May 10

EV road testing a BMW i3…


For the last couple of years, I have considered myself relatively au-fait with electric vehicles, owning both a Nissan Leaf and a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. I am used to the evening routine of getting home and plugging the vehicle in ready to use the next day and on the whole it works well.

The kind folks at Soper BMW in Lincoln have loaned me a BMW i3 as a test-drive to see how I get on with it as a potential replacement for my Leaf which is at the end of its PCP lease period.

I have been happily driving it around for the last couple of days and all works beyond expectation and I'm very happy with the car.

Yesterday evening, after meerily driving the car to and from work, including a 'demo' to some colleagues (a total distance of about 95 miles) I got home with 14 miles remaining on the guess-o-meter and plugged the car in. The status light around the charging socket went through its cycle of lights to show that the car was charging. The dashboard also did its little dance of information and showed that all was good and charging and that the car would be fully recharged by 22:45 with an estimated range of 132 miles. I went into the house, happy in the knowledge that all would be good in the morning and I could drive to and from work and then onto the dealer to sadly return the little car at the end of the loan, all with plenty of charge to spare.

So imagine my shock this morning when I unlocked the car to see a flashing red light around the charging socket! Looking at the dashboard to see if there was any further information, my heart sank to see that I only had 66 miles of range on the car. What the?

I unplugged the charging cable and plugged it in again and nothing happened with the status lights... Not a good sign!

I then went back to the charging box to discover that the little light that should be on, wasn't! Definitely not a good sign!

The charging box that I have (Rolec tethered) has its own dedicated RCD on it and for some reason this had flipped! Flipping the switch the light came on, on the box as expected! A bit better.

I went back to the car and plugged the lead in and all the lights and dashboard bits confirmed that the car was charging as expected. This is all well and good and expected behaviour. The trouble being that I still needed to get to work and back home again. There was not enough range on the car to do that so what were my options?

Option 1 - work from home for the day. Not an option too many in-person meetings to attend.

Option 2 - take the PHEV instead. That wouldn't work as still needed to get the car back to the dealer in the evening (well in range) but my wife wasn't insured to drive the loan car and she still needed to get to work - in the other direction...

Option 3 - drive to work and charge at work. Thankfully we have 4 untethered charging points at work. Unfortunately, the loan car doesn't come with a type 2 - type 2 charging lead and I only have type 2 - type 1 leads! Nope again!

Option 4 - panic!

Option 5 - remember that the loan i3 is actually the Rex (range extender version) and drive to work on a combination of EV and petrol as needed!

Strangely enough, it was the option number 5 that I went for!  What a great and simple system to use.  A simple push of the dash button to turn the Rex on/off as needed.  When in traffic,  I turned it off.  When on the motorway and at speed, I turned it on.  I now have enough range to ensure that I can get back from work and on to the garage...  And if I don't?  A simple tap of the button for that little boost will be all that I need.

So, despite being a relatively experienced EV driver with nearly 9000 miles of Leaf driving and about 15000 of electric PHEV driving under my belt, I got to experience a new side to the whole EV driving equation. The benefit of the Rex and why this is definitely the version that I will be going for! A real world test of a loan car that showed me just how smart those BMW folks are...

I honestly couldn't have planned a better test of the car had I tried!

The Leaf is dead, long live the Rex!


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