Daily Driving A BMW ActiveE
Hi Simon, I wanted to ask you what attracted you to electric cars in general?
Adoption of electric cars is a necessary step towards eliminating our dependence on foreign oil. Energy independence is national security. Anyone who thinks we can pull enough oil out of the ground domestically to support our current consumption is kidding themselves. Additionally, I do a lot of traveling by air. I felt it necessary to do something to reduce my carbon footprint.
Having said this, why choose a BMW instead of a Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi i, or even the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid?
My friend owns a Leaf and it's a great car. I chose the BMW because of their long term commitment to advancing EV technology. They've recently joined with Toyota to share technology innovations and have dedicated major increases in future EV investments. This has to happen across the industry, so I felt it necessary to reward them with my business for being good corporate citizens. I voted with my dollar, essentially. And to be perfectly honest, I am a bit concerned with the future resale value of cars with the first wave battery technology. In the next 2-5 years I anticipate a considerable improvement in performance and significant cost reduction in Li-Ion batteries, so the BMW lease allows me to trade up quickly. An additional geeky discriminator; BMW has ConnectedDrive, which is a way to monitor/manage your car from the Internet when charging, precondition the battery temperature before you drive, etc. They even have an app so you can connect to your car from your iPhone! So cool.
What’s the driving like?
As far as the driving experience, it handles and performs just like a gas driven car. The only noticeable difference is the regenerating brakes engage when you take your foot all the way off of the accelerator. To coast you have to slightly press the "not-gas" pedal, but after a few days I got used to that. As with most electric cars, it has a performance and "eco" setting. The latter is used to get the most range out of a charge. I mostly use the car in EcoDrive and only turn it off when getting on the freeway or any time I need the extra punch, which it has. I haven't tried it yet, but it reportedly can go 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds if you let it off the leash. Lastly, it's really quite like stealth silent. I had one of our security guards tell me he was going tie cow bells to all the electric cars so he can hear them coming up to his guard booth. I guess we have sneaked up on him a couple of times.
What has been your experience so far with it?
I've only owned it for a week, but I can tell you it is essential to have a charging station at your home. There is a lack of infrastructure supporting electric cars so far, even in So Cal. There are only 7 commercial charge points within 25 miles of my house, and 3 of them are on private property! I am very fortunate to work at a company that has chargers on campus while I'm waiting for the city to inspect the installation at my home.
Have you owned BMWs in the past?
The ActiveE is my first BMW. Most of the other "electronauts" are previous Mini-E drivers. I think the LBC dealership told me they were given 14 to lease and they were all spoken for in days, so I feel lucky that I got on the list at all.
When they come on the market, will you buy one from BMW or would also consider others?
I am definitely interested in the BMW i3, but I will be shopping around. The Tesla Series S is a front runner as well, but it's in short supply and on the high side of what I want to spend. I am very interested to see what our "local team" can do in the next few years, so I am definitely keeping an eye on Tesla. It would be great to buy from a California company. Whatever is available, my measures of evaluation will be life cycle cost, charging rate, range and gadgets. I'm looking for someone to use EV technology as an opportunity to totally change the car experience, not just meet the minimum market requirements to supplant a gas car. That's who will get my business.