trips like when we go to my in-laws in Vermont. So when Meredith needed to go on a company retreat which was 95 miles away in Pennsylvania she naturally planned on taking her Equinox. About a half hour before she was ready to leave, I went out to the garage to give the Equinox a once-over. I always do this when she's going far from home, just to be safe. The first thing I did was a quick visual inspection of the tires and wouldn't you know it, the first tire I looked at had a large screw sticking right into it and in a perfect position for me to see it. OK, there is no time to fix this now so the Equinox is ruled out. No problem, I'll load up her stuff into the Tacoma and she'll use that. It can use a good run anyway since we barely ever drive it. I then remembered that I needed to refill the washer fluid because it was empty the last time I drove it. I popped the hood, filled the fluid and when I closed the hood I heard a loud cracking noise and the hood popped back up. As I lifted the hood I could see the latch that holds it closed was rusted and cracked in half. With no way to secure the hood closed that rules out the Tacoma. There's only one option now, she'll be REx-ing it to the retreat.
The owners of the B&B she stayed were nice enough to let her charge up. They told her their son in law drives a Volt so they weren't totally surprised about a car that needed to plug in.
After a quick REx briefing (I don't think she had ever driven it in REx mode before) she was off. Since the temperature was in the 40's and it was all highway driving, I knew she'd only get about 60-65 miles before the range extender turned on so she'd be driving about 30 miles with it running. I had a full tank of gas so she wouldn't need to stop for gas on the way there, however we didn't know if she could plug in at all once she got there and she may have to drive the whole 95 miles home in charge sustaining mode. I've driven the car enough to know this wouldn't be a problem as long as she kept her speed under 75mph, other than the fact that she'd have to stop for gas twice on the way home. I did a quick check to see if by chance there were any level 2 charging stations near where she was going , but as I expected, there were none. Luckily, the bed and breakfast she stayed at allowed her to plug into an outlet they had on the garage, so she was able to charge at 120v overnight. Since the retreat lasted for four days, she had no problem fully charging even with using the car to run some local errands every day.

So even though I've used the REx a dozen or so times already, this was the first time it was absolutely necessary, and further validates my decision to shell out the additional $3,850 for it. It really makes the car so much more versatile, and allows me to not even think about the range. As others have noted, it really does allow you to drive more electric miles because you can use it for trips you otherwise couldn't with the BEV i3. Obviously, the ultimate goal is for longer range electric vehicles to become more affordable, and infrastructure to mature to the point where public charging and DC fast charge is ubiquitous. However until then, the range extender will play an important role in the adoption of electric vehicles, as it allows for utility that is simply unavailable in the vast majority of today's electric vehicles. 
Trip stats: I was very happy to see 3.7 miles per kWh considering it was about 70% highway driving, with the cabin heat on the entire time.

Stats from the trip:

Going to PA: 61 miles on battery, 34 miles on REx
While there: 49 miles all on battery
Coming home: 65 miles on battery, 30 miles on REx.
Total: 239 miles; 175 miles on battery, 64 miles using range extender
Total gas used: 1.7 gallons (.9 gal refill when she was in PA & .8 gal refill when she was 1.5 miles from home). Averaged 37.65mpg while REx was running.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Worldwide i3 Sales Exceed 10,000

A photo from the BMW i3 Sales Start in November 2013. Pictured are the first group of people to take delivery of an i3
According to InsideEVs, worldwide i3 sales have passed the 10,000 unit mark, just shy of one year from the i3's European launch.

It wasn't until May of this year that the i3 became available in the US, and after a couple months of relatively  slow sales, the i3 has had two consecutive months with sales greater then 1,000 units and October is expected to continue that trend. Inside EVs also states that BMW claims they are now selling about 3,000 i3s per month and if that is correct, and the trend continues, then the second year sales will see over 30,000 i3s hit the streets. That figure is pretty much what has been said to be BMW's target for annual i3 sales, and if they indeed hit it in the second year of production then that has to be considered a success.
Me and my client adviser, Manny Antunes of JMK BMW. I took delivery of the first i3 REx in the US back in May

The initial year sales has been production constrained, with many European customers waiting 5 to 6 months to take delivery. I have had people comment here that they are in the UK for instance and have been waiting many months for their i3 to be delivered. Yet here in the states there is definitely excess inventory on some dealer lots so BMW has obviously given the US market priority with i3 allotment.

I recently attended an i3 meet in California which had over 20 i3s show up. It would be difficult to get that many together here on the East coast. California is the epicenter of the electric vehicle revolution.
There was a lot of speculation that BMW was having difficulty with production in the initial months and I do believe that was correct to an extent. Everything about the i3 is a new frontier for BMW. The materials and the production processes are different than anything they have dealt with on any of their conventional offerings. I believe it would be foolish to think they would just hit the ground running and not encounter some initial production snafu's and delays. Now that BMW seems to have the initial production issues worked out, they claim to be making and selling about 100 copies per day, which I'm sure is making the i3 product managers very happy. Hopefully, the level of interest in this groundbreaking car continues. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

SF Bay to Tahoe in an i3 REx: What was learned?

