The i3 is simply electric

Posted 20th August 2021

ADAM TUDOR-LANE outlines the positives of owning the BMW i3 EV

I’m now three months into owning an EV, and I can safely say that I don’t think I’d ever buy an internal combustion engine car ever again.

After travelling 1,300 miles in the little BMW i3, it’s cost me £58 in electricity. Compare that to the car it replaced, at £60 per 300-mile tank, well, it’s pretty much four times cheaper to drive the equivalent distance.

Now because this is my first EV, I didn’t quite bite the bullet fully. I occasionally need to drive 110 miles in one go to visit family, and while the i3 can do that (133 miles to a full charge), that does depend on the weather. If it was freezing cold in the depths of winter, you could shave 20, maybe 30 miles off that number, which would potentially leave me a little short.

Yes, I could plug in at a 50kW rapid charger which would give me around 50/60 miles in a quick 15 minute stop, but I wanted something that could do it in one go, a range of 200 miles without charging, just so there’s no range anxiety.

Cleverly BMW found an elegant solution; you could opt for the i3 with a REx or Range Extender. This means there’s a 650CC scooter engine next to the motor under the boot floor. When you want to save your battery, press a button, it fires into life and generates electricity to charge the battery. This backup generator will comfortably give you an extra 80-90 miles of range.

So while a brand spanking Tesla Model 3 will give you around 250 miles of range for a pretty £41,000, this i3 will give you 210 and cost well under half that price.

When the little engine is running, it emits just 13g/km of CO2, nearly ten times less CO2 than the car I replaced. The REx is only ever used on long journeys, which is roughly once a month, the cost to fill the 9-litre tank from empty – £10. In all, I’ve used £15 of fuel, half a tank each time which has given roughly 120 miles of range.

Around town, it’s a superb city car; the regenerative braking does all the stopping work for you, so you rarely have to brake. The instant, gearless power makes it a dream to drive; the whole experience is one of relaxed modernity. 

No more brake pedal, clutch in, gear change, hold clutch, off brake, onto accelerator when approaching junctions or a roundabout. Now I just lift off the accelerator and coast to a perfect stop, press the one pedal again, and I’m off.

You may be sitting there thinking, but why has he bought a god awful looking car? It’s certainly not the prettiest, but its shape, lines and materials all ooze ‘the future’ to me. I’m sick of driving run of the mill things that have looked essentially the same for the last 40 years. The i3 is different; it stands out and looks like nothing else on the road – even now, eight years after it was released.

Charging is hassle-free, I plug into my Rolec Wallpod once a week at home, and it tops it back up from around 50/60%. I went to central London this month, using the range extender for peace of mind; I made it home with 60 miles of EV range and half a tank of petrol…so there was no real need to use it.

The only thing I haven’t yet done is charge out and about in the wild. There’s been no need.

If you’re considering changing car, primarily drive around town with only the occasional long jaunt, then take a look at going the EV route. As long as you make sure it has 110-150 miles range, your driving experience should be hassle-free.

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