In my last post, I gave a little bit of context to my Great Electric Drive by talking about the history of electric cars and where things are going in the future (with an Internet of Electric Vehicles). I’ve been driving the BMW i3 for about a month now, so I thought it was about time that I gathered together a set of the questions that I am asked most frequently – there are six! Some of my answers relate to the i3 but also to ecars in general…
How far does the ecar go?
For the BMW i3 I am driving, the ‘pure electric’ range is about 130 km, but that may be increased by 20 km or so if you enable either ECO PRO or ECO PRO+ mode (which limits speed and optimises ‘coasting’), or may be decreased through more aggressive driving (like any car). I say ‘pure electric’ because the model I have also includes what BMW calls a range extender, which is a small 650cc motorcycle engine whose sole function is to charge the battery when it is nearly depleted. This can add an additional 100 km to the range (giving a total of 230 km or more). Also, advances in battery technology mean that this range will increase as future ecar development continues.
Is it fast?
For some reason, I’ve noted that there is a general perception that electric cars are slow, and that they must take a while to get going. In fact, the opposite is true – I’ve never driven a car that is so responsive, and when you go back to an ICE (internal combustion engine) car, it can feel very sluggish in comparison. The BMW i3 delivers 250 Nm of torque, which powers it to go from 0 to 100 km/h in about 7 or 8 seconds. The top speed is about 150 km/h (on a German autobahn!). It’s fast.
How much does it cost to buy?
On the road, after availing of a €5000 SEAI grant and another €5000 in VRT relief, the BMW i3 (without a range extender) costs about €34000. Being a premium marque, the BMW i3 costs more than its compatriots, but considering the next-generation lightweight carbon fibre materials used and the amount of electrical and electronic technology that they’ve packed into it, it compares well. It also has an eight-year battery warranty. (The Nissan Leaf is about €10000 less.)
How long does it take to charge?
I now have a charge point installed at home, and I usually plug in the ecar every one or two days depending on how low the battery is. It normally takes between three and five hours to bring the battery back up to full, but if it is fully depleted it could take a bit longer (an overnight job). My home charge point is an AC charger, the same as the majority of the public charge points around the country, but public charge points have a much higher power output – 22 kW as opposed to the 3.6 kW I have at home – and can therefore charge faster (as low as one or two hours in some cases). Also, the ESB have rolled out 67 DC fast chargers around the country, which can charge up compatible ecars in just 30 minutes. There are two types here: CHAdeMO and CCS, but they are now also installing dual-type DC fast chargers. If you’re really stuck, there is a backup option of a cable with a three-pin plug, but these are not really recommended and can take about 33% longer to charge.
How much does it cost to charge it?
At present, charging at public charge points is free, so you simply swipe a card provided by ESB ecars to charge up. The BMW i3’s battery capacity is roughly 20 kilowatt-hours, which means that at a cost of just under 20 cents per kilowatt-hour it costs less than €4 to charge on a home charger. Estimates are that it costs about €3.25 to drive 100 kilometres, and this compares to about €9 for an ICE (€1.50 per litre, at six litres per 100 km). Bear in mind that if you have night-rate electricity installed at home, this would be even cheaper.
Can you drive cross country in it?
The ecar I have has done trips from Dublin to Galway, Galway to Limerick, and Limerick to Dublin on a single electric charge with the range extender kicking in to complete the journey (its nine-litre tank takes about €13.50 to fill). But if you’re going any further than that, you’ll need to charge up. I live in Connemara, so on my Dublin to home trip, I charged up in Enfield for an hour to make sure I’d have enough to get me home. Some of the i3 ecars have a fast charge option, which means you can charge to at least 80% in around 20 to 30 minutes (using a CCS-type DC fast charger). This will be great for me when I go to Dublin next because there are CCS-type DC fast chargers in Ballinasloe and Kilbeggan (here’s a handy map from the ESB of all the CCS-type chargers in Ireland).
Apart from the answers to the questions I’m asked, the physical ecar itself changes perceptions because the BMW i3 looks fantastic. During the past few weeks that I’ve had it, there have been many, many pictures taken of it and with it. The opposing coach doors and lack of central pillars (because of the carbon fibre reinforced body) are very eye catching, and I’ve even seen someone recording a video of the i3 from the car following behind me as I drove home one day (it was the passenger you’ll be glad to hear).
The good news is that you don’t need to follow me around with a camera phone to find out how I am getting on with the ecar. We will be recording a video shortly where I will give you a full tour of the i3, and you can also follow my adventures on Twitter @myelectricdrive.