IMG_20141018_151716-M.jpg
Donner Summit is the highest point along Interstate 80 in California at 7,228 feet elevation.
Last week we heard from i3 REx owner John Higham in a post he wrote which detailed his thoughts on the i3's range extender restrictions for the North American market. John certainly didn't mince words and offered his reasoning why he believes the range extender on the i3 should have its artificial restrictions (which are in place to satisfy CARB), relaxed a bit. John also promised to do a road trip which would take him from the San Francisco Bay area up to the 7,228ft Donner Summit in Lake Tahoe and report on the range extender's performance under these strenuous conditions. Below are his findings.

SF Bay to Tahoe by the Numbers, Part 2

Nailed it.  Well, nearly.

In Part 1 of this post about all things REx, I declared that a US spec BMW i3 REx could not make the popular weekend getaway of Lake Tahoe from the San Francisco Bay area without being speed limited within 15 miles of Sacramento. How speed limited depended on the slope of the road as you climbed east into the mountains, but top speed would range from 40 to 55 MPH. The alternative was to fully charge in Sacramento before any significant climbing begins and then again in Colfax about halfway up the hill. This makes such a drive impractical.

I also declared that a European spec’d i3 would make it no problem, so long as one kept the diminutive 1.9 gallon tank filled and the feature known as “Hold Mode” engaged. In fact, European cars have made similar drives into the Alps.

The basis of these declarations is simple physics. In Part 2 we test the physics from Part 1.Twice. First with a U.S. spec BMW i3 REx and then with a European spec i3 REx.

OK, I lied. I don't have a European spec i3. But I do have a US spec i3 that has been modified to behave like its schnitzel eating cousin.
I drive the BMW i3 from my home in Mountain View, California to Donner Memorial Park in Truckee.  The state park is placed at one of the sites where the ill-fated Donner Party settled for the winter in 1846.  The snow that winter was as high as the memorial behind the i3.


A Quick Summary of Part 1

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) developed a class of car called the Battery extended range Electric Vehicle (BEVx). Some say the BEVx was never intended to be a car with mass appeal that can be driven like any ICE-mobile.  But I ask, why not? Actually, what I usually say is “Why the hell not!” while shouting and pounding the table with my fist. I digress.
I believe that the BEVx class of cars represents the bridge from plain ol' Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) cars to pure electric that will finally allow the public to embrace EVs without looking back. Except.

There is one teensy exception and it is what engineers call a "corner case." In this situation the “corner case” refers to those people who require a car to maintain freeway speeds over sustained elevation gains. That’s what this post is all about -- to test how big that corner case actually is.

California's San Francisco Bay Area lies at sea level and the drive east to Lake Tahoe follows the Sacramento river, never gaining significant altitude for about 50 to 100 miles, depending on one's starting location. Continuing east past the capital of Sacramento begins what is at first a gentle climb into Gold Country. Assuming the route is along I-80, the slope increases significantly past Gold Country until Donner Summit (elevation 7,228 feet) is reached 95 miles east of Sacramento.

The i3's APU is sized such that it can maintain freeway speeds, but not to maintain freeway speeds and simultaneously gain significant altitude.  It’s simply not possible to drive from the SF Bay Area to Tahoe in a reasonable amount of time with the US spec’d i3. Of course if you have the patience to charge every 60 to 80 miles, you can drive your i3 from the Bay Area to Tahoe or anywhere else for that matter. But that is impractical, even with with so-called fast chargers.

Since this post comes in two parts, and the test drive to Tahoe also comes in two parts, potential for confusion exists when referring to them.  Let’s dispatch any confusion and call the first test The Apple Pie Test and the second test The Lederhosen Test.

The purpose of these tests isn’t to prove you can drive an i3 to Tahoe by taking logical opportunities to charge. You can. It’s been done. The purpose is to prove the assertions made in Part 1. First, that the US spec’d i3 REx is hobbled as compared to its European counterpart and second (and more importantly) that an i3 REx is more than a great EV; it has potential to be the only car you need.

Oh yeah. No math in this post. I promise.


The Apple Pie Test

The Apple Pie Test is simple: try to “REx it” to Tahoe and see how far you get. (Oh, I’ve made REx a verb, but the Oxford dictionary hasn't caught up yet.) Since this is my test, I get to make up the rules. The rule is simply to take a BMW i3 as CARB intended it to be delivered to the public and drive it along I-80 until the car becomes speed limited, then compare the observed results with the predicted results from Part 1.

To do this test I left the Benicia, California, CCS fast-charger with 90% SOC and a predicted range of 60 miles.  The drive toward the Tahoe region is essentially flat for about 63 miles along I-80, then the road climbs into the Sierra Nevada mountains. I planned this section of the drive to be all electric until such time I hit the foothills. The goal was to set the cruise control to the posted speed limit (65 MPH) and simply keep driving powered by the REx until the car became speed limited.

In Part 1 I calculated that the car would become speed limited at about 725 feet elevation gain and by using the elevation profile in Google Earth, I estimated that would occur about 12 miles east of Sacramento.

The actual drive didn’t work out exactly like that, but close enough for the rough assumptions that were made. At first the speed limitation was subtle. I started to suspect the car was speed limited at around 800 feet elevation (750 gained), “flooring it" to coerce an increase from 65 MPH with the cruise control set, I achieved about 67 or 68 but no more. But by 950 feet elevation gain the effect was no longer subtle. Not only could I no longer keep pace with traffic, but was feeling very vulnerable and was searching for an exit in earnest. On some of the steeper portions of that section I was under 55 MPH indicated with traffic whizzing past at 70 MPH and above.
IMG_20141018_113048-M.jpg
The BMW i3 was clearly speed limited on this section of road after leaving Sacramento powered solely on the REx

IMG_20141018_113054-M.jpg
This photo was snapped moments after the previous photo

Anyone who has owned a BMW for very long can tell you that the speedometers are optimistic by at least 5%, if not 7%. So, that 58 MPH in the photo is closer to an actual speed of 55 MPH.  In Part 1 of this post I made a table of predicted top speed as a function of the grade of the road. Using the GPS coordinates of the road and Google Earth, I found the grade of the road at the precise point is 3%; the table from Part 1 predicts a top speed of 60 MPH on a 3% grade; close, but some refinement of that table is in order.

In summary, the Apple Pie Test demonstrated that all that analysis, the calculations, graphs and so forth from Part 1 were within the margin of error that could be expected for the rough assumptions that were made.  

More importantly, It proves that you can’t just REx it to Lake Tahoe in an i3. Luckily, there is a CCS charger in Sacramento, so moments after the above photos were taken I turned around and headed straight for it. With the miracle of regeneration the i3 got its SOC back up to a respectable level and I REx’d it all the way back to that CCS charger with no issues.


Hold Mode and Coding

The Lederhosen Test requires the use of a feature known as “Hold Mode”, which is on all Euro-spec i3 equipped with the REx; perhaps even all such cars destined for anywhere in the world outside of North America. What Hold Mode does is engage the REx (or more specifically in CARB-speak the APU) to maintain the battery State of Charge (SOC). Sounds a bit boring and perhaps it is.

The fact of the matter is, US spec’d cars have Hold Mode; the car’s onboard intelligence switches it on automatically when the battery SOC reaches 6.5%. The European version of the car also will switch on Hold Mode automatically when the battery SOC reaches 6.5%, but the European version also allows the driver to manually engage Hold Mode whenever the battery SOC is 75% or less.

The difference in the US spec’d car and its European counterpart is perhaps subtle, but as we shall see, the difference means everything if you require a car to maintain freeways speeds and gain significant elevation simultaneously.

What is important here is to understand that the US-spec cars do in fact have the European-spec Hold Mode programmed into the car.  The menu option that allows the driver to engage Hold Mode manually is simply hidden from the i3’s iDrive menu. For someone skilled in the seedy underbelly of the BMW tuner world known as “coding,” enabling this hidden feature in the iDrive menu is trivial.  To be clear, this practice is most likely frowned upon by both BMW NA and CARB.

To satisfy scientific curiosity, I “coded” my i3 to enable Hold Mode, Euro-style. On to the Lederhosen Test!    (click through this link to read about how to code your i3: Code your i3)


The Lederhosen Test

As noted in the last paragraph of the Apple Pie Test, as soon as I became speed-limited near Auburn, I turned around and returned to Sacramento and specifically to the CCS fast charger there. After plugging in and after i3’s SOC had reached 90%, I once again set out along the same route toward my final destination in Truckee, California, near Lake Tahoe. Hold Mode is only available if the SOC is 75% or less, so after leaving the CCS charger I drove the first 12 or 13 miles all electric.


IMG_20141018_122036-M.jpg
The CCS fast-charger in Sacramento in Sacramento is at an elevation of 50 feet.

The only difference in the two drives was the SOC at the bottom of the hill and manually engaging Hold Mode. This simply means the REx was used in the Apple Pie Test to “hold” a 6.5% SOC but on the Lederhosen Test, it was used to “hold” a 75% SOC.
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Engaging Hold Mode at 75%.  Note there are 88 miles to my destination, with 39 miles of all-electric range available.  

In Part 1 of this post I calculated that by engaging Hold Mode at 75% SOC the i3 should be able to climb essentially any mountain pass in North America, so long as one keeps the gas tank filled. What isn’t visible in the photo above is that Donner Pass, a 7,228 foot climb, is between me and my destination; it is time to put my hypothesis from Part 1 to the test.

With Hold Mode engaged, as one drives the i3 the REx keeps the battery SOC constant at the level set.  If driving conditions are such that the REx (due to its limited power output) cannot keep the battery SOC maintained, then energy from the battery makes up the difference and the battery SOC falls commensurately.

Soon after leaving the CCS charger in Sacramento and engaging Hold Mode at 75% SOC I found myself once again in Auburn near where I had turned around just 90 minutes earlier during the Apple Pie Test.  It was time for a lunch stop.

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As expected the battery SOC falls as elevation is gained
The photo above was taken at my lunch stop in Auburn. Note that the SOC has fallen 4% to 71% at 1210 feet elevation (1160 feet of gain).  If I had stopped the car and let the REx run sufficiently long, the SOC would have returned to 75%. But that would have both taken time I didn’t want to spend and defeated the purpose of the Lederhosen Test. So, after a quick bite to eat I got back in the car and re-engaged Hold Mode at 71% SOC.

Leaving Auburn, I resumed toward my destination of Donner Memorial State Park 65 miles away in Truckee, California. The only thing between me and my destination was Donner Pass at 7228 feet, one more stop for gasoline, and the potential to run out of battery. But I had done my homework and was confident that I had plenty of energy left in the battery to complete my drive.

It was the perfect day for such a drive; the sky was a beautiful blue, the temperature was in the mid 70’s, the traffic light and SiriusXM’s Classic Vinyl accompanied me. During the drive I took pictures of the i3’s displays every 1,000 feet of elevation gain, but suffice it to say that the battery SOC slowly dropped in an expected and predictable fashion as I glided up the mountain's slope. After 45 minutes or so I once again stopped to top off the fuel tank.

IMG_20141018_144840-M.jpg
The i3’s other “fast charge” port.  I don’t like to use this method of adding energy, but sometimes a guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do.

IMG_20141018_145546-M.jpg
The battery SOC has fallen from 75% to 54% after climbing 5300 feet.

After refueling, Donner Summit was less than 30 minutes away. I found myself so absorbed in monitoring the progress of the battery SOC prediction that I nearly blew past the sign marking the summit! 
IMG_20141018_152622-M.jpg
The i3, with Hold Mode engaged, used a mere 31% (75% at the bottom of the hill less 44% at the summit) of its SOC to gain nearly 7,200 feet of elevation.  In simple terms, one can think of it as if the REx’s power output is used to propel the car forward, the battery’s power output is used to climb the hill.

By using less than a third of its battery to gain those 7,228 feet, the i3 REx is obviously capable of much more. In Part 1 I asserted that the i3 with the European-style Hold Mode was probably capable of summiting any road in North America. After making the drive over the Sierra Nevada’s I-80, I believe that point has been verified.


Summary

The i3 REx with the European-style Hold Mode is more than capable of conquering Donner Summit simply by engaging the feature at the beginning of the climb and keeping the tank filled.  The US spec i3 REx is not.  But the implications are far greater than this.

The entire thesis of this post and the previous one is much larger in scope than “can BMW’s i3 make the drive to Lake Tahoe.” The thesis is much more than the car or the corporation. It’s about an idea.  A brilliant idea.

It’s about a transitional electric vehicle that the public can embrace without looking back, without asterisks and without range anxiety. The embodiment of that transitional electric vehicle is the BEVx class; to date only one car is made to that standard. It’s a brilliant piece of engineering.  Yet that brilliant piece of engineering is emasculated by regulations imposed by a governing body that should be championing it.

I’m surprised that Sir Isaac Newton hasn’t leapt from his grave and set his hair on fire.

The use case I have been passionately trying to demonstrate, that the i3 is fully capable of, may be an inconsequential corner case for the majority of owners worldwide.  But it is a legitimate use case and one that the many buyers consider. And people buy to the corner case, especially if it is their only means of transportation.

Until such time that adding energy to an EV takes as much thought and effort as adding energy to an ICE-mobile, technologies like the BEVx are going to be required to get the public to embrace electric mobility.

If removing the restriction on the operation of the APU is not made, the genius of the BEVx classification will never bear fruit.  That’s because even though the average driver does less than 40 miles a day, they also want the flexibility to take their car wherever they want, whenever they want. For this reason, PHEVs are about as “electric” as the general public is willing to go.

Once the current limitation of the APU software managing the SOC is understood by the public, the public will eschew the BEVx classification for PHEVs, such as a Volt. While that may be a better choice for the environment than, say, a Camry, the Volt driver will not be able to drive as much on electricity as if he bought a BEVx, such as an i3.

That’s why I’m writing; to beg CARB to Unleash the REx. It’s been said that the PHEV is the gateway drug to a pure BEV. If that is so, the BEVx has the potential to be crack -- instantly addictive. Make it so.


Facts about my trip from Mtn. View -> Truckee -> Mtn. View
Left home with 100% SOC
528.2 miles round trip
246 miles on REx
6.6 gallons of gas purchased
Ended trip with about ½ gallon more gas in the tank then when I left
4.1 mi/kWh
4 CCS charging sessions totaling 62.8 kWh
0 Level 2 charging sessions
Arrived home on the REx (6.5% SOC)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Born Electric Guest Blogger: Meet Mike From Virginia


My name is Mike from metro Richmond, Virginia.  I was Born Electric for the second time on August 11, 2014, with the purchase of a new i3 with Range Extender!  

The i3 is my first BMW but my sixth car from the BMW Group as I have owned several MINIs over the past twelve years ranging from a base Cooper to the track-ready JCW GP.  The i3 shares currently shares driving duties with my first EV, a 2012 Nissan LEAF SL.  It’s the first time in 25 years of driving that I don’t own an ICE car as well as a car with a manual transmission.  I think I am having serious withdrawals with no clutch as I really miss shifting for myself!

Racing the Sun
My first exposure to electric vehicles came at Virginia Tech as a student in the College of Engineering.  As a guy passionate about cars practically since birth, I naturally found myself working with peers to design and build a solar electric vehicle for entry in Sunrayce 97, a multi-day competition sponsored by GM and DOE.  This race would pit us against other schools from the U.S. and Canada and have us driving the car on public roads between Indianapolis and Colorado Springs with pit stops along the way.  A typical one-day stage had us driving 50-200 miles completely on electricity.  Hyper-miling techniques would take on new meaning and would have to be the norm rather than the exception!  Like the i3, the solar car made use of carbon fiber (plus Kevlar) and aluminum to keep weight low and strength high.  Unlike the BMW, our car employed several pounds of lead-acid batteries which were mandated as a means to level the playing field and keep costs low.  Boy has battery technology really evolved since 1997!  I would have the honor and privilege to qualify the car first at the GM Proving Grounds in Michigan and then across the bricks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Throughout the event at IMS, I remember watching GM reps drive through Gasoline Alley in an EV1 and thinking about how futuristic and cool it was at the time.  We ultimately made the race and I was able to drive the car across the finish line in Colorado.  It was both scary and thrilling at the same time!  I just knew at some point down the road I would have an electric vehicle of my own. Little did I know that the knowledge and experience that I gained from the solar car program would not only boost my interest in EVs, but also somewhat change my driving habits. 

Enter Nissan LEAF
Fast forwarding into this century, I had anxiously awaited the arrival of LEAF and Volt in my area.  The Volt is nice, but I was more interested in the Nissan.  I carefully monitored sales, waited until prices came down a good bit, took a few test drives of the Nissan, and finally leased a new fully loaded 2012 LEAF SL in Blue Ocean.  The LEAF was my introduction to production electric vehicles and would allow me to gauge over a 24-month period whether or not a battery electric vehicle would mesh with my driving habits work in my life, allow me to explore the local charging infrastructure (or lack thereof), and force me to setup charging at home.  The central Virginia infrastructure currently shows only a few public charging stations, but we do have Tesla supercharging stations so hopefully more Level 2 stations will be installed in the near future.  More on the LEAF later, but let us now move into BMW territory.
One LEAF and one i3 REx. Could be the perfect garage!
No Availability of MINI-E and ActiveE
As a longtime MINI owner until a few months ago, I would have jumped at the opportunity to participate in the MINI-E and ActiveE trial programs but was unable to do so because neither one was available for lease in my area.  Shame on MINI and BMW for not offering these cars in non-urban markets!  I did get to see an ActiveE in person earlier this year which was an unexpected thrill.  An ActiveE owner from the greater New York City area moved to Virginia and returned the car to my local dealer.
Tom's MINI-E and my ActiveE, side by side.  Yes, I'm definitely jealous!
Choosing the i3 w/Range Extender
The BMW driving experience and range extender option are the two main reasons why I chose the i3.  The LEAF is a very good car especially for the price, however, I simply wanted more in my next plug-in: 
1)      Greater range with the ability to travel to Washington DC, North Carolina (to visit my family) and beyond without stopping for a lengthy recharge, even if it meant using a little gas
2)      Better all-around performance – handling, braking, acceleration
3)      More attractive styling outside and inside
4)      Remain practical enough to tote around my 8-year old son (who loves to ride!) and occasionally carry a few adults and stuff
5)      Greater use of available lightweight and/or sustainable materials
6)      All of the above for a decent price
The i3 Rex fits the bill almost perfectly for me (except for the lofty price!) because I can limit my environmental impact by driving the car as a BEV about 90% of the time and engage the Rex 10% of the time for long journeys.  My daily commute is less than 20 miles roundtrip.  Most of the time I won’t need the Rex, but it’s there when I do need it thus eliminating the need on a daily basis for an ICE vehicle.  The i3 is compact and roomy but not as limited in some areas as the MINI, it’s nimble and quick, it features traditional BMW rear-wheel-drive, it doesn’t look like any other car in terms of the exterior and interior styling, and I can take my 8-year son just about anywhere anytime.  I actually like the rear window styling and think it makes changing lanes a little safer since it improves visibility!  Does it look a bit strange?  Yes it does, but the rear window along with the rest of the i3 is interesting in a good way.
I think all of the entries in the plug-in category are terrific however the Tesla Model S and Cadillac ELR (not really a consideration) are priced out of my range.  The Chevy Volt is modern and refreshing on the outside but not so exciting on the inside.  I might have considered a Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive or VW e-Golf (my pick between these two cars) however both cars will not be available in my area for quite a while.  Sadly, the Honda Fit EV, Fiat 500e, Toyota RAV4 EV, and Chevy Spark EV are also not for sale leaving only a handful of plug-in EV models from which to choose out of the increasing pool.


Order, Production, and Shipping of my i3
My first trip to the local dealer took place way back in August 2013 not long after BMW released the first bits of information and images of the production i3.  The MINI sales manager, whom I knew very well, introduced me to the BMW sales manager.  I told him that I was very interested in the i3 and wanted to place my name at the top of the list.  The only major thing that I wasn’t sure about was the price as it had not been announced yet.  Meanwhile, I kept in touch with the dealer, followed the press releases, and discovered many i3 discussion groups and online forums.  Many thanks to Tom Moloughney, Chris Neff, and other i3 owners around the world for their knowledge sharing and great blogs!  I finally placed an order in early February for an i3 on somewhat of a reasonable budget with the following options: 

·        Range Extender
·        Solar Orange metallic paint (changed from my initial order of Andesite Silver)
·        Giga World trim
·        Technology and Driving Assistant Package
·        Heated Seats

The dealer pulled some strings to secure me a production slot in Week 10 (early March) only to have BMW headquarters push my order back a couple of months to build pre-configured i3s, accommodate supply constraints such as the shortage of Tera World leather, etc.  I am a patient guy so it was fine with me as long as I ultimately got the car I ordered in the right configuration.  While I received some updates from the dealer about my order, I frequently called the BMW Concierge to get information about my car. The Concierge was great and more than happy to give me the status of my order and answer any questions.  Thank you, BMW, for this welcome service!  My car entered production on May 21, completed production on May 30, passed QA with flying colors onJune 2, but then got held up at the factory nearly a month.  It shipped out to the VPC (New Jersey) at the end June and eventually arrived in Virginia around the 1st of August.  I was perfectly fine with letting BMW keep my car as long as necessary to do more quality control, perform hardware and software updates, etc. as long as it arrived just the way I asked for it and without significant issues.  Total time from order to delivery was about 6 months.
i3 Colors
I ordered my i3 with the gorgeous Solar Orange metallic paint.  It really glows in the sun (pun intended!) and looks great with the two-tone interior of the Giga World trim level!  The color palette is pretty limited at the moment with too many silvers and greys, so it’s a good thing that I have wanted to buy an orange car for a long time.  Solar Orange truly hits the mark!  For the time being, I am the only one in my area with an i3 in this color although someone else in a different part of town has a Solar Orange / Mega i3.  My second and third choices, respectively, would have been Ionic Silver and Capparis White with either Mega World or Giga World trims.  I had considered the Andesite Silver, but deemed it too brown.
 
Options
Here is my opinion regarding each trim level and individual option:
·        Range Extender – Must have in my case, biggest distinguishing feature between i3 and other EVs
·        Mega World – Looks good with some colors, if seats are a bit light and materials not as rich looking as Giga World and Tera World trim, no Comfort Access and Sirius radio (can be added)
·        Giga World – Best suits my taste with two-tone cloth and leather combination, leather dash, and eucalyptus wood plus you get Comfort Access, Sirius satellite radio, and garage door opener
·        Tera World – Too dark for my taste, reduces the light and airy feeling of the passenger compartment; Climate is too hot / cold here in Virginia to have dark brown leather seats
·        Technology and Driving Assistant Package – Required in my opinion since you are spending this much money on a high-tech car you should have the big center screen and bells / whistles too
·        Parking Assistant Package – Did not order, but decent value at $1,000; Most likely would never use the autonomous parking; Backup cameras will be required on all U.S. cars starting in 2018
·        20-inch Wheels – Gorgeous, but slightly harsher ride, more noise, perhaps more punctures
·        DC Fast Charging – Currently no infrastructure in my area to support this option
·        Heated Seats – Won’t buy a new car without them, great with cloth and/or leather seats
 
Solar Orange with Giga World interior is the best combo IMO.
Frustrating Delivery
I feel that I should mention here that the actual delivery of my new i3 Rex was quite disappointing.  Not only was the car not even halfway charged nor did it contain even remotely close to a full tank of gas (even if it is only a whopping 1.9 gal!), but I would ultimately have to return to the dealer not once but TWICE to re-sign all of the Owner’s Choice with Flex financing paperwork making a total of three times to sign all the important documents.  The dealer had driven the car to a local music festival along with other vehicles without asking me when they knew darn well that I had ordered the car and was close to coming to get it as I was negotiating with the sales manager but had not yet taken full possession of it. Plus it was not plugged into the charger, thus leaving the SOC around 30% at the time of the delivery.  We did go to the gas station and fill up the tiny tank with Shell premium unleaded for just $6.55.  At least it was squeaky clean as they had run it through the detail shop.  While my car was on order, my Client Advisor had been promoted to a Finance person so I will chalk up the first mistake to the learning curve with his new role. The second mistake was inexcusable as I was told i3 financing paperwork had to be printed on “special” printer paper.  Excuse my ignorance, what is wrong with the regular printer paper which is probably made of the same recycled paper?  Honestly, I could discern no differences when I sat down for the third time to sign the paperwork.  At least I got the dealer to discount the car by $1,000 (not great considering better deals could be had 100 miles away) and throw in some accessories.  

Accessories and Paint Protection
As part of my deal for the i3, I asked the dealer to provide me with the all-weather mats and trunk mat/box free of charge.  The trunk mat doubles as a cargo box with the pull of the drawstring which is kind of cool.  I highly recommend the all-weather mats as they are significantly easier to live with than the standard Giga crème mats!  For extra protection in the interior, I went to Target and purchased charcoal grey bath towels to place over the seats, particularly in the rear where my son will sit.  The dealer also gave me a voucher for $50 for use in the parts shop which I took over to get two blue glow-in-the-dark key covers and the BMW i notebook.  Additionally, I placed a call to Joe @ Autobahnd (for those of you with i3s in central Virginia he does top notch work) shortly after delivery to cover the front of my i3 with clear bra to protect that luscious orange paint.  Joe did a great job and charged me $650 for full hood, front bumper, headlights, fog lights, A-pillars, and the trapezoidal lower sections behind the front wheels.  I will ask Joe to return in the near future to do my lower doors and front fenders also.
Applying the clear bra
Home EVSE
I charged the LEAF over the past two years using a combination of Level 1 (home) and Level 2 (work) chargers.  Now that I own two EVs, I went ahead and purchased a Bosch Power Max EL-51253 home charging station from Amazon for about $550 (after using a $50 gift card that I had lying around).  The only disadvantage is the 18 foot cord, but it is long enough for my needs.  I highly recommend this charger as it was easy to install, looks great in my garage, and charges the i3 and the LEAF without fail!

Overall Impressions
The i3 has been a blast to drive and trouble-free throughout my ownership period of two months and 1200 miles, with no warning lights or error messages.  Overall, the car is fast, comfortable, efficient, fun, and turns some heads!  The acceleration throws you back in the seat and the steering is very responsive, almost too fast.  BMW engineers nailed the steering however I will have to spend more time evaluating the suspension to determine if BMW got the handling right because while the ride is fine I am not sure if the suspension and large wheel / tire combination really hit the mark.  The i3 carves a very nice arc and corners more flatly than the LEAF but it doesn’t feel as stable and composed over bumps as I would expect from a BMW.  My favorite part of the car is the strong regenerative braking – I LOVE the one-pedal driving!  Switching the car into Eco Pro or Eco Pro+ mode allows me to complete local but long round trip drives (without tapping into the range extender) that I could not previously do in the LEAF, even driving conservatively in the middle of summer.  The i3 BEV is fantastic also, but the range extender makes the car just that much more versatile.  Visibility to the front and sides is excellent with a commanding view of the road ahead.  I feel like I sit higher in the i3 than I do in the LEAF, which is surprising.  I would not call visibility to the rear great, but the standard parking sensors work well enough.  I am not a music lover, however, the base stereo sounds good considering there are no rear speakers and I have come to enjoy the Sirius radio on my commutes to work.  My last few cars have all had Sirius and I had never spent more than a few minutes listening to it but now I do in the i3.  If there is one thing to which I am not accustomed yet, it would be the drive pod (transmission).  While easy to operate, it does not feel intuitive as I find myself often selecting Drive rather than Reverse or vice versa.
    
Operation of Range Extender
A few weeks ago, I was able to experience the range extender by taking a 215-mile roundtrip deep into the Blue Ridge mountain range to do some apple picking with my son.  The trip would prove one way or the other if the Rex was worth the extra dough as I would be driving mostly at highway speeds along both flat stretches of road and moderate hills along Route 29 between Charlottesville and Lynchburg.  The night before going to the orchard, I was pulling the i3 into my garage when I noticed a message on the professional navigation screen saying the Rex would run in maintenance mode the next time I drove the car below 75% SOC.  Sure enough, the next day driving along I-64 the little engine came to life for about 10 minutes holding the charge steady as I cruised around 70 mph on the way to the orchard.  I can enthusiastically say that we made it to the orchard and back without a hitch!  Here is the mileage I was able to obtain during this trip starting with a full charge and the gas added by the dealer at delivery:

·        EV range (highway):  74 miles
·        1st Rex tank (used 2/3 tank of fuel):  47 miles
·        2nd Rex tank (used ½ tank of fuel):  49 miles
·        3rd Rex tank (used ½ tank of fuel):  45 miles
·        Total mileage:  EV:  74 miles; Rex:  141 miles
I arrived home with just under ½ tank of fuel after depleting the batteries and stopping twice very conservatively for a couple splashes of gas.  This trip was my first chance to try out the Rex and I didn’t want to be left stranded somewhere with my son.  The Rex performed flawlessly, going about its business without much fanfare!  I could not tell it was operating at all on the highway, even with the windows up although we had the windows cracked all the way to the orchard.  I could only make out a little bit of noise below 50 mph or so with more noise as I approached stoplights.  There is also a tad bit of vibration through the seats when the Rex is running.  The vibration becomes more pronounced when the Rex is really cranked to its max.  I wouldn’t go so far as to call it thrashing, but it is definitely more noticeable at times.  The only negative thing I noticed was some hesitation in power during one of two hill climbs, however, the car never lost more than a few mph and giving me the confidence to continue driving with a few changes to my throttle position.  I should add that the hesitation occurred after the blue bar had dropped down below the 6.5% threshold and inched closer to the 0% SOC mark.  Prior to this hesitation, I had taken off quickly from a stoplight in Comfort mode to gain momentum going up a hill but didn’t think about my acceleration affecting the power.  The blue bar WILL move toward away from the small triangle and toward the 0% SOC mark if you accelerate hard and expend more power than the Rex is producing.  I would suggest selecting Eco Pro or Eco Pro+ to avoid over exerting your right foot and closely monitoring both your speed and the SOC level.  You shouldn’t have any problems!
Likes
Here are the aspects of the i3 that I like the most: 

1.      Strong regenerative braking – love using the motor to stop the car instead of the brakes
2.      Strong acceleration – put the hammer down and it flies
3.      Steering – ultra quick with a ridiculous turning circle
4.      Exterior styling – futuristic and bold, especially in Solar Orange or Ionic Silver
5.      Interior styling – love the design and use of different materials throughout
6.      iDrive – completely new to me but I like it so far
7.      Comfortable and supportive seats – conform well to my 5’7”, 160-pound body, no   aches / pains
8.      Clamshell (“suicide”) rear doors – easy getting stuff and / or my son in and out
9.      Range Extender – brilliant, so far it has worked as advertised!
10.   Adaptive Cruise Control – makes the car even easier to drive on the highway
11.   Mirrors that fold down in Reverse – nice touch that makes parking that much easier
12.   Enhancements – can be mostly done with software and hardware updates for current owners
Dislikes
There are a few things that either I don’t like or would like to see  about the car, even though it is genius in several ways!  Most of these items are minor and some even downright petty:

1.      Unsettled suspension motions over bumps and changing pavement -  could be more composed
2.      Thin steering wheel – nice material, small diameter, but wimpy thickness
3.      White / cream floor mats with Giga World – practically useless to me, what was BMW thinking?
4.      Car  is turned on but then turns off when door is opened – lawyers went overboard here   
5.      Transmission control stalk – not intuitive as I get confused selecting Drive or Reverse
6.      Extras not available – heated steering wheel and opening rear side windows would be welcome
Summary
The i3 Rex has generally lived up to my expectations thus far as the first electric offering from BMW.  This car is the most expensive vehicle that I have ever purchased, so I just hope it will deliver real value as the LEAF has a lot going for it at just $250 per month in my case!  Frankly, the more I drive the i3 the more I really like it although I need to spend more time with it to understand its full capabilities.  It was very exciting to drive my i3 a total distance of 200+ miles in one day – a genuine delight!  I plan to keep the car for about 5 to 7 years and really look forward to a positive and rewarding ownership experience